Is Stephen F. Austin a Threat?

| June 30, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Cole Manbeck

It’s nearly two months to the day until Kansas State’s football season begins. And to help pass the time, we at Powercat Gameday want to give you an in-depth look at each of K-State’s opponents on the 2014 schedule. So over the next two months, we will be breaking down the Wildcats’ opponents in the order of what we believe to be the Wildcats’ easiest game to their most difficult game. And we’ve deemed K-State’s easiest contest of the 2014 season to be Stephen F. Austin. Below is the breakdown of the Lumberjacks.

Stephen F. Austin

Head coach: Clint Conque (1st year)

2013 record: 3-9

Kansas State fans likely won’t be reliving the nightmare of last year’s season opener. And that’s because the Wildcats aren’t opening the season with North Dakota State, a program that has now won three straight FCS national championships and had won 12 straight road games when it came to Manhattan last season. Instead, the Wildcats open their 2014 season against Stephen F. Austin (SFA), which went 3-9 last season and is a program that hasn’t won a road game since 2011.

The Lumberjacks enter the 2014 season with a new head coach. Clint Conque, the all-time winningest coach at Central Arkansas (105-59 record), left the Bears program to replace J.C. Harper, who was fired after seven seasons as the SFA head coach. Conque is known for his high-tempo offenses, and he inherits a roster that’s already trained to adhere to that style of play.

The Lumberjacks have ranked No. 1 in the FCS in passing offense each of the last two seasons and averaged 389 yards per game through the air in 2013. They’ve also ranked No. 2 in the country in total offense each of the last two seasons and averaged 572 yards per game last year to go along with 38.5 points per contest. So K-State’s defense will be tested, and that was likely part of the strategy behind picking SFA as the opening opponent, as the Wildcats will face several high-powered, high-tempo offenses this season.

However, Conque will have to replace starting quarterback Brady Attaway, who threw for 4,268 yards last year and is second in program history in completions, passing yards and touchdowns. Attaway’s likely replacement will be Joe Minden, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound junior who has thrown for 769 yards in his two years at SFA.

Whoever wins the quarterback job will have a group of experienced receivers to throw to. Tyler Boyd, who caught 79 passes for 1,183 yards last season, is back. Also returning is D.J. Ward, who caught 61 balls for 809 yards and Aaron Thomas, who had 40 receptions for 719 yards in 2013.

The Lumberjacks are set at running back, where Gus Johnson, a 5-10, 225-pound senior, returns. Johnson, a two-time all-conference selection, ran for 1,061 yards last season while averaging 6 yards per carry.

And for as many times as the Lumberjacks threw the football in 2013 (52 attempts per game), the SFA offensive line only allowed 0.67 sacks per game, ranking No. 5 in the country in fewest sacks allowed.

So now you’re probably wondering why I said earlier that this should be an easy game for the Wildcats. While the numbers are impressive, the Lumberjacks weren’t efficient. They ranked 38th in passing efficiency offense, and they led the FCS with 22 interceptions thrown and tied for 113th out of 122 FCS teams with a turnover margin of -0.9.

And then there’s the defense. SFA ranked dead last in the FCS in scoring defense in 2013, allowing 49.3 points per game. The Lumberjacks ranked 121 out of 122 FCS teams in total defense, allowing 528.2 yards per contest. SFA also ranked dead last in passing defense, allowing 338 yards per game through the air, 37 more yards per contest than the second-worst passing defense (Butler). So K-State’s Jake Waters and Tyler Lockett are probably licking their chops for Aug. 30 to get here.

This game will provide K-State an opportunity to get in an early-season rhythm offensively against a weak defense. And it will give the Wildcats’ defense a test against what should be a strong offensive team that helps better prepare them for what lies ahead on the 2014 schedule. This is a game the Wildcats should win handily. So those shocked expressions on K-State fans’ faces after last year’s season-opening loss should turn to smiles after the 2014 opener.

 

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