Football Prepares for Battle in Texas

The University of Central Oklahoma football team travels to Waco, Texas Saturday to take on Angelo State University in the C.H.A.M.P.S. Heart of Texas Bowl, the program’s fourth bowl game in five years.

The programs are familiar with each other, having both been members of the Lone Star Conference, with their last meeting coming in 2012. Angelo State leads the all-time series 18-6-1.

The Rams are led by head coach Jeff Girsch, who took over after the team’s tenth game of the season after former head coach Will Wagner was fired. He was 48-40 in eight seasons.

Angelo State enters at 6-5 and won three out of their last four games. They boast 17 All-Lone Star Conference performers.

Offensively, the Rams average 33 points per game and 443.6 yards per game. They are effective both through the air, averaging 279.4 yards per game, and on the ground, averaging 164.2 yards per game.

Quarterback Payne Sullins leads the offense. The junior from Gatesville, Texas has thrown for 2,086 yards along with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 11 games and is also the team’s second leading rusher running for 331 yards and two touchdowns on 3.1 yards per carry.

Charlie Rotherham has also seen action playing in nine games, throwing for 856 yards and seven touchdowns.

The top targets for both quarterbacks are Lawson Ayo and Keke Chism. Ayo, who is listed as a captain, is the leading receiver with 55 catches for 980 yards and seven touchdowns. Chism isn’t far behind, leading in catches with 62 for 800 yards and five touchdowns. They average 17.8 and 12.9 yards per catch, respectively.

On the ground, the Rams are led by running back Tyrese Nathan. The sophomore is the team’s leading rusher with 920 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. He is also a factor in the passing game, catching 24 passes out of the backfield for 169 yards and two touchdowns.

On defense, the Rams are led by defensive end Markus Jones, who is one of eight finalists for the 2018 Gene Upshaw Division II Linemen of the Year. He is the nation’s leader in tackles for loss with 34, 12.5 more than second place. The senior is also second in sacks nationally and owns the school’s career and single-season sack record, with 15 on the season.

The two leading tacklers are linebackers Grant Aschenbeck, who has 110 including eight for loss, and Hunter Kyle, who has 108 and 4.5 for loss.

The Bronchos, 7-4, are coming off of a 35-28 loss to Emporia State University. After a 1-2 start, they went 6-2 down the stretch with wins over then fourth-ranked Northwest Missouri State University and a 62-0 win over rival Northeastern State University. They also posted three straight shutouts for the first time since 1979 and the second time since 1942.

Quarterback Will Collins leads the offense. Despite appearing in only six games, he has thrown for 1,392 yards and 10 touchdowns to three interceptions. His top targets are wide receivers Dustin Basks and Mekail Hall.

Basks has 57 catches for 749 yards and five touchdowns, while Hall has 34 catches for 589 yards and two touchdowns. On the ground, running back Clay McKenzie leads the charge with 666 yards and eight touchdowns.

Linebacker Colton Lindsey leads the defense with 82 tackles. He also has three interceptions and two forced fumbles on the season. Safety O’Shay Harris leads the secondary with 67 tackles and is tied with cornerback Kolby Underwood with two interceptions.

Kickoff is scheduled for 4:05 p.m.

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