Stephen F. Austin wide receiver Braxton Bearden, left, and quarterback Brady Attaway celebrate a touchdown against Sam Houston State on Saturday, Nov. 2. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, November 07, 2013 10:08 AM
Will the real Stephen F. Austin please stand up?
Are the Lumberjacks the only Football Championship Subdivision team to beat No. 4 Montana State, or the team that surrendered 50 points to a Weber State offense that McNeese had no trouble holding in check?
Are they the group that allowed 66 points to an injury-riddled Central Arkansas offense, or the ones who put a scare in No. 6 Sam Houston State last week before falling 56-49?
The Lumberjacks (3-6, 1-3 Southland) are all of these things — a ticking time bomb equally capable of exploding in an opponent’s face as in their own hands.
“They’re a really scary, dangerous football team,” said McNeese head coach Matt Viator. “What their offense does is just ridiculous. The thing about them is when they play clean, they’ll be very hard to beat.”
The statistics tell the unusual tale of this SFA team.
The ’Jacks are the most explosive offense in the country, averaging 596.6 yards per game. But SFA ranks third in the SLC in scoring at 39.1 points per game because of a nasty turnover habit. Savannah State’s 1-9 program is the only one in the nation that has turned the ball over more than SFA.
“This whole year has been rough,” said SFA coach J.C. Harper. “If it hasn’t been injuries, it’s been playing freshmen. It’s the first time we’ve been through it like this. We’re fortunate it hasn’t been Brady.”
Brady would be senior quarterback Brady Attaway, who has thrown for 3,356 yards and 26 touchdowns.
But this is not a one-dimensional offense.
For the second consecutive season, junior Gus Johnson has provided SFA with a more potent rushing attack than in years past. His 110.6 yard per game average ranks second in the league behind Timothy Flanders.
Johnson is such an integral part of what the Lumberjacks do that not having him in the UCA game killed SFA’s hopes of victory.
“What’s been consistent is our offense, except Gus did not play against Central Arkansas,” Harper said. “That was a big loss.”
And then there’s the defense.
The Lumberjacks are easily the worst unit in the Southland statistically, allowing 48.6 points and 537.2 yards per game.
Viator said they aren’t as bad as those numbers indicate, though.
In addition being on the field more because the offense is so up-tempo, they’ve had to defend some short fields do to the high volume of giveaways. The Lumberjacks have a league-high 14 interceptions in a secondary that starts three freshmen.
“Our problems are easy to point out,” Harper said. “We start three freshmen in the back end, so it’s not like there’s any other players to turn to. There’s some good games, there’s some bad games. Some games haven’t had to move anybody around (due to injury) and we played pretty good. Against Montana State, we had everybody healthy.”