Cards Face Chanticleers in Opener
BEAUMONT, Texas – After nearly four weeks of facing their teammates on the field, the Lamar University football team is just two days away from kicking off the 2016 season. For the fourth consecutive season, the Cardinals will open a new season at home, but Saturday’s opener may be the toughest for Big Red since the return of the program. Big Red will take on first-time opponent Coastal Carolina who enters the season ranked 16th nationally.
The Cardinals enter the new season looking to improve upon a 5-6 record last season that saw them finish tied for fifth in the Southland Conference. The Red and White had to overcome serious injuries to the quarterback position which saw LU’s top three quarterbacks miss parts or all of the 2015 campaign with injuries.
Coastal Carolina spent a good portion of the 2015 season ranked among the nation’s top five before advancing to the NCAA FCS Playoffs. The Chanticleers finished the year 9-3 (.750) overall. Although the Chanticleers appear in the preseason top 25 (one of three consecutive nationally ranked opponents to start the season for LU), Coastal is not eligible for postseason play this season. The Chanticleers are in the first year of their transition to the NCAA FBS level.
“We’ve had a good fall camp but it is to the point where our guys want to play against someone in a different color uniform,” said Woodard. “It’s a case of the good and bad when trying to get ready for Coastal Carolina. What we know about them is they’re a good football team. Just take a look at what they have done over the past four or five seasons – perennial playoff team, top-10 national rankings and numerous All-Americans. They do have a new quarterback this season so we will be doing some guess work about him but more adjustments take place in the first game of the year than any other time of the season.
“They are very similar to us in the fact that they are a one-back offense with a very talented running back. Defensively, they bring a four-man front, which is similar to what we do. This is arguably the best non-conference opponent we’ve brought in to Beaumont since football’s return. This is a very big challenge,” added Woodard.
The Cardinals return 14 starters from last season led by four preseason All-Southland players and two preseason All-Americans. A runner-up for the STATS FCS National Offensive Player of the Year award last season, running back Kade Harrington is joined on the preseason All-America team by offensive lineman Bret Treadway. The other two preseason all-conference selections are sophomore Rodney Randle (return specialist) and Brendan Langley (defensive back).
The Cardinals finished among the national leaders in rushing last season, due in large part to a veteran offensive line that also led the nation in pass protection. The Cardinals return three of five starters from their 2015 line, a comparison to Coastal Carolina that is very similar.
The Chanticleers return four of their five starters from last year’s offensive front which blocked for All-American running back De’Angelo Henderson. Also a member of the 2016 STATS FCS National Offensive Player of the Year Award watch list, Henderson rushed for nearly 1,400 yards last season (6.1 ypc) on his way to All-America honors. Adding to the similarities between the two offenses, Henderson is joined on the preseason All-America team by one of his offensive linemen – Sam Ekwonike.
“Coastal Carolina has done a great job with their program,” said Woodard. “They’re in the first year of the transition to the FBS level. Coach (Joe) Moglia has done a great job building his team. They have done everything the right way. These guys will come in here with a very potent running attack. They return nearly their whole line from last season and Henderson is an exciting running back to watch, but you can’t go to sleep on their passing game. They also return several talented receivers from last season.”
Higher expectations have been placed on the 2016 version of the Cardinals by the preseason pollsters compared to the previous six squads. The Cardinals have been picked to finish fourth in both the Southland Conference Head Coaches and Media Relations Director’s preseason polls. It is the highest selection for LU since the program’s return.
Big Red is 4-2 in season openers, and a perfect 4-0 in season openers at Provost Umphrey Stadium, having outscored opponents, 241-30, in those games. That presents another interesting battle for Saturday as something has to give. The Chanticleers have won their last five season openers, including three consecutive on the road.
(© 2016 KBMT)