"When he got his opportunity, he seized the moment
and performed at a very high level," ETBU's head coach said about
quarterback Josh Warbington after last Saturday's game against
Hardcore football fans know that defense wins championships. Fans that study the game understand that special teams can really make the difference.
But when sizzling offense airs out the football, every kind of fan stands up and screams.
At East Texas Baptist, the Tigers are currently boasting a full rotation of live arms and a parade of sticky-fingered receivers. What’s more fun to watch than that?
The Tigers are 2-0 for the first time in school history under new coach Joshua Eargle. ETBU has outscored its first two opponents 108-44, including Saturday’s 56-10 road win over Southwestern.
Eargle, whose last stop was as the defensive coordinator at Division II Southeastern Oklahoma State, is running that oh-so-trendy no-huddle spread at East Texas Baptist. The Tigers gave Eargle his first win as a head coach in the season opener against Austin. Sophomore Brooks Holder led that offensive charge with a 31-of-40 debut under center for 316 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception credited against.
Holder started Saturday a perfect 6 of 6 and had already thrown for 79 yards and two touchdowns when he did not return to the game after being sacked on third down with less than two minutes to play in the first quarter.
In an offense that aims to snap the ball every 12 seconds and run 90 plays a game, that should have left a gaping hole in the Tigers attack.
Except Josh Warbington, also a sophomore, stepped up and torched first-year program Southwestern (0-3) for 276 yards and three touchdowns on 14-of-18 passing.
“We had a heck of quarterback battle to start the preseason,” Eargle said. “People around here on a local level were asking, ‘Who's your starting quarterback? Who's your starting quarterback?’ I really couldn't give them an answer. We feel like we have three young men who could start at quarterback and lead this program in a very successful manner, and they proved that on Saturday.”
Sophomore wideout Alex Curl is finding success on the halfback pass. Curl tossed a 38-yard completion to Toi Glover when ETBU took over on offense after Holder’s departure. Glover rushed for a short gain and then Warbington completed a four-yard touchdown pass on his first throw.
Sophomore Jake McClain came on in relief in the fourth and completed six of his seven attempts for 107 yards and a touchdown.
“Typically we want one guy to have the reins and lead this football team,” Eargle said. “That's what Brooks Holder did in the first game. But we got a little banged up on Saturday. We immediately handed the ball over to Josh Warbington, and he did a phenomenal job of being ready and preparation in practice and being patient for his opportunity. When he got his opportunity, he seized the moment and performed at a very high level, and we were very pleased with that. And then Jake McClain goes into the game and he does the exact same thing.”
Curl finished the day two of three for 46 yards. That may have felt like a drop-off in his passing game; Curl was perfect in the season opener, completing his one attempt for a 47-yard gain.
Senior transfer Jermaine Sherman spearheaded the receiving corps. Sherman snared five passes for 98 yards and a 68 yard-touchdown reception that was the longest passing play of the afternoon.
“It's a great offense,” Sherman said. “Either way, across the board, and especially being a receiver you get to catch a lot of balls. Just the tempo of the offense and snapping the ball -- you think, if you're snapping the ball every 12 seconds, that's -- that's fast. And if you execute, that's a lot of plays and therefore a lot of plays is a lot of opportunities to get the ball.”
Ten different receivers took advantage of Saturday’s opportunities. Tyler Bates was just off Sherman’s mark, settling for five catches worth 97 yards, but Bates had two touchdown catches.
DJ Williams and Donovan O’Conner also had multiple catches and a scoring reception each. As did Curl -- he caught two passes for 23 yards and a touchdown, in case anyone was worried he’d been left hanging on the wrong side of the offensive line all afternoon.
|Jamaine Sherman leads the Tigers with 273 receiving yards over just two games.|
Sherman said that offensive coordinator Scotty Walden stresses running Routes on Air in practice and habitually rotates all of the quarterbacks through with the receivers. So rotating Warbington and McClain in behind Holder in a game situation was no big deal.
“Pretty much all the quarterbacks and receivers -- they know which ones are faster, just know the timing,” he said. “And our offensive coordinator really stresses the Routes on Air. That's why I believe when their number was called they came in the game and didn't miss a beat.”
The numbers support Sherman. Against Southwestern, the Tigers set a school record for total offense with 683 yards. Team passing Saturday was 28 of 34 for 508 yards, with no interceptions, and averaged just shy of 15 yards a pass.
“We played three quarterbacks Saturday, and they had five
combined incompletions and zero interceptions,” Eargle said,
“and I think any coach would take that effort.”
