Football team prepares for Homecoming game
Hunter Jameson | Editor-in-Chief | The USD Vista | @hjamo
The University of San Diego Torero football program is off to a 3-2 start in the 2015 campaign and has a very important Pioneer League matchup with the Drake University Bulldogs this weekend. Coming off a heartbreaking 13-12 loss to University of Dayton Flyers in Dayton, OH, the Toreros hope to improve in all aspects and put on a show for the Homecoming crowd this weekend. Redshirt Freshman quarterback Anthony Lawrence is very optimistic about this challenge and realizes that this crowd will be filled with Torero pride.
“Homecoming is always a big game and the players want to make the alumni proud,” Lawrence said. “Also we have a lot of fire from last week as well.”
The Toreros have come away with victories in the last two Homecoming games, defeating the Stetson University Hatters 31-23 last year thanks in large part to redshirt junior running back Jonah Hodges. He set the USD record for most rushing yards in a game with 273 while scoring two touchdowns. In 2013, the Toreros won a thriller by the final score of 35-33 against the Marist College Red Foxes, led by former Torero quarterback Mason Mills, who threw for 349 yards and three touchdowns. USD saved the best for last, as now USD alum David Last nailed the game winning field goal to seal the victory.
The 2015 team is filled with new talent across the board, but they still have the same goal in mind. Redshirt junior Jereke Armstrong transitioned from defensive back to running back this season and has been able to make strong contributions in this new role. He has appeared in all five games and is currently the leading rusher for the Toreros with 55 attempts, 304 yards and three touchdowns. His workload became much greater after Hodges was injured earlier this season against San Diego State.
Earlier in the season, the quarterback position was very much up for grabs. Redshirt freshman Anthony Lawrence won the competition and has been improving with every game of his first season as a starting quarterback. What he lacks in experience, he makes up for in ability. Lawrence has completed over 61 percent of his passes this season for 906 yards and 10 touchdowns to just four interceptions. His favorite target is junior wide receiver Brian Riley, who has stepped up following the graduation of one of the greatest receivers in USD’s history in Reggie Bell. Riley has 19 receptions for 301 yards and five touchdowns.
Riley recognizes that he has done a lot of work to get to this point, and many people have helped him along the way.
“Many things have helped me this year,” Riley said. “I have an amazing support system which includes my family, my coaches, and my teammates. With that type of support it was easy for me to transition well into our offense and it definitely makes it easier to make big plays when you are on offense with so many weapons that the opposing defense has to worry about rather than just you.”
As for the opponent, the Drake University Bulldogs also hold a 3-2 record, but have momentum after a dominating 34-7 victory in their own Homecoming game against the Valparaiso University Crusaders. Offensively, the Bulldogs are similar to the Toreros in that they have a very balanced attack. The run game is led by running back Conley Wilkins, who has 76 rushes for 446 yards and six touchdowns. Quarterback Andy Rice has thrown for 749 yards and six touchdowns.
Riley and the team have a plan for how to defeat the Bulldogs, hoping to turn the tides after last week.
“For success against Drake, we need to play our game,” Riley said. “This goes for both sides of the ball. We have a lot of talent on the team and it’s just a matter of using that talent for a full four quarters.”
Defensively, sophomore safety Colton Giorgi leads the Toreros with 32 total tackles, 19 being solo. Opposing quarterbacks should be wary of throwing the ball against the USD secondary. Junior cornerback Devyn Bryant has four interceptions on the season; his fellow junior cornerback Jamal Agnew has two picks of his own and a team-leading nine passes defended.
This matchup could be a turning point in the Toreros’ season, as a PFL championship is still up for grabs.
This game means a lot to Riley, with many Torero Alumnae returning to campus for the special Homecoming weekend.
“I believe for my teammates and myself homecoming is definitely a special game,” Riley said. “We know that plenty of alumni will be there and we are motivated knowing that getting a win would make them proud Toreros.”
The Homecoming atmosphere is very uplifting for the USD players and, as history has shown, motivates them to play their very best. Fans should be excited for this special weekend and all that it has in store. As part of the Homecoming weekend, USD friends and family have the opportunity to partake in a tailgate from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with the purchase of a ticket. The game will kickoff at 2 p.m. at Torero Stadium.