By Jared Fields, Sports Editor
After weeks of practice in the scorching heat, the football team will get a chance to prove itself Saturday against Central Oklahoma. The Bronchos of Central Oklahoma are ranked 25th in the nation after a stunning loss to Missouri Western last week dropped them from the No. 12 spot.
Last year, UCO put up 42-straight points en route to a 49-24 win in Edmond, Okla. However, the Wildcats hope to change the outcome for this year’s meeting.
The team returns eight starters on defense and seven on offense to a team that went 5-5 last season, with two wins over top 10 teams. Out of the returning starters, possibly none stand out more than junior strong safety Danieal Manning.
Manning is the pre-season Defensive Player of the Year in the LSC South Division and an all-America punt return selection by three sports publications. Manning and company have a plan for UCO’s talented offense.
“If we can get them to be one dimensional, then that’s what we want,” Manning said. “We want them to throw the ball more; that’s what our goal is.”
The Wildcat defense will be challenged to stop an offense that was near the top of the LSC in most offensive catagories a year ago. Broncho quarterback Justin Allgood returns after throwing for 2,556 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. Allgood was also chosen as the LSC North Division Pre-Season Offensive Player of the Year.
At runningback for the Bronchos is Oklahoma State transfer Seymore Shaw. A 6’0,” 225 pound senior, Shaw was slated to be the starter at OSU before deciding to attend Central Oklahoma.
The third member of UCO’s triple threat, Cedric Jones, caught 71 passes for 690 yards last year.
“They have some playmakers on offense,” head coach Chris Thomsen said. “Justin Allgood is a great player; their runningback led Oklahoma State in rushing last year; and their wide receiver caught 70 passes last year, so take your pick on that one.”
The Bronchos defense isn’t lacking for players either. Seven starters return from a Bronchos team that went 8-2 last fall, including two first team LSC north division cornerbacks.
The Wildcats have playmakers on the offensive side of the ball as well. Senior Rashon Myles returns at running back after starting most of last season with backup Arturo “Sneezy” Beltran. Beltran has sat out the last two years after transferring from the University of Texas.
Returning at wide receiver is Jerale Badon, who led the Wildcats in receiving last year. Tarleton State transfer Robert Spells will add size and speed for the team. Spells was a two-sport star in football and track at Tarleton, where he anchored the 4×400 relay team in the NCAA outdoor championship meet last spring. At tight end, Caleb Stone is a big target standing at 6’6″ and weighing 250 pounds.
At quarterback for the Wildcats is Billy Malone, who is a redshirt freshman from Tulane. Malone was a highly recruited quarterback out of high school, but hasn’t played since his senior year. Malone won the job over other quarterbacks during the off-season with his impressive work habit and skill.
“Billy’s got a great arm,” Manning said. “I’m glad he’s on our team.”
The offensive line will be carry the responsibility of protecting it’s players, and with four starters returning from last year, should do it’s job. Seniors Charles Mock, and Josh Lively; junior Cody Savage; sophomore Nathan Young; and freshman Sam Collins will line up as the starters for coach Thomsen.
The Wildcats kickoff at 6 p.m. on Saturday in Shotwell Stadium to get the 2005 season under way.