The 2011 Lamar football campaign got off to a wet start, but not because of anything the Cardinals did on the field, but Mother Nature continued her dominance, like the Cardinals exerted theirs over a clearly overmatched Texas College team, 58-0 Saturday night in a soaked Provost-Umphrey Stadium.
Running back DePauldrick Garrett, who signed with the Cardinals after two stellar seasons at Navarro Junior College, made his presence felt and gave fans and the coaching staff something to feel good about when it comes to the ground game, as the West Orange Stark product toted the ball 20 times for 105 yards and a school record four touchdowns, breaking the record of three set last season by wide receiver JJ Hayes.
The Cardinals showed off the running game early, determined not to let the season drag on before scoring a rushing touchdown, which was a problem last year for Ray Woodard’s group as Lamar was the last school in college football to score a rushing touchdown. Garrett and the offense wasted no time this year, with Garrett carrying the ball five times on the team’s first drive of the season, capping the five play, 30-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run. The drive lasted all of 1:48. In fact, of the team’s six offensive touchdowns, only one drive lasted longer than two minutes, and the longest touchdown run of the night was from four yards out by another transfer, Mike Venson, who hit paydirt in the third quarter and accounted for the last Lamar points of the night.
Garrett, the unquestioned leader of the running back group, talked about his record-breaking performance playing on a wet field.
“We wanted to come out and set a statement with the running game, and that’s what we were able to do tonight,” said the 5-8, 190-lb. Garrett. “When I wasn’t in, we kept each other going.”
“The rushing record put a smile on my face, but I was just trying to be aggressive, set the tone, because it’s going to be a balanced offense this year and I kept playing hard. As a team, our O-Line improved a lot over the Spring, so every hole they made for me, I tried to find them.”
“He did what we brought him in here to do, and we knew he could do it,” said Lamar Head Football Coach Ray Woodard of Garrett’s play Saturday. “We’ve been preparing to run the ball and that’s what we did, because we would’ve had a tough time if we would’ve had to throw for 300 in this game with these conditions.”
The conditions were not a problem for Garrett, and despite his solid start, he and the other running backs have to be better against a team in South Alabama that hasn’t lost a football game since its inception last season.
“Coming from junior college, I’ve played in the rain, so playing on a wet field wasn’t too difficult at all for me,” said Garrett. “I got into a rhythm, but it could’ve been better, and it’ll have to be way better next week. My first carry, I knew, the tone was set, and I had to be aggressive to get what I got. But we need to cut down on our mistakes, cut down on our penalties,” he said of the ground game and the offensive line, “just keep being aggressive and execute.”
“We did okay,” he said of the running backs as a group, “I give us a B -, but we have to be way better than that next week.”
The running game as a whole, which saw Octavious Logan, the team’s leading returning rusher from last year, also found the endzone, scoring from two yards out in the first quarter to give the Cardinals a 21-0 lead. He finished with seven carries for 40 yards. Venson, a standout in the Spring who has struggled this Fall, looked good in limited duty in the second half, also carrying the ball seven times, for 42 yards and the team’s final touchdown of the night.
Caleb Harmon tossed in 22 yards on three carries.
According to a source close to the team, running back Cody Hussey, who was expected to contribute to the running game this season, has quit the team for unspecified reasons.
At the quarterback position, given the weather, there wasn’t a lot of throwing the ball, nor was it really necessary, so neither of the quarterbacks who played in the first half, Andre Bevil, or Jeremy Johnson, looked particularly sharp. Bevil finished the night 3-9 for 50 yards while Johnson, a freshman, was 3-6 for 57 yards. Neither threw a touchdown or interception. Doug Prewitt, who saw time in the second half, had a rough night, going 1-2 for 4 yards passing while bobbling a couple snaps and handoffs, finishing with four carries for – 17 yards rushing.
Woodard said after the game it was hard to evaluate the quarterbacks’ performance.’
“You can’t go off passing stats, because none have any to mention, all I can say is they ran our offense, they ran what we called and it’s a tough night to evaluate,” said Woodard. “I don’t think you can come out of this game with any different opinion than you had going in.”
Coach was non-committal about who would start next week, but didn’t discount Bevil getting the call against South Alabama, nor did he discount rotating quarterbacks either.
“We’ll see,” he said of Bevil starting, “I don’t think he did anything tonight to lose it. I thought he led the team, did a good job on and off the field, all three of them did. Like I said, dry field conditions, maybe we could’ve done a little more evaluation, but all three of them did what they were supposed to do tonight.”
While the Cardinals did commit 13 penalties for 110 yards, Woodard said he’s not overly concerned about those and said a combination of more practice and it being the first game were a big reason for the yellow laundry.
“It looked like our first game, but I thought overall for our first game, we didn’t have a lot of mistakes, we had some, but I was pleased with that part of it, and the (penalties) we did have, we’ll fix them.”
Defensively, Woodard didn’t have much to share about his team other than they did what they needed to do and there’s room to improve.
“Obviously, we were the better team tonight, I’m pleased that we got the win, and got this out of the way,” he said of his team’s defensive performance Saturday, “but we’ve got some opponents down the road that we’re going to have to be better. I still think the most improvement for a team comes between the first and second game, so this will be a big week for us, we’re going to have to step it up.”
All in all, Woodard, who said he’ll trade the big crowd for a “much needed rain,” said his team “did what they needed to do tonight.”
“We’ll watch film, we’ll move on, we’ve got a lot of football left.”