TICKETSMARTER WAC FOOTBALL PLAYERS OF THE WEEK ANNOUNCED
Stephen F. Austin’s Xavier Gipson, Tarleton’s Devin Hafford and SFA’s Chris Campos have been named TicketSmarter Western Athletic Conference Offensive, Defensive and Special Teams Players of the Week, respectively, for October 18 through October 24.
Gipson, a sophomore wide receiver from Dallas, brought in nine catches for 218 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the ‘Jacks earned a 37-20 win at Dixie State on Saturday night. The top receiving mark in the WAC this season by nearly 50 yards, he leads the league this season with 121.5 yards per game, including six touchdowns.
Hafford, a senior defensive back from Atascocita, Texas, added two more interceptions to his season total to lead the Texans’ defense to a 17-14 win over Midwestern State on Saturday night. His second interception sealed the game with just three seconds remaining. His eight takeaways on the season, which includes six interceptions and two fumbles recovered, lead both FCS and FBS this season.
Campos, a redshirt freshman kicker from Nacogdoches, Texas, was perfect on seven kicks, going 3-for-3 on field goals and 4-for-4 on extra points in a 37-20 win over Dixie State. Totaling 13 points on the day, he hit field goals from 40, 43 and a career-high and stadium-record 53 yards to go along with four extra points. On the season, he is leading the WAC with 10.3 points per game with 15 field goals and 27-of-27 extra points.
Other offensive nominees: Dixie State’s Drew Kannely-Robles put up a career-high 183 yards on 24 carries with a 47-yard touchdown run as the Trailblazers lost a WAC battle to Stephen F. Austin, 37-20 … Lamar’s Jalen Dummett rushed the ball 15 times for 125 yards and one touchdown as the Cardinals battled Central Arkansas in an AQ7 battle before falling, 49-38 … Sam Houston’s Ramon Jefferson recorded his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season, carrying the ball 14 times for 110 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-7 win over Jacksonville State … Tarleton’s Max Maxfield scored twice on three total catches as the Texans held off former LSC hoe Midwestern State, 17-14.
Other defensive nominees: Dixie State’s Syrus Webster collected four solo tackles and two tackles-for-loss in the Trailblazers’ 37-20 loss to Stephen F. Austin … Lamar’s Anthony Ruffin finished with eight tackles and an interception as the Cardinals battled Central Arkansas tough in a 49-38 loss … Sam Houston’s Zyon McCollum picked off his second pass of the season and added four tackles, including a tackle-for-loss, in the top-ranked Bearkats’ 42-7 win over Jacksonville State … Stephen F. Austin’s Raysha Nichols had a pair of sacks with six total tackles in SFA’s 37-20 win at Dixie State on Saturday night.
Other special teams nominees: Dixie State’s Andrew Day punted six times for 253 yards, averaging 42.2 yards per punt, including one touchback and one inside the 20 … Sam Houston’s Matt McRobert averaged 53.7 yards, per punt, including a 73-yard boot, as the top-ranked Bearkats earned a 42-7 win over Jacksonville State … Tarleton’s Jake Walrath kept Midwestern State deep in their own territory, punting seven times for 312 yards for a 44.6 yards per punt average.
Dixie State will kick things off on Saturday, taking on its seventh opponent of the season that is receving votes in the Top 25 polls when the Trailblazers kick off at Delaware at 1 p.m. ET. Lamar travels to AQ7-foe and nationally-ranked Eastern Kentucky, kicking at 2 p.m. ET. Abilene Christian heads east to Stephen F. Austin for a WAC/AQ7/purple battle. The final game of the day has top-ranked Sam Houston heading to Tarleton, kicking at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN+.
