DENVER — Abilene Christian’s Stone Earle, Tarleton’s D.J. Harris and Sam Houston’s Seth Morgan have been named TicketSmarter Western Athletic Conference Offensive, Defensive and Special Teams Players of the Week, respectively, for September 6 through September 12.
Earle, a redshirt freshman quarterback from Keller, Texas, was nearly perfect on Saturday night in a 62-7 win over Louisiana College. Connecting on 18-of-19, he finished the day with 233 yards passing and six touchdowns for a 302.0 efficiency rating. He connected to five different receivers for scores, finishing just one touchdown short of the program record.
Harris, a sophomore linebacker from Houston, recorded a team-high 12 tackles to go with a forced fumble, sack, 2.5 tackles for loss, a safety and three quarterback hurries in the Texans’ 54-7 win over Fort Lewis. He has now started the year with consecutive double-digit tackle games and leads the WAC with 11.5 tackles per game.
Morgan, a freshman kicker from Houston, hit all eight of his kicks in a 52-14 win over Southeast Missouri State. In addition to going 7-for-7 on PATs, he hit a 50-yard field goal on his first attempt of the season. He is now 4-for-4 in his career on field goals of at least 40 yards.
Other offensive nominees: Sam Houston’s Ramon Jefferson set a new career high in rushing for the second straight week, rushing the ball 11 times for 153 yards with a pair of touchdowns, including a 70-yard TD run … Stephen F. Austin’s Xavier Gipson collected 158 yards on a career-high 13 catches as SFA nearly upset Texas Tech on the road … Tarleton’s Daniel Wright had 156 yards from scrimmage, including 119 rushing and 37 receiving, to lead the Texans to a 54-7 win over Fort Lewis.
Other defensive nominees: Dixie State’s Colby Williams hauled in his first interception of the season and added five total tackles in the Trailblazers’ loss to 10th-ranked Weber State … Lamar’s Anthony Ruffin led the Cardinals with eight tackles, including five solo stops, in a loss at UTSA … Sam Houston’s Jaylen Thomas had a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown and added a pair of tackles in the Bearkats’ 52-14 win over Southeast Missouri State … Stephen F. Austin’s Willie Roberts opened the scoring for SFA in their battle at Texas Tech, taking an interception back 18 yards for a touchdown in the near-upset.
Other special teams nominees: Stephen F. Austin’s Max Quick averaged 52.5 yards on four punts with a long of 73 yards, pinning Texas Tech inside the 20 twice … Tarleton’s Jake Walrath averaged 48.6 yards per punt on three attempts, including pinning one on the 1-yard-line that led to a Texans’ safety.
Five of six teams will be in action this week as Sam Houston has their first bye week of hte season. Lamar will be the first team to kick off on Saturday, traveling to Greeley, Colo. to take on Northern Colorado at 2 p.m. MT on ESPN+. Three more will kick in Texas at 6 p.m. CT as Stephen F. Austin hosts Mississippi Valley State, Abilene Christian hosts UT Permian Basin and Tarleton faces off with future WAC foe Southern Utah at Globe Life Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The final kick of the day will be the first road game for Dixie State as the Trailblazers travel to UC Davis, kicking at 7 p.m. PT.
As a team, Sam Houston leads the WAC in scoring offense (47.0), touchdowns scored (13), total offense (560.5), rushing offense (291.0) and rushing defense (97.0). Tarleton is the leader in total defense (291.0), scoring defense (13.5) and pass defense (172.0). Stephen F. Austin is tops in rushing defense (97.0), pass offense (289.0), pass completition percentage (.659), field goals (5), net punting yards (45.8), interceptions (5) and turnover margin (+2.5) while Abilene Christian is the leader in pass efficiency (163.2) and pass yards per completion (255.0).
Individually, SHSU’s Ramon Jefferson is the leader in rushing (148.0), scoring (9.00) and all purpose yards (148.0). SFA’s Trae Self is tops in total offense (310.0) and passing average (289.0) while teammate Chris Campson is tied with ACU’s Kobe Clark and SHSU’s Jefferson for the lead in scoring at 9.0 points per game. SFA wide receiver Xavier Gipson is tops in receiving yards (103.0). On defense, TAR’s D.J. Harris is the lead in tackles (11.5) while 10 players have an interception this season to be tied for the lead.
Sam Houston remains the top team in the two major FCS polls, ranking first in both the STATS Perform Top 25 and AFCA Coaches’ Top 25. The Bearkats are also second in the College Sports Madness Top 25 and fourth in the Athlon Sports Top 25. Stephen F. Austin is among those receiving votes in both the STATS and AFCA polls.
GUESS WHO’S BACK?
It’s a new era as football returns for the WAC for the first time since 2012, this time at the Football Championship Subdivision. Led by defending FCS national champion Sam Houston, the new incarnation of WAC football will also include Abilene Christian, Dixie State, Lamar, Stephen F. Austin and Tarleton. In 50 years at the FBS level, the WAC was home to the consensus 1984 national champion (Brigham Young), the winner of the 1990 Heisman Trophy (Ty Detmer, QB, Brigham Young) and the first pick of the 2002 NFL Draft (David Carr, QB, Fresno State).
