Aug. 25, 2009

By Amy Farnum

No. 3 Delta State will immediately put its lofty ranking to the test as the Statesmen travel to No. 24 Texas A&M-Kingsville for an early match-up between Top 25 teams Aug. 29.

Both squads return 17 starters overall, but look for this game to be an offensive battle as each team averaged over 429 yards of total offense per game last year.  DSU senior quarterback Garrett DeWitt pass for 3,277 yards and 28 touchdowns as the Statesmen won their second straight Gulf South Conference title in 2008, while TAMUK’s Bill Garza tossed 23 touchdowns of his own in 11 games.

“If you like offense, Saturday’s game is for you. I think we will see two of Division II’s top quarterbacks on the field and I’m interested to see how each responds to the first game of the year,” said DSU head coach Ron Roberts.

The game, which is the first meeting between the two programs, will also feature All-American wide receiver Trevar Deed, who combined for almost 1,800 yards rushing and receiving while scoring 15 touchdowns.

REMATCH:  For the second straight year, No. 13 Bloomsburg and No. 15 Ashland will open the season against each other in a clash between nationally-ranked foes. 

Last year, the No. 25 Huskies posted a dramatic come-from-behind 49-42 victory over No. 15 Ashland as Kenny Domzalski bolted 23 yards for the go-ahead score with under a minute remaining in the contest.   Bloomsburg had trailed 35-14 at halftime. Both squads went on to make NCAA Division II playoff appearances.

The game on Aug. 29 at Redman Stadium in Bloomsburg, Pa., will be the first night game in the facility’s history.  The stadium was equipped with lights last year, but the latest starting time was 3:30 p.m.

TOUGH SLATE:  The Pittsburg State Gorillas will have their work cut out for them in the first four weeks of the season as they face four foes ranked in the AFCA Division II Coaches Preseason Top 25.

The seventh-ranked Gorillas start the year with No. 15 Central Oklahoma, a team they defeated 16-12 in the season-opener last season.  Pitt State then moves on to No. 10 Chadron State, which it beat 38-31 in a Top 25 battle last year.

Pitt State then opens its Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association schedule at The Fall Classic at Arrowhead VIII against No. 2 Northwest Missouri State Sept. 12, and follows that contest with a showdown against No. 25 Central Missouri.

TOUGH TEST:  No. 11 West Texas A&M already has an incredible challenge in the first week of the 2009 season as the Buffs host top-ranked Grand Valley State Aug. 29, and after losing their starting running back Keithon Flemming to injury last week, the test gets even tougher.

Flemming suffered a dislocated elbow in the team’s final preseason scrimmage, and the junior will probably be sidelined for four weeks.

The sophomore from Mesquite, Texas, was tabbed’s Lone Star Conference Preseason Offensive Player of the Year entering the season, but Buffs’ fans will have to wait a little longer to watch one of the top running backs in Division II.  Last year, Flemming racked up 1,143 all-purpose yards, 756 rushing yards with 13 rushing touchdowns, and 341 receiving yards on 39 catches despite missing four games with a broken hand.

Flemming, who was also expected to be the Buffs’ kick returner and punt returner, is backed up by junior Kelvin Thompson.  Thompson averaged 4.4 yards rushing per carry last year.