As a team, Sam Houston leads the WAC in scoring offense (40.5), scoring defense (16.5), total offense (464.83), touchdowns (31), rushing offense (223.17), rushing defense (79.0), passing touchdowns (17), opponent first downs (15.5), least sacks allowed (7), red zone offense (88.0) and are tied with Abilene Christian for the lead in rushing touchdowns (14). Stephen F. Austin is the leader in total defense (298.57), pass defense efficiency (103.3), pass offense (289.7), pass defense (176.1), field goals (15), field goal percentage (83.33), yards per punt (40.6), punt return average (16.79), punt return TDs (3), kickoff returns (42.5), interceptions (10), interception return TDs (3), turnover margin (+5), opponents’ third-down conversions (31.0), fourth-down conversions (50.0), opponents’ fourth-down conversions (21.43), sacks by (26) and time of possession (31:08). Abilene Christian is also the leader in yards per rush (5.69), pass efficiency (146.3), pass completion percentage (64.4) and third-down conversions (48.28). Tarleton has the only kick return TD this season and also leads in total first downs (144), first downs rushing (68) and red zone defense (73.7).
Individually, SHSU’s Ramon Jefferson leads the WAC in rushing (97.0). SFA’s Trae Self is the leader in passing average (252.29) and total offense (269.86). Dixie State’s Jalen Powell is the leader in receptions per game (7.50) while SFA’s Xavier Gipson is the leader in reception yards per game (121.50) and all purpose yards (140.50).. When it comes to scoring, SFA’s Chris Campos is the leader in scoring (72) with a WAC-best 15 field goals while teammate Max Quick is the leader in punting (48.35 yards per punt)
Defensively, DSU’s Tyrell Grayson is the leader in tackles (10.00) and SFA’s BJ Thompson is the leader in sacks (6.5). SHSU’s Markel Perry is the leader in tackles for loss (12). Grayson and Thompson are also tied for the lead in fumbles forced (2) while ACU’s Jordan Paup, TAR’s Devin Hafford and SFA’s Myles Heard are tied for the lead in fumbles recovered (2). Hafford’s six interceptions are also a WAC-best.
Sam Houston remains atop the Stats Perform Top 25, AFCA Coaches’ Top 25 and Athlon Sports Top 25. The ‘Kats are also ranked second in the College Sports Madness FCS Top 25. Stephen F. Austin is among those teams receiving votes in the Stats Perform Top 25 and AFCA Coaches’ Top 25.
BEST IN THE COUNTRY
After helping lead Sam Houston to a 21-20 rivalry win over Stephen F. Austin in the Battle of the Piney Woods, senior defensive end Jahari Kay was been named Stats Perform FCS Defensive Player of the Week. He finished with eight tackles (six solos), including 2.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks. He also forced a fumble late in the game and had two quarterback hurries and a pass breakup.
BATTLE OF THE PINEY WOODS
In a rivalry dating back to 1923, the Battle of the Piney Woods lived up to expectations, with top-ranked Sam Houston eeking past Stephen F. Austin, 21-20, to stretch their BOTPW win streak to 10.
Lamar’s 17-10 win over Northern Colorado was the WAC’s first overtime game of the FCS era and the 59th in the conference’s history since college overtime was introduced in 1996.
GUESS WHO’S BACK?
It’s a new era as football returns for the WAC for the first time since 2012, this time at the Football Championship Subdivision. Led by defending FCS national champion Sam Houston, the new incarnation of WAC football will also include Abilene Christian, Dixie State, Lamar, Stephen F. Austin and Tarleton. In 50 years at the FBS level, the WAC was home to the consensus 1984 national champion (Brigham Young), the winner of the 1990 Heisman Trophy (Ty Detmer, QB, Brigham Young) and the first pick of the 2002 NFL Draft (David Carr, QB, Fresno State).
Fresh off winning the tophy, Sam Houston had a pair of players pick up Preseason All-America honors, earning a spot on the Athlon Preseason All-America team. Defensive lineman Jahari Kay and teammate Jequez Ezzard (punt returner) earned the recognition.
Seven WAC football players were recognized on the Stats Perform FCS Preseason All-America Teams. Kay, Ezzard and Sam Houston defensive back Zyon McCollum earned first team honors. Sam Houston Quarterback Eric Schmid was joined by teammate Joseph Wallace and SFA receiver Xavier Gipson on the second team. SHSU offensive lineman Colby Thomas was a third team selection.
