Cards Host UTPB in Home Opener

BEAUMONT, Texas – Much like it has been for all of Southeast Texas, the Lamar University football team has spent the week trying to return to normalcy following the impact of Hurricane Harvey. The Cardinals will take another step in that direction when they face Texas-Permian Basin Saturday evening in their home opener. The game is slated to kick off at 7 p.m. from Provost Umphrey Stadium.

First-year head coach Mike Schultz, and the Cardinals, opened the season last week at North Texas dropping a 59-14 decision. The outcome is more understandable when considering the Cardinals had only one full practice in the week leading up to the game due to Harvey.

The Cardinals spent the day trying to battle back from an early deficit. LU fell behind by 17 points within the game’s first eight minutes and was forced to play catch-up. Junior transfer Darrel Colbert jr. got the start behind center and finished the night completing 14-of-28 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Although he rushed for only 14 yards he proved his ability as a dual-threat quarterback with several elusive runs during the game.

The Cardinals now look to Saturday’s home opener to get into the win column. The challenge they will face comes from a UTPB squad in a similar situation. The Falcons come to the Golden Triangle with an identical 0-1 record after falling to Sul Ross in the season’s first week.

The Falcons recorded more than 400 yards of total offense, but just 17 first downs in their season-opening loss. UTPB struggled to get its ground attack going and finished the day with just 47 rushing yards. By the end of the game, their opponents held the ball nearly 13 minutes longer.

The Falcons are facing some of the same challenges LU faced several years ago as a new program. UTPB is in the second year of football after posting a 2-9 record a year ago. The Falcons are an NCAA Division II team out of the Lone Star Conference. Saturday’s game might be the only time this season the two schools face an opponent on a similar level in terms of experience. The Cardinals have more than 50 new players on the squad, and the majority of Permian Basin’s roster is freshmen and sophomores.

In addition to being in just its second year, the Falcons will also have to overcome some history that is on Big Red’s side. The Cardinals have made Provost Umphrey Stadium a tough place for opponents to play since their return to the gridiron. The Cardinals are 23-18 (.561) since the program’s rebirth, a record that includes seven setbacks to nationally ranked opponents.

In addition to LU’s record at home, the Cardinals have been even tougher on opponents in the first home game of the year. The Cardinals are 35-10-1 (.772) in home-opening games, a record that includes a near perfect 6-1 (.857) record since the program was re-started. The Cardinals lone loss during that stretch was last year to a Coastal Carolina squad that was in the transition to NCAA FBS status.

Saturday will be the 12th game against a non-Division I opponent for the Cardinals since 2010. Big Red is 11-0 in the previous matches outscoring those opponents, 542-57, a stretch that includes six shutouts.

The Cardinals are looking for history to repeat itself to put an end to their current six-game slide which started last season. After winning three consecutive games to move to .500 the Cardinals dropped their final five games to end the year 3-8 overall.

The game is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. from Provost Umphrey Stadium. It is one of five home games for the Cardinals this season, but is the only home game in the first four weeks of the season. For families who are able to come to the game, the university is trying to make it as easy as possible for them to attend. Free general admission tickets will be offered to families with children. The tickets can be picked up Saturday at the game.