Bronchos Look to Muffle Roar
The UCO Football ticket booth is located at the southwest corner of Wantland Stadium. The Bronchos’ first game will be hosted in Edmond, Okla. on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. (Cara Johnson/ The Vista).
The University of Central Oklahoma looks to start off on the right foot this season against Lindenwood, Thursday at Wantland Stadium.
The Bronchos faced Lindenwood in last years season opener, losing 49-26.
“Last year we turned the ball over six times with two of them being returned for touchdowns,” Head Coach Nick Bobeck said. “We have to do a better job with that.”
Lindenwood comes into the game under the direction of first-year head coach Jed Stugart, who is fresh off of a seven-year stint as the head coach of Sioux Falls University, where he compiled a 65-17 record and has a career record of 91-24.
“They’re a very well coached football team,” Bobeck said. “Change brings a renewed sense of optimism so they’re going to be ready to go.”
Although the Lions had a balanced offense last season, expect them to run the ball early and often as Stugart produced the third best rushing offense in the country last season.
“We have to do a great job against the run,” Bobeck said. “We have to eliminate chunk plays and make them drive the field, giving us a better chance at creating turnovers.”
The Lions quarterback situation is still up in the air as three candidates are vying for the job, but Broncho coaches believe it will be redshirt junior Najee Jackson, who was named a team captain last week. Whoever is starting at quarterback will be trying to get the ball in the hands of star wide receiver Kendell Sparks. Sparks earned third-team all-MIAA as both a kick and punt returner last season and led the MIAA in receptions per game.
“He’s a talented kid,” Bobeck said. “We have to do a great job on the back end defending him.”
Last year the Lions gave up 495.2 yards per game, second to last in the MIAA, while also allowing their opponents to score 34.4 points per game.
Bobeck said the Bronchos will look to establish the run game early to help set up the passing game. Look for duo senior running backs Clay McKenzie and Jake Gandara, who combined for 1,391 yards and 19 touchdowns last season, to get the ball often early on.
“We have to be able to run the ball,” Bobeck said. “We have to put Lindenwood in a situation where they have to start making decisions opening up the passing game and chunk plays for us.”
If the run game gets going as planned, Bobeck said to look for senior quarterback Chas Stallard and a veteran receiving core, led by senior Josh Crockett, to pick up the chunk plays that the coaches are looking for.
“We have to get Chas started,” Bobeck said. “He has to have some success early.”
The game between UCO and Lindenwood starts at 7 p.m. at Wantland Stadium.
“We’re going to put a really good product out on the field,” Bobeck said. “It will be a lot of fun.”