This will be the first time that these two teams have met on the football field in 58 years and just the third match-up overall. The teams last played in 1954 in Beaumont, with Lamar emerging with a 19-13 win. McM won the first-ever meeting the previous year, 32-27, in Abilene.
Lamar will be the second NCAA Division I FCS team - and also second from the Southland Conference - that McMurry has faced this season. The War Hawks lost earlier this year at then No. 21-ranked McNeese State. This week's game is also the third Southland Conference team - also dropping the 2011 season opener at Stephen F. Austin - and fourth NCAA Division I opponent that McM has played in the past two seasons (McMurry scored an upset win over UT-San Antonio in last year's second game) under head coach Hal Mumme<http://www.mcmurrysports.com/coaches.aspx?rc=190>.
The game will have a distinct local flavor as two of the top running backs in Abilene High School history will be featured on either side of the field. Lamar is led on the ground by Herschel Sims, who has run for a team-leading 289 yards in his first six games of 2012.
McMurry's running attack is paced by true freshman Paxton Grayer<http://www.mcmurrysports.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=3307>, who succeeded Sims at AHS, and has 312 rushing yards and five touchdowns in the first five games of his collegiate career. Grayer has had back-to-back 100 yard rushing games for the War Hawks.
The Cardinals passing game has two quality quarterbacks in redshirt sophomore Caleb Berry and junior transfer Ryan Mossakowski. Berry made his first start last week in the loss to Northwestern State, going 18-for-36 for 180 yards and two touchdowns. Mossakowski has completed 87-of-140 passes for 795 yards and seven TDs this season.
McMurry counters with signal-caller Jake Mullin<http://www.mcmurrysports.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=3164>, who has 1,580 passing yards this season and a completion ratio of better than 70 percent (159-227). Mullin has tossed nine TD passes and been intercepted five times.
20 different receivers have caught a pass this season in McMurry's "Air Raid Offense," led by 31 grabs from standout sophomore Greg Livingston<http://www.mcmurrysports.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=3159>. Livingston has 365 receiving yards (11.8 yards per catch) and three aerial touchdowns. Grayer has 30 grabs for 260 yards, as well.
Defensively, the Cardinals are the stingiest in the Southland Conference in both total defense (300.8 y.p.c.) and passing yards allowed (152.8 y.p.c.).
McMurry's defense is led by a trio of newcomers: freshmen Ryan Williams<http://www.mcmurrysports.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=3318> and Cory Pippen<http://www.mcmurrysports.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=3306>, along with sophomore transfer Desmond Guy<http://www.mcmurrysports.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=3314>. Williams has a team-leading 44 tackles, while Guy has produced 30 "stops" and Pippen 25 tackles. The duo of Williams and Guy has also produced five of the team's six interceptions this season (Williams with three and Guy with two).
Last week, Lamar University had several opportunities to come away with a road win, but four turnovers would cost the Cardinals in a 30-23 Southland Conference football loss to Northwestern State. After trailing 17-7 at the half, the Cardinals twice pulled within three points in the third quarter, but got no closer. Sims led the Cardinals with 73 yards on 19 carries as Lamar finished with 105 rushing yards in the contest.
Conversely, McMurry University won its third-consecutive game, but it was not without some anxious moments, 22-19, over Southern Nazarene University at the Gopher-Warrior Bowl in Grand Prairie, Texas. McM was led by Grayer, who scored all three of his team's touchdowns on runs of 52, 1 and 2 yards. Grayer carried 18 times for 158 yards, averaging 8.8 yards per carry.
Mullin was 27-of-41 for 261 yards and an interception against SNU. Mullin did not throw any touchdown passes, leaving him on 98 total for his career. Livingston had seven catches for 80 yards, heading a corps of receivers where 12 individuals caught a pass in the game.
The McMurry faithful had to hold their breath to the very end as SNU got the ball back one final time near midfield with :50 seconds left to play. SNU drove from its own 45 to the McM three yard line in seven plays. McM's Pippen made a TD-saving stop at the three to bring up a fourth-and-goal with just a few tics left on the clock. SNU scrambled back and Crimson quarterback Dylan Terry was told by his sideline to spike the ball, apparently losing track of the downs as the clock expired.
In the win over Southern Nazarene, McMurry University also won a football game without a touchdown pass for the first time in Mumme's tenure as head coach at the school.
As a matter-of-fact, the last time a Mumme-coached team won a football game without scoring at least one TD via a pass, was October 16, 1999 when Kentucky defeated LSU, 31-5 (UK scored on a punt return, a field goal and three rushing TDs). That's 11 full seasons, and parts of two others, between that game and last Saturday's win over Southern Nazarene. As a head coach, Mumme notched 48 wins with touchdown passes between those games.
GAME NOTES: McMurry fans attending the game are invited to a tailgate party beginning at 2 p.m. in the parking lot of Lamar Institute of Technology (located next to Lamar University). Eric Newby (father of McM player Matt Newby<http://www.mcmurrysports.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=3340>, who is from Vidor High School in Beaumont) will be cooking up chicken and sausage gumbo and hot links .... McMurry's game versus Lamar University the third of four-consecutive games away from its home field. The War Hawks traveled to Oklahoma Panhandle State (w. 42-33) on September 29, played a neutral site game versus Southern Nazarene (w. 22-19) on October 6 and are at NCAA II opponent Incarnate Word next week (Oct. 20). McM returns home on October 27 (vs. Langston, Okla., University) for its Homecoming Game .... Lest anyone doubt how much Hal Mumme<http://www.mcmurrysports.com/coaches.aspx?rc=190>'s "Air Raid Offense" has revolutionized and influenced college football, consider several facts. Prior to Mumme getting his first coaching job at Iowa Wesleyan University (1989) and introducing his revolutionary offense, just TWO players at any level of intercollegiate football - NCAA or NAIA - had both thrown for 10,000 yards and 100 TDs. The first on record to do so was Willie Totten (1982-85) at Mississippi Valley State (who had a fairly decent receiver in a guy named Jerry Rice) and UW-Stevens Point's three-time All-American Kirk Baumgartner (1986-89). Before the "Air Raid" gained national acclaim beginning in 1997 with Mumme at Kentucky, a total of just 11 players (who played the majority of their careers prior to '97) achieved the 10,000-yards/100-touchdown mark. Since 1997 - and after Mumme protege Tim Couch posted eye-popping numbers and was the NFL's top draft pick in 1999 out of UK - no less than 51 players have both passed for 10,000 yards and thrown 100 TD passes in their college careers!