by: Alex Welch
The No. 13 Midwestern State Mustangs make their only trip out of the Lone Star state this season to take on the No. 18 West Alabama Tigers on Thursday night. CSS will provide the coverage, with Don Russell and Rick Rhoades calling the game from the booth.
Both sides enter this week with just one loss in 2012. The Mustangs dropped their first game of the year to Tarleton State by just three points, but haven't come close to defeat since, now sitting at 3-1. With only a Week 2 loss to Samford, the Tigers hold a 4-1 record after taking down West Georgia 24-20 this past weekend.
We're sure to be in for a battle between two dominant ground games on Thursday. Midwestern State is currently averaging a ridiculous 300.8 yards rushing per game, while West Alabama is right behind with 246 yards on the ground each week.
This is the first time in history these two teams will face off. Let's take a look at what you should watch for in this Division II matchup.
1) Midwestern State is gaining an average of seven yards per carry. The Mustangs have 15 touchdowns and 51 first downs running the ball. West Alabama is only yielding 114 rushing yards to opponents, so this will be a tougher test.
2) Keidrick Jackson leads the Lone Star Conference with 105.3 yards rushing per game. The junior back totaled 173 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries this past week.
3) Quarterback Brandon Kelsey threw for 684 yards in the Mustangs first four games. The senior needs to limit turnovers when he goes to the air, as he enters his matchup against the Tigers with four interceptions to just three touchdowns.
4) Currently giving up just 3.4 yards per carry, Midwestern State's defense will have to continue shutting down opposing runners this week facing a potent rushing attack. The Mustangs gave up 889 yards and six touchdowns through the air in their first four contests, but fortunately for them the Tigers don't throw it often.
5) The Mustangs haven't played a Gulf South Conference opponent since 2003, when they beat Arkansas Tech 27-12. They hold a 2-0 record all-time versus teams from this conference, and 10-1 overall against non-conference D-II opponents under head coach Bill Maskill.
6) For West Alabama, running the ball proved to be an easy task against the Gulf South's top rush defense in West Georgia last week. After the Tigers' backs paced the offense for 313 yards, we'll see if they can do it again facing a stingy defensive front.
7) Preseason All-American Matt Willis leads the Tigers in rushing with 535 yards and four touchdowns. The senior back continues to make opponents pay, averaging 6.4 yards per carry. He now ranks No. 1 all-time in rushing for his school.
8) Quarterback Kyle Caldwell is averaging 14.47 yards per completion. He's only connected on 48 of 87 passes, but the strong run game helps exploit deep passing opportunities.
9) West Alabama has converted 40 percent of its third-down situations. While that mark continues to provide momentum building drives, the Tigers are allowing a 39 percent conversion rates to opponents as well, a number they need to work on.
10) The Tigers thrive on turnovers. They've interecpted 12 passes in their first five games. Malcolm Butler picked off three passes and broke of three other throws against West Georgia.
by: Alex Welch