IN THE RUNNING
Sam Houston quarterback Eric Schmid and wide receiver/returner Jequez Ezzard are among 35 players named to the Walter Payton Award Watch List, which is presented to the top offensive player nationally in collegie football’s Division I championship subdivision.
On the other side of the ball, SHSU’s Jahari Kay and Zyon McCollum are on the watch list for the Buck Buchanan Award, which goes to the top defensive player nationally in FCS.
PLAYING THE BEST
Not looking to shy away from anyone, Dixie State has one of the toughest schedules in FCS, taking on four non-conference opponents that played in last spring’s FCS tournament, in addition to traveling to WAC-foe Sam Houston. The four members of the AQ7 will also take on Jacksonville State, who represented the Ohio Valley Conference in the FCS playoffs.
Non-Conference Games Against 2020 FCS Playoff Teams
Sep. 11 - Weber State at Dixie State
Oct. 2 - Dixie State at South Dakota State
Oct. 9 - Stephen F. Austin at Jacksonville State (AQ7)
Oct. 23 - Jacksonville State at Sam Houston (AQ7)
Oct. 30 - Dixie State at Delaware
Nov. 6 - Abilene Christian at Jacksonville State (AQ7)
Nov. 13 - Jacksonville State at Lamar (AQ7)
Nov. 20 - Missouri State at Dixie State
WAC FOOTBALL ON ESPN
As part of an expanded multi-year, multi-platform media rights agreement announced on Aug. 24, all home football games in the WAC for the next four years will reside on ESPN platforms. In addition, all home men’s and women’s basketball, as well as other select events, will be housed on ESPN digital platforms.
COACHES SELECT SAM HOUSTON, SCHMID, KAY AS PRESEASON FAVORITES
With college football returning to the Western Athletic Conference for the first time since 2012, defending national champion Sam Houston is the favorite to win the 2021 WAC title while Bearkats quarterback Eric Schmid and defensive lineman Jahari Kay were selected WAC Preseason Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, respectively, in a vote of the league’s six head coaches, who could not vote for their own team or players.
Schmid led the Preseason All-WAC Offense and is joined by teammates Ramon Jefferson, Jequez Ezzard, Isaac Schley, Eleasah Anderson, Prince Pines and Colby Thomas. Stephen F. Austin was represented by Xavier Gipson and Zach Ingram while Tarleton earned honors from Tariq Bitson and Zachary Perry. Dixie State running back Quali Conley earned the final offensive spot.
On defense, Kay was joined by teammates Trace Mascorro, Joseph Wallace, Quentin Brown, Trevor Williams, Zyon McCollum and Jaylen Thomas. SFA’s Brandon Thompson Jr. and Brevin Randle were recognized, as was Tarleton duo Ronnell Wilson and Devin Hafford. Lamar’s Anthony Ruffin represented the Cardinals in the preseason awards.
On special teams, Sam Houston kicker Seth Morgan and punter Matt McRobert were recognized and Ezzard earned the spot reserved for kick returner.
Sam Houston earned all five possible first place votes to earn 20 points. Stephen F. Austin earned the final first place votes and 16 points to earn second place. Tarleton is picked third with 11 points, followed by Lamar and Abilene Christian. Dixie State, who will be eligible for all individual awards, will not be playing a full WAC schedule due to previous non-conference game contracts.
SAM HOUSTON PICKED TO WIN AQ7
After lifting the NCAA FCS National Championship trophy in May, the Sam Houston Bearkats are expected to return to the postseason as AQ7 champions as voted on by the seven head coaches of the alliance, which made up on four institutions from the Western Athletic Conference and three from the Atlantic Sun Conference.
The Bearkats earned all seven first place votes to score a perfect 49 points. Central Arkansas was picked second with 40 points, followed closely by Jacksonville State in third with 37 points. Stephen F. Austin is fourth with 27 points, followed by Eastern Kentucky, Abilene Christian and Lamar.
The WAC will expand yet again on July 1, 2022 as Southern Utah University joins the party. The Thunderbirds are currently members of the Big Sky Conference and will make the switch in all sports.
Assistant Commissioner - Media Relations