Some of the most important factors in this game will be penalties, turnovers and field position. This year's Refugio team has been really good on limiting penalties, and in my opinion, has a lot to do with being more patient at the LOS and not a hurry-up pace that has lead to false starts in previous seasons. Additionally, the Bobcats have taken care of the ball while forcing turnovers pretty much in every game. The field position component will be interesting, because both teams will have to punt at some point on Friday. Jacobe Avery has been punting for the majority of the season, and while it does not have the best hang time he does a great job of getting the ball down the field about 40-50 yards consistently. Maybe a Mason fan provide some insight on how Mason's punter has been this year. Have you guys even had to punt this year, other than the Shiner game? Playing in the Dome, you would think the turf should provide a good bounce and additional yardage on the punts.
I have seen Mason in person this year, and in my opinion, this looks to be the smallest offensive line we have faced in these past 3 years. But, I will point out they are feisty and quick. Refugio's front four will be the biggest, fastest, and strongest line they have faced, for the most part. I would expect Armonie Brown, #51, to get a double team much like he has most of this season. Our linebackers have been very solid, with Sly Henderson reading the run very well, and our stud sophomore, Sido, bringing big hits, speed and last week had a pick 6.
I do think Mason will have to, and be ready to, pass the ball to finish off drives. I thought their QB, Wofford, has made tremendous strides at the position and throws a very accurate ball, and is an equally dual threat running the ball. I do think Wofford is a very under rated passer, and in many ways this offense has probably been working at this phase for this specific game and opponent. The question in this phase will be, can the Mason O-Line hold up all night, and can Wofford deliver those throws accurately with Brown and company pressuring him.
The Refugio secondary has not been our strong point for years now, and there's no secret there. But, they are fast, athletic and have made some picks and break ups all season (but have also been burned being in the proper position.) I do like the change we made in recent weeks by playing Tinsman both ways and at CB. He in my opinion, is the best overall WR we have, and conversely provides more size, speed, and reads and reacts to the ball more naturally than our other CBs. I would expect to see him play more defense this week, especially against the taller, bigger TE and WRs that Mason has.
On special teams, the Refugio kicker sure has been impressive. He made two FGs last week from 31 and 35 yards out, and cleared the crossbar very easily and over it impressively. If need be, I would feel good with a 40 yarder before the half, or in a clutch moment. I think he's made a FG or two in a clutch moment before. But, going back to a previous point about field position- what our kicker provides consistently for us is very deep kickoffs that typically result in touch backs, or being pinned inside the 20. Can a Mason fan tell us about the Puncher kicker this year? I know a couple years ago the kicker they had was very good, and had tremendous distance. But, I'm pretty sure he has graduated.
Last season, I went to the playoff game between Shiner and Mason, a game in which Mason dominated for the vast majority of the game. I also was at the Refugio and Mason game. I felt like both times I saw them last year, Mason's best players were #22 at RB, #67 and #71 on the lines, and #33 at LB. At least those were the players they relied upon the most heavily. Each of those players graduated. After seeing Mason this year, I feel like their offensive key runs through #14 QB Wofford. And additionally, #41 the sophomore RB/LB has gotten better and is well utilized. RB #2 is a dangerous, solid athlete, and between him #41 and #10 the RB stable is very deep.
Having said all of that- I personally feel like the 2014 match-up suited Mason against a very young Refugio team and resulted in a 24-20 Puncher victory (the only victory ever against Refugio.) In 2015, the Refugio team was filled with sophs and juniors, and Mason was depleted with injuries resulting in a 42-7 blowout with Mason scoring on the final possession of the game. Last season, Refugio was filled with juniors and a very talented senior class, but Mason had closed the gap to 28-7 and again scored on the final possession of the game. This year, both Refugio and Mason have many seniors on the field, but the biggest difference is that Mason has a legit passing threat. I do believe the gap closes even more this season. But, I think Refugio holds the advantage in size, speed, strength, and experience. On top of that, the Refugio coaching staff seldom gets the credit they deserve. But, systematically what they do, and what we run is very hard to defend. This year we are more of a passing team, but that speaks to the coaching. This staff doesn't just run the same system every year and try and fit square pegs into circle holes. Instead, they will adjust to what the team strength is and run a system that is most efficient and compliments the strengths of the team.
The window closes in a bit more this year, but I feel like the Champs will hold on and win a low scoring, defensive game somewhere around 27-20.
If a Mason fan is willing to share, I'd like to know about the Mason 1) punter and 2) kicker. But most importantly, I heard the QB left the game last week in the 2nd quarter and didn't return. Can anyone from Mason provide us with an injury update on Wofford?
Can't wait for Friday! GO CATS GO