Do not be fooled by Blinn’s 2-4 overall record this season. The roster bulging with Division I talent is still there.
And for Southwest Junior College Football Conference opponents, the Buccaneers are still a scary bunch.
And they are also a desperate group, which makes them doubly dangerous.
It’s ironic that in the Bucs’ most dire time, they get to face off with their old rival Navarro on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Tiger Stadium.
Blinn enters the contest 1-3 in conference play, a sharp contrast to a No. 8-ranked Navarro team that is 3-1 and can clinch a first-round home game by defeating Blinn and then defeating Northeastern Oklahoma on the road to close the regular season. A loss would dump the Bucs from the playoff picture.
A preseason Top 10 team, Blinn was stunned at NEO the first week of conference, appeared to right itself with a win over Tyler and then was shocked by Kilgore, 28-27, after holding a 27-7 lead with 10 minutes left in the game. Trinity Valley, another preseason conference favorite, snapped a five-game losing streak last week by defeating Blinn, 24-9.
“Blinn is still one of the best teams in the conference,” said Navarro Coach Brian Mayper. “Things just hasn’t bounced Blinn’s way this season. They had Kilgore handled and then lost a fumble Kilgore turned into a touchdown and it went downhill from there.
“Blinn is as good as they’ve ever been. You better not take them lightly.”
Blinn quarterback Garry Kimble will make sure no one will consider the Buc offense undermanned. Kimble was expected to learn behind 2011 SWJCFC All-Conference quarterback Eric Mathews, but the University of Memphis swooped in to snatch up Mathews just before August camp started.
Kimble quickly grabbed the job and never let go. He is among the league leaders in passing (1,250 yards, 11 TDs) and is perhaps the best running quarterback in the league (522 yards, 7 TDs). Despite his early success this season, Kimble has struggled of late, throwing four interceptions against Trinity Valley’s stout defense a week ago in Athens.
Saturday will be a clash of Blinn’s outstanding option-oriented run offense against a Navarro team that is tops in the SWJCFC in run defense, yielding only 108.6 yards per game.
“Kimble is an awesome talent and he is what makes their option game work so well,” Mayper said. “He can score from anywhere on the field.
“To be successful against their option, you’ve got to squeeze that dive play and have someone on the pitch key and one on the quarterback. If you do all that, you are in a good position to keep them in check. If any one area breaks down, you are in trouble with the kind personnel they have.”
Mayper is very familiar with one of Blinn’s top skilled players, Jeremy Johnson, who transferred from West Virginia to Lamar last year when Mayper served as an assistant coach. A former dynamic quarterback, Johnson eventually headed to Blinn this summer as a receiver but has had his playing time limited due to injury.
“But he’s back now after missing a couple weeks and he gives them an extremely athletic target,” Mayper said. “(Johnson) can really fly and can score from anywhere just as (Kimble) can. The only guy on Saturday with his class of speed is (Navarro running back) Tyler (Middleton). Unfortunately, they won’t be on the field at the same time.”
When Middleton is on the field, the Navarro running game hopes to exploit a Blinn defense allowing a conference-high 4.5 yards per carry and next to last in total rushing defense, giving up more than 234 yards per game on the ground.
Mayper says Blinn’s overall defense is solid and often holds opponents in check. The problem, however, has been the occasional big play, one of Navarro’s specialties this season.
“Blinn’s schemes have been good and its players have executed well most of the time,” Mayper said. “But teams like Kilgore beat them with big plays. They are in the right place at the right time, but a receiver slips away and they are gone (for a touchdown).”
Trinity Valley did it again last week as receiver Drew Hellreigel was held to only three catches, but all three went for touchdowns and he averaged 42 yards per reception.
“It’s going to be a battle against their defense. I hope we can benefit from those big plays like Kilgore, NEO and Trinity Valley did. I just know this is going to be a very, very tough game. Blinn is still the talented, hungry team they’ve always been and we’d better be ready to play.”
Blinn at Navarro
Saturday, 3 p.m.
Radio: KAND 1340 AM
RECORDS: 8th-ranked Navarro (6-1 overall, 3-1 in SWJCFC) vs. Blinn (2-4, 1-3)
RECENT HISTORY: Blinn won a 31-26 game in Brenham that was back and forth most of the night. Navarro was ranked No. 1 and Blinn No. 2 entering the tilt.
KEY PLAYERS: Navarro: QB Stump Godfrey, RB Traylon Shead, WR-KR Tony Drake, TE Gerard Shillow, RB Tyler Middleton, LB D.J. Simon, RB Tim Wright, DE Andre Ross, T Aleon Calhoun, T Zach Fondal, G Mitchell Bell, DT Arnold Blackmon, DE Michael Jolivet, C John Studdard, DT Terrell Brooks. Blinn: QB Garry Kimble, DB Tevin Broussard, RB Klartel Claridy, RB Donovan Williams, WR Vasquez Haynes, KR Shyquawn Pulliam, K Kurt Walker, LB Demetrius Woodard, Dee Ryan Flannigan.
GAME NOTES: Walker was one of the most reliable kickers in the league last season, but he’s struggled in 2012, missing on 5 of 8 field goal attempts . . . Broussard is one of the top defensive backs in the conference. He’s among the league leaders in tackles (29), TFLs (3) and passes defensed (4) . . . Navarro rested its starters for most of three quarters in last week’s 70-7 rout of Southeast Prep, with none of its top four running backs carrying the ball more than 5 times . . . For the first time since the season opener, Navarro is not negative in turnover-takeaway ratio. The four turnovers the Bulldogs forced last week pulled them even at 16. Navarro is tied for fourth in offensive turnovers and is tied for third in takeaways . . . Blinn is averaging about 100 less yards of offense and 54 more yards on defense per game compared to this point in the 2011 season. By comparison, Navarro is averaging 83 more yards per game offensively . . . Blinn is also scoring 32 points less per game this season, though its defensive numbers are similar to 2011.