Ground game holds the key

Today for Lincoln, Azusa Pacific

If you’re heading out to today’s football game between Lincoln and Azusa (Calif.) Pacific, don’t plan on spending a lot of time at Dwight T. Reed Stadium.

That’s because both teams will bring in highpowered rushing attacks, so you won’t have to worry about the clock stopping much after incomplete passes.

Azusa Pacific (5-3) is fifth among all NAIA schools in rushing (256.1 yards per game), while Lincoln (1-8) comes into the 2 p.m. game 11th in NCAA Division II (225.2).

For the Cougars, it all starts with junior quarterback John van den Raadt, who is in the top 10 of all signal-callers at any level of college football in terms of rushing the ball. He’s averaging 112.4 yards per game, behind such Division I luminaries as Michigan’s Denard Robinson and Auburn’s Cam Newton, but ahead of Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez.

“He’s not overly shifty or anything, but he runs through tackles,” Lincoln interim head coach Thomas Howard said. “... They run pretty much a spread offense, but because the quarterback does such a good job of reading the defensive ends, if your ends start chasing him, he’s going to keep it and keep running.”

The good, and bad, news for Lincoln is the Blue Tigers have seen someone like him already this season. Southwest Baptist’s Steven Gachette, who is second in Division II in total offense (403.8 ypg), gashed Lincoln for 399 yards of total offense in the Bearcats’ 62-38 win Oct. 9.

Gachette may throw better than van den Raadt, who is 10th in the NAIA in total offense (280.5 ypg), but the Azusa Pacific quarterback may be better on the ground.

“He’s a lot like the kid from Southwest Baptist,” Howard said. “He’s not as fast, but he’s bigger than (Gachette). He runs through arm tackles. We’ve talked to our guys about securing tackles and being in position. ... We know he’s picked last in the preseason media and coaches polls.

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