McMurry University will take on Wayland Baptist University for just the second time in its history when the two teams square off at Sherwood Memorial Bulldog Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m.
The War Hawks (1-8) will be looking to snap a six-game skid versus the Pioneers (0-8). The lone common opponent between the two teams this season has been Oklahoma Panhandle State, which defeated WBU, 62-21, in Plainview. McM’s lone victory of 2013 was a 53-27 win over the Aggies back on September 28.
WBU has averaged 19 points per game on offense, but has allowed nearly 39 points per outing on the defensive side of the ball. McMurry’s offensive scoring average is at nearly 35 points per game, but the War Hawks have allowed better than 56 points per game, thus far, to a slate that has included five Lone Star Conference and three NCAA Division I FCS teams.
The only other meeting between McMurry and Wayland Baptist on the football field occurred last season in Abilene, with McM taking a record-setting, 76-13, victory. The War Hawks set team single-game records for most points scored in a game and most total touchdowns in a game (11). McMurry out-gained the Pioneers in total offense that day, 792-to-271 (the second-most yards ever assembled in a game by a McM team).
Then-quarterback Jake Mullin threw for 403 yards, completing passes to no less than 15 different receivers.
Mullin is gone for the War Hawks, but the 2013 offense has been in capable hands of freshman Gabe Rodriguez (Amarillo, Texas/Amarillo H.S.), who has posted Mullin-like numbers during his inaugural collegiate campaign. Rodriguez has completed 199-of-334 passes for 2,363 yards, despite not starting the first three games of the year.
Rodriguez has passed for 31 touchdowns, which is just four shy of tying Mullin’s McMurry season record of 35 TD passes set in 2010. Rodriguez already shares the single game touchdown passes record with Mullin – Braxton Shaver – when he tossed seven scores versus Oklahoma Panhandle State.
The favorite target for McM’s signal callers has been junior wide receiver Greg Livingston. In last week’s tough loss to the University of the Incarnate Word, 47-43, Livingston hauled in a school single-game record 232 receiving yards on 11 catches.
Livingston is already McM’s all-time receptions leader with 184. His performance last week versus UIW gave him 2,178 career receiving yards, making him just the fourth McM player to reach the 2,000-plus yard receiving plateau.
McMurry has had a 1-2 receiving punch with Livingston and fellow junior Jeret Smith. Smith – who did not play against Incarnate Word while nursing an injury – has 58 catches for 831 yards (14.3 y.p.c.). Smith has 10 TD receptions to his credit.
Chris Simpson rushed for 136 yards on a workhorse-like 18 carries last week versus UIW.
On the defensive side of the ball, the tandem of defensive back Desmond Guy and linebacker Jonathan Blair has led the team. Guy has 87 total tackles and one interception on the year, while Blair has 79 tackles – 12.0 for loss – and two interceptions. Blair also has 3.0 sacks.
George Adams has a team-high three interceptions. Teammate Markell Rice joins Blair as the sack leader at 3.0, as well.
“It doesn’t change for us,” said McM head coach Mason Miller when asked about preparing his team for WBU. “The beauty about what we do offensively is that’s it’s just like the triple option; I just need to know the front and coverage and we’re going to do what we do.
“Defensively, we’ve got some nuances we’re working on. (Wayland Baptist) has got a great running back – Kendall Roberson – who does an awesome job.
“Coach (Butch) Henderson is building it the right way; they’re lining it up right and doing the right things. It’s just a process.”
“And if I’m not a witness to that, I don’t know who is,” Miller quipped.
Information provided by McMurry athletics department.