Midwestern State Football enters 2014 at number 17 in our rankings. Check out our Top 25 Season Preview for more on the top college teams to watch this fall. Can’t find your team in the Top 25? View our full rankings to see where every team stands.
Last Season: 7-3 (3-3) Lone Star Conference
The Mustangs did a great job in the non-conference portion of their schedule last season: four wins including a 45-21 homecoming-romp over West Alabama. The conference season was another matter. MSU finished an unimpressive 3-3 in-conference, with wins over the conference’s bottom-three teams in Texas A&M-Commerce, Angelo State, and Texas A&M-Kingsville, and losses to the top-three teams in Eastern New Mexico, Tarleton State, and West Texas A&M. Midwestern State finished right in the middle of these two sets of teams and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
As far as stats go, they were excellent in a few areas: rush offense (#10 – 261.9 ypg), turnover margin (#4 – +1.5/game), and red zone offense (#5 – 91.5% of possessions resulted in a score). They were not so excellent in the binary opposite stats: #143 in passing offense (154 ypg) and #110 in red zone defense (80.6% of possessions resulted in a score).
-Will Harris RT – Starter
-Bryan Keith LT – Three-year starter
-Shavodrick Beaver QB – 15/23 (65.2%), 211 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 34 carries, 175 yards, 2 TDs
-Keidrick Jackson RB – AFCA All-American, 210 carries, 1,229 yards, 15 TDs
-Taiyon Jackson DB – 64 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 pass defended, 2 FRs, 2 FFs
-Neiko Conway DB – Second team Daktronics All-American, 48 tackles, 5 TFL, .5 sacks, 5 INTs, 14 pass defences, 1 blocked kick
-Greg Saladino PK/P – 10/12 FGs (83.3%), long of 43, 44 punts, 38.8 yard average
What to Watch For
Defensive Backs Back – Of the ten defensive players the Mustangs lost this offseason, six were in their top 11 tacklers from 2013. Four of those players in the top 11 were DBs, and one of them was second team Daktronics All-American cornerback Niko Conway. He lead the team in interceptions (5), pass breakups (9), passes defended (14), and (oddly enough) tackles for a loss (5). He even blocked a field goal. Conway will be tough to replace. Of last season’s starting defensive backfield, only Ricardo Riascos will return this season. He will have to be a vocal leader if the Mustangs want to repeat last season’s excellent pass defense numbers this year.
The LSC is hardly a D2 power-conference – Eastern New Mexico and Tarleton State split the conference title last season, but the only team to earn a playoff berth was third-place West Texas A&M. Redshirt senior quarterback Jake Glover (like the team itself) was right at the conference average in most quarterback stats last season. He’ll be the starter from day one this year after an entire offseason to get a rhythm and chemistry with his intact receiving corps, but he’ll also have 100% of opposing defenses’ attention now that AFCA All-American running back Keidrick Jackson graduated. Dante Taylor showed promise as a true-freshman last season, taking 82 handoffs for 585 yards and 4 TDs – 6.7 yards per carry, but remains to be seen if he can handle the workload of a feature back.
The Mustangs have as good a shot as anybody at winning the LSC, but that in-itself won’t necessarily be enough (just ask Eastern New Mexico and Tarleton State). They lost 13 of 22 starters from the team that won two straight LSC titles last offseason, including 9 on offense. Attrition won’t be nearly as bad this season but they will have to travel to face the three teams that beat them in-conference last season. On the plus side, they’ll have the quality-wins they need to make playoffs, should they manage win those games.