Which isn’t to say that the running backs get left out of the action or spend all their time tied up in pass protection. In the season opener against Austin, Glover rushed 29 times for 153 of the Tigers’ 248 rushing yards as ETBU spread the ball around with three backs (including Holder) seeing double-digit carries.
In Saturday’s air show, Jourdan McNeill led the runners with 54 yards on 10 carries, while John Gable averaged 8.2 yards a touch on six carries.
“It's a great offense for either your receiver, quarterback, running back; you pretty much spread the love between all these positions,” Sherman said.
And the ones who should really feeling the love are the fans.
-- Tevin Mitchell went over 200 yards rushing as Hardin-Simmons earned its first win of the season over NAIA-member Texas College, 66-34.
Mitchell carried 42 times for 201 yards and three touchdowns for the Cowboys.
Senior Josh Christian passed for 285 yards and four touchdowns. And Mike Hursh was perfect in his kicking duties, with nine extra points and a 23-yard field goal that put Hardin-Simmons (1-2) on the board after going down 7-0 to Texas College (0-3) on a fumble return with more than 11 minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Jessie Ramos was the leading receiver with 94 yards through the air and three touchdowns on seven catches.
Senior linebacker Jonathan Wilder led the defense with 12 tackles and an interception.
There are still three undefeated teams in the SAA. Only projected conference champ Birmingham-Southern has opened conference play, narrowly defeating first-year team Hendrix two weeks ago, and tops the standings this week.
But Millsaps (3-0, 0-0) has also started the season with a trio of wins, as has Centre (3-0, 0-0). Millsaps hosts Hendrix (1-1, 0-1) this week in the Majors’ first conference contest of the season.
The Colonels open conference play Oct. 12 at fledgling program Berry (0-2, 0-0). Centre will run through the entire SAA schedule in the last half of the season.
-- Junior Ben Leahy was in on 17 tackles for the Colonels, 12 solo, and picked off a pass as Centre defeated visiting Washington and Lee, 37-28 on Saturday.
Harry Meisner rushed for 120 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries for the Colonels. Austin Jones also had 120 yards, his coming through the air. Jones pulled down 10 passes from Colonels quarterback Heath Haden. Haden went 31 of 46 for 372 yards and a pair of passing touchdowns.
The Generals failed to complete a pass on nine attempts. Washington and Lee (1-1) did rack up 422 yards on the ground as a pair of backs each rushed for more than 100 yards.
-- Millsaps ground game was rolling in a win over the NAIA’s Point University, 38-17.
Mike Barthelemy rushed for 113 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries. Taz Watson rushed 14 times for 107 yards and a touchdown.
Majors quarterback Zak Thrasher also threw for 165 yards, completing 12 of 18 attempts with a touchdown and a pick.
-- Senior Tyson Beacham passed for 206 yards and two touchdowns in the Birmingham-Southern win over Stetson (1-2), a nonscholarship Division 1-FCS school.
Beacham completed 18 of 32 and tossed a pair of interceptions, one of which was returned 48 yards for touchdown.
Special teams and defense showed up on the scoreboard in San Antonio.
Matthew Kennemar gave Trinity (Texas) a 3-0 lead that stood until the third quarter as the Tigers pulled away from Sul Ross State, 33-6.
Kennemar was good on a 28-yard field goal attempt after 2 minutes and 15 seconds of play. The junior receiver also had six catches, 101 yards and a touchdown, while putting all four PATs through the uprights and handling half the Tigers’ punting duties.
Trinity (Texas) defensive lineman Tommy Boboy had a blocked punt for a safety in the third quarter. Boboy was also credited with one of three sacks by the Tigers.
Senior Von'Darrick Jones returned an interception seven yards for a touchdown in the fourth. The Tigers picked off Sul Ross State (0-3) three times and recovered a Lobos fumble on the first play from scrimmage.
Connor Yorloff led the Tigers in tackles, getting a hand in 15. Garrett Jennings was credited with being in on 10 tackles and breaking up a pair of passes.
The Lobos committed 13 penalties worth 135 yards.
The Tigers lost to Texas Lutheran last week in the conference opener. Trinity (Texas) (2-1, 0-1) plays its final two SCAC games in the last two weeks of the regular season. Austin College (0-3, 0-0) visits the Tigers this week, but in a non-conference preview of the regular season finale.
-- Trinity (Texas) quarterback Stephen Smith passed for 273 yards and three touchdowns, completing 17 of 31 attempts. Hagen Kattner had three catches, two for TDs, and 63 yards receiving.
-- D3football.com executive editor Pat Coleman spoke with Southwestern coach Joe Austin on Saturday before the Pirates' game with East Texas Baptist. If you missed the interview, it's below: