Stephen F. Austin opens 90th football season Saturday at Texas Tech

Stephen F. Austin opens 90th football season Saturday at Texas Tech

SFA Athletics

NACOGDOCHES, TX (Press Release)

Stephen F. Austin begins its 90th season of football when the Lumberjacks travel to Lubbock, facing Big 12 opponent Texas Tech on Saturday, September 3rd at Jones AT&T Stadium. The game against the Red Raiders will kick at 7:07 p.m., airing on FOX Sports Net, as the Lumberjacks and Red Raiders meet for the third time in the series history.

SFA's 2016 season opener at Texas Tech will air on Fox Sports Net, kicking off at 7:07 p.m. Ron Thulin will handle the play-by-play duties with Gary Reasons handling the color commentary and Abby Hornacek on the sidelines. For cable viewers, the game can be seen on FOX Sports Southwest Plus, which is Suddenlink channel 39 (239 HD) in Nacogdoches and Lufkin. For DirecTV viewers, the game can be found on channel 676-1 as well as channels 754 (SD) and 1754 (HD) on AT&T U-Verse. The game will also be streamed online at FOX Sports Go as viewers will just need their user ID and password to log in and watch. Rob Meyers will return for another season as the "Voice of the 'Jacks," with a number of different ways to listen to the game. Q107.7 FM will once again serve as the radio home of SFA Football, streaming online at New this year, fans can also catch the game through the TuneIn app on iPhone and Android devices. Search for "Stephen F. Austin" as the new channel will carry all games live worldwide.

For the fourth-straight season, Stephen F. Austin will go head-to-head against a Big 12 foe as Saturday's game marks the Lumberjacks' 10th game in program history against current Big 12 members. SFA is still seeking its first win against the conference as the Lumberjacks are 0-4 all-time against Baylor, 0-1 against Kansas State and 0-2 against both TCU and Texas Tech. The 'Jacks have played five games against current Big 12 foes since 2008 (TCU - 2008; Baylor - 2011; Texas Tech - 2013; Kansas State - 2014; TCU - 2015), including a game against then-conference member Texas A&M in 2010.

2015 Record: 7-6 overall, 4-5 Big 12 (T-5th). Lost to LSU 56-27 in the 2015 Advocare V100 Texas Bowl
Head Coach: Kliff Kingsbury (Texas Tech, 2001). Fourth season at Texas Tech and overall (19-19, .500)
Key Offensive Players (2015 Statistics):
• #5 Patrick Mahomes (Jr., QB): 364-of-573 (63.5%) for 4,653 yards, 36 TDs, 15 INTs; 131 rushes for 456 yards (3.5 avg.), 10 TDs
• #4 Justin Stockton (Jr., RB): 61 rushes for 367 yards (6.0 avg.), 5 TDs; 22 catches for 341 yards (15.5 avg.), 6 TDs
• #6 Devin Lauderdale (Sr., WR): 43 catches for 639 yards (14.9 avg.), 4 TDs
• #12 Ian Sadler (Jr., WR): 42 catches for 596 yards (14.2 avg.), 3 TDs
• #2 Reginald Davis III (Sr., WR): 38 catches for 536 yards (14.1 avg.), 8 TDs
Key Defensive Players (2015 Statistics):
• #7 Jah'shawn Johnson (So., DB): 85 tackles (45 solo), 4.5 TFL, 2 INTs, 3 PBUs, 2 FF, 4 FR
• #2 Tevin Madison (Jr., DB): 67 tackles (46 solo), 2.5 TFL, 1.0 sack, 2 INTS, 11 PBUs, 2 FF
• #15 Keenon Ward (Sr., DB): 60 tackles (40 solo), 1.5 TFL, 4 PBUs
• #34 D'Vonta Hinton (So., LB): 53 tackles (32 solo), 5.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 2 QBH, 1 FF
• #5 Gary Moore (Jr., DL): 13 tackles (9 solo), 4.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks, 1 PBU, 1 QBH
Synopsis: Texas Tech, coming off a 7-6 season in 2015, was one of the most potent offensive teams in the country, averaging 388.2 passing yards and 45.1 points per game. QB Patrick Mahomes returns after leading the Big 12 in passing yards (4,653) and three of his top receivers are also back as WRs Devin Lauderdale, Ian Sadler and Reginald Davis III combined for 1,771 yards and 15 touchdowns for Tech in 2015. Defensively, the Red Raiders were suspect at times, giving up 547.7 yards and 43.6 points per game, including 280.5 rushing yards per game. Texas Tech lost its two leading tacklers and top tackles for loss defender, but return DB Jah'Shawn Johnson, who finished with 85 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and a pair of interceptions. He is joined in the defensive backfield by Tevin Madison and Keenon Ward who combined for 127 tackles and a pair of picks, while LB D'Vonta Hinton is Tech's returning leader in tackles for loss, registering 5.5 with a pair of sacks in 2015.
Stephen F. Austin and Texas Tech meet for the third time Saturday as the Red Raiders have won the previous two games, both of which were played in Lubbock. The Red Raiders defeated the Lumberjacks 58-3 on November 24, 2001, a game that was postponed over two months in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks (the two were originally suppose to play on Saturday, September 15th). Tech then defeated SFA 61-13 on September 7, 2013, using 31 unanswered points to close out the first half and seal the first home victory for head coach Kliff Kingsbury.

When describing the Lumberjack coaching staff, consistency might be the most adequate description. Head coach Clint Conque returns for his third season at the helm of SFA, posting a 12-12 record through his first two years in Nacogdoches and leading the 'Jacks to the FCS playoffs in 2014. Nine of his 10 assistants are also back for their third season under Conque at SFA, including assistant head coach Demo Odems (WR) and defensive coordinator Matt Williamson (LB), as running backs coach Jeremy Moses is entering his fifth year with the program.

The one coaching change that occurred in the offseason was at the offensive coordinator position as coaching veteran Gary Crowton joined the Lumberjack staff in January, replacing former OC Matt Kubik who took the same position at Louisiana-Monroe. Crowton is well known among the NCAA coaching ranks, having served as the head coach at Louisiana Tech and BYU and as the offensive coordinator at programs such as Oregon, LSU, Maryland the Chicago Bears, winning a national title with the Tigers in 2007. This will not be the first time that he and head coach Clint Conque have shared a sideline, although the tables have turned slightly as Conque served as Crowton's offensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech from 1996-98.

Saturday's game at Jones AT&T Stadium will not be the first time starting quarterbacks Zach Conque (SFA) and Patrick Mahomes (Tech) have shared a field this season. The two were both among a handful of collegiate quarterbacks selected to participate in the prestigious Manning Passing Academy this past June in Thibodaux, Louisiana, getting an opportunity to be mentored by future NFL Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, current New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and NFL legend Archie Manning.

One source of optimism for Stephen F. Austin heading into 2016 is the number of offensive skill positions that return for the Lumberjacks. SFA returns 100% of its passing offense from 2015, 92% of its rushing production and 74% of its receiving yards, including its top three rushers (Loren Easly, Joshawa West and Zach Conque) and top five receivers (Aaron Piper,Robert Sylvester, Justice Liggins, De'Quann Ruffin and Joshawa West). 

The one area offensively that has the most question marks in 2016 is on the offensive line, a stark contrast from 2015 when SFA boasted one of the most experienced offensive lines in the country. The Lumberjacks' five starters from last season combined for 200 games played and 164 starts in their careers, but in 2016 just center Anthony Pullins and left tackle Travis Wiggins return as the duo have each played in 31 games with 27 starts.

Arguably no position on the field enters 2016 with fewer question marks, and more pressure, than the SFA defensive line. The 'Jacks return three proven veterans at the defensive end position, led by senior Kedrick Harrison and junior John Franklin. Harrison enters 2016 needing just 3.5 tackles for loss to crack the all-time top 10 in that category while Franklin, a first team All-SLC preseason selection, is looking to build on his breakout sophomore season, earning second team all-conference honors. Senior Jamal Allen and junior Mitchel Zimmerlehave both been key contributors for the past two seasons as well.

Stephen F. Austin's 1,000-yard rushing club added two new members in 2015 as quarterbackZach Conque and running back Joshawa West joined the ranks, becoming the 27th and 28th members respectively. Conque currently ranks 21st in program history with 1,180 career rushing yards (and tops all time among Lumberjack quarterbacks) while West ranks 23rd with 1,115 career rushing yards. Conque also holds a special distinction as he is the only member of both the 3,000-yard passing and 1,000-yard rushing clubs in Lumberjack program history, sitting at 4,666 passing yards entering 2016.

Stephen F. Austin begins its 90th season of football Saturday as the Lumberjacks have posted an all-time record of 47-37-5 (.556) in season openers. The 'Jacks are looking to end a streak of three-straight opening day losses, falling at Weber State (50-40) in 2013, at Kansas State (55-16) in 2014 and against Northern Arizona (34-28) in 2015. It will be the fifth time SFA has opened the season against a current Big 12 opponent, opening three times against Baylor (1928, 1929 and 1947) and once at Kansas State (2014).

After coming off a 4-7 season in 2015, Stephen F. Austin was picked to finish fifth by both the Southland Conference head coaches and sports information directors. The Lumberjacks garnered 60 points in the head coaches poll, finishing seven points back of fourth-place Lamar, while finishing with 66 points among the SIDs, one point behind the fourth-place Cardinals. The last time SFA was picked to finish fifth in the preseason poll was 2009, when the Lumberjacks went 10-3 overall and 6-1 in SLC play, capturing the Southland Conference championship.

Stephen F. Austin heads into 2016 receiving votes in the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) FCS poll. The Lumberjacks garnered five points in the preseason poll and are one of four Southland Conference schools making an appearance. Sam Houston State enters the year ranked second overall with reigning SLC champion McNeese sitting ninth. Southeastern Louisiana joins SFA among the receiving votes ranks, tallying 17 points.

In the 90 year history of Stephen F. Austin football, Saturday's game at Texas Tech will be just the second time in program history the Lumberjacks will play a game on September 3rd. The only other time the 'Jacks suited up on the date, they dropped a 21-7 decision at Southern Miss 1988. That year proved to be a memorable one as SFA went 10-3 overall and 5-1 in Southland Conference play, qualifying for the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs for the first time and advancing to the quarterfinals.