Fresh off winning the tophy, Sam Houston had a pair of players pick up Preseason All-America honors, earning a spot on the Athlon Preseason All-America team. Defensive lineman Jahari Kay and teammate Jequez Ezzard (punt returner) earned the recognition.
Seven WAC football players were recognized on the Stats Perform FCS Preseason All-America Teams. Kay, Ezzard and Sam Houston defensive back Zyon McCollum earned first team honors. Sam Houston Quarterback Eric Schmid was joined by teammate Joseph Wallace and SFA receiver Xavier Gipson on the second team. SHSU offensive lineman Colby Thomas was a third team selection.
IN THE RUNNING
Sam Houston quarterback Eric Schmid and wide receiver/returner Jequez Ezzard are among 35 players named to the Walter Payton Award Watch List, which is presented to the top offensive player nationally in collegie football’s Division I championship subdivision.
On the other side of the ball, SHSU’s Jahari Kay and Zyon McCollum are on the watch list for the Buck Buchanan Award, which goes to the top defensive player nationally in FCS.
PLAYING THE BEST
Not looking to shy away from anyone, Dixie State has one of the toughest schedules in FCS, taking on four non-conference opponents that played in last spring’s FCS tournament, in addition to traveling to WAC-foe Sam Houston. The four members of the AQ7 will also take on Jacksonville State, who represented the Ohio Valley Conference in the FCS playoffs.
Non-Conference Games Against 2020 FCS Playoff Teams
Sep. 11 - Weber State at Dixie State
Oct. 2 - Dixie State at South Dakota State
Oct. 9 - Stephen F. Austin at Jacksonville State (AQ7)
Oct. 23 - Jacksonville State at Sam Houston (AQ7)
Oct. 30 - Dixie State at Delaware
Nov. 6 - Abilene Christian at Jacksonville State (AQ7)
Nov. 13 - Jacksonville State at Lamar (AQ7)
Nov. 20 - Missouri State at Dixie State
WAC FOOTBALL ON ESPN
As part of an expanded multi-year, multi-platform media rights agreement announced on Aug. 24, all home football games in the WAC for the next four years will reside on ESPN platforms. In addition, all home men’s and women’s basketball, as well as other select events, will be housed on ESPN digital platforms.
COACHES SELECT SAM HOUSTON, SCHMID, KAY AS PRESEASON FAVORITES
With college football returning to the Western Athletic Conference for the first time since 2012, defending national champion Sam Houston is the favorite to win the 2021 WAC title while Bearkats quarterback Eric Schmid and defensive lineman Jahari Kay were selected WAC Preseason Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, respectively, in a vote of the league’s six head coaches, who could not vote for their own team or players.
Schmid led the Preseason All-WAC Offense and is joined by teammates Ramon Jefferson, Jequez Ezzard, Isaac Schley, Eleasah Anderson, Prince Pines and Colby Thomas. Stephen F. Austin was represented by Xavier Gipson and Zach Ingram while Tarleton earned honors from Tariq Bitson and Zachary Perry. Dixie State running back Quali Conley earned the final offensive spot.
On defense, Kay was joined by teammates Trace Mascorro, Joseph Wallace, Quentin Brown, Trevor Williams, Zyon McCollum and Jaylen Thomas. SFA’s Brandon Thompson Jr. and Brevin Randle were recognized, as was Tarleton duo Ronnell Wilson and Devin Hafford. Lamar’s Anthony Ruffin represented the Cardinals in the preseason awards.
On special teams, Sam Houston kicker Seth Morgan and punter Matt McRobert were recognized and Ezzard earned the spot reserved for kick returner.
Sam Houston earned all five possible first place votes to earn 20 points. Stephen F. Austin earned the final first place votes and 16 points to earn second place. Tarleton is picked third with 11 points, followed by Lamar and Abilene Christian. Dixie State, who will be eligible for all individual awards, will not be playing a full WAC schedule due to previous non-conference game contracts.
SAM HOUSTON PICKED TO WIN AQ7
After lifting the NCAA FCS National Championship trophy in May, the Sam Houston Bearkats are expected to return to the postseason as AQ7 champions as voted on by the seven head coaches of the alliance, which made up on four institutions from the Western Athletic Conference and three from the Atlantic Sun Conference.
The Bearkats earned all seven first place votes to score a perfect 49 points. Central Arkansas was picked second with 40 points, followed closely by Jacksonville State in third with 37 points. Stephen F. Austin is fourth with 27 points, followed by Eastern Kentucky, Abilene Christian and Lamar.
The WAC will expand yet again on July 1, 2022 as Southern Utah University joins the party. The Thunderbirds are currently members of the Big Sky Conference and will make the switch in all sports.