It’s going to be a great Saturday night for a couple Lamar Cardinals as they return home to play Texas A&M.
Lamar sophomore defensive end Abel Daily, who played at A&M Consolidated, