This time two years ago, fans were super excited that football, absent since 1989, was returning at Lamar University. It had been too long since fans, alum and students could sit in the stadium and watch college football.
Money flowed in to make it happen, beautifully refurbishing the stadium, which went on to be named Provost Umphrey Stadium. Everyone embraced the return of Lamar football.
Expectations of winning wasn’t set high, but many were shocked when Lamar battled McNeese State only to fall short 30-27 in the opener Sept. 4, 2010, in Lake Charles. The Cards went on to finish 5-6, beating Webber International, Southeastern Louisiana, Langston, South Dakota and Panhandle State. Big Red football was back.
Due to the success in their first season back, anticipation and expectations were much higher heading into the second year, plus the Cardinals were eligible to participate in Southland Conference play.
After starting last season with a 3-1 record, including an opening SLC road win at Southeastern Louisiana, the Cards dropped their next five before snapping the losing streak on the road against Nicholls.
The Cards then returned home to host rival McNeese State on Nov. 19, but were beaten soundly, 45-17. Lamar finished 4-7 overall and 2-6 in conference play as the Cards finished sixth of eight teams.
In Lamar’s defense, the Cards had their fair share of injuries, especially at skill positions such as quarterback and running back.
Several changes occurred during the offseason, with a new offensive and defensive coordinator coming onboard. Returning to run the offense is Larry Kueck, who was a former assistant at Lamar under Ray Alborn and has 20 years of experience as an offensive coordinator at schools like SMU, Southern Miss, Marshall and Ole Miss.
Serving as the new defensive coordinator is veteran Bill Bradley. Bradley played at the University of Texas and was a third-round draft pick for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1969. He’s coached in the UFL, Canadian Football League, NFL and in the NCAA.
Lamar also received plenty of transfers from FBS (Division I) schools during the offseason and summer. Two players from Oklahoma State are now at Lamar and are hoping to make an immediate impact this season. Those are receiver Kevin Johnson and defensive end Joe Okafor. A third player from Oklahoma State could be ready to play soon in running back Herschel Sims.
At Abilene High School, Sims was an All-American and went on to play as a freshman for Oklahoma State. On a talented offense, the true freshman managed 242 yards on just 31 carries, but was dismissed from the team earlier this summer after being charged with two felony counts of second-degree forgery. So we might have to wait and see what happens there, and we can’t get too overzealous about FBS transfers. Remember Anthony Oden from Arkansas? Me neither.The biggest questions will come on defense and the offensive line. Those two areas need to shore up quickly because Lamar’s non-conference slate is much tougher this year. The Cards will open the season at Louisiana-Lafayette, who went 9-4 last season and defeated San Diego State 32-20 in the New Orleans Bowl. They will likely be the most athletic team Lamar plays all season.
Lamar also plays Prairie View, who went 5-6 last year, at home then travel west to play Hawaii, who finished 6-7 in 2011.
The preseason polls are out and both the Sports Information Directors of the Southland Conference and coaches’ poll selected Lamar to finish seventh among eight teams.
Lamar cannot afford a seventh-place finish. Coach Ray Woodard and the Cardinals need to improve, especially during the conference portion of the schedule. No more five-game losing streaks to Southland Conference teams. Yes, Sam Houston State lost in the FCS National Championship and returns several key players from that team, but this season Lamar must show it can be competitive every week during conference play. This team is now longer new. The time is now.
7-on-7 state results
Both Port Arthur Memorial and West Orange-Stark competed last weekend in the 7-on-7 State Tournament in College Station at Texas A&M.
Memorial lost all three of its pool football games in the Division I (5A-4A bracket): 34-29 to Tyler Lee, 46-26 to Plano West and 34-15 to Waco. Memorial had better results in the consolation bracket as the Titans defeated Weslaco 25-20, Fort Bend Elkins 28-27 and Arlington 39-30, then lost to Tyler John Tyler 51-14 in the consolation semifinals.
West Orange-Stark won all three of its pool games in the Division II bracket (3A-1A) as they go past Burnet 41-29, Aubrey 22-12 and Alpine 40-32. The Mustangs advanced to the championship bracket and defeated Cameron Yoe, 34-15, before being eliminated by Celina 33-26, who went on to win the Division II championship.
Two-a-day practices begin Aug. 6.
Bell commits to Columbia University
Trevor Bell of Hamshire-Fannett will play football this season at Columbia University in New York City. Bell totaled 59 receptions for 912 yards and 8 touchdowns as a receiver in his last two seasons but also was a kick return specialist.