Stephen F. Austin coach J.C. Harper realizes the nature of the roadblock ahead for his high-powered offense.
In a 55-41 victory over Nicholls State last week, the Lumberjacks, the Bears’ homecoming opponent today, passed for 387 yards and rushed for 356 more. They are the most prolific offense in the SLC, averaging 377 passing yards and 38.9 points per game.
"SFA can really expose you and put you out in space," said Nicholls State coach Charlie Stubbs.
But they are going against one of the best defenses — second in the league in pass defense.
"It’s the type of defense you watch if you want to learn how to play," Harper said. "Every time, it seems like they put on a type of clinic. Whether in coverage of whatever you run, they seem to be always in the right place. They do the little things, the details that good defenses do."
The Lumberjacks, who defeated the Bears, 42-37, last year in a monsoon in Nacogdoches, Texas, upset Montana State on the road earlier in the season when it was ranked in the top five in NCAA FCS. SFA lost to Prairie View A&M the next week.
Both teams are 1-1 in SLC play.
"You don’t have to look any further than their defeat of Montana State," said UCA coach Clint Conque. "They found a rhythm against Nicholls State and hit on all cylinders — as efficient as I’ve seen."
SFA senior quarterback Brady Attaway is on track to finish his career with 13,000 passing yards or more. He has already passed former UCA quarterback Nathan Brown for second on the all-time completion list in the SLC. He’s completing almost 60 percent of his passes this year.
The Lumberjacks have added a solid running game to complement Attaway in Gus Johnson and Joshua West, who rushed for 175 yards against Nicholls State.
"These guys spin it all over the field," said Conque. "They throw the ball 70 times if they have to."
Redshirt junior Ryan Howard will start at quarterback for the second straight game for the injury-plagued Bears as they try to stay alive in the SLC race.
"It’s always interesting to see what coach Conque puts together," Harper said. "He seems to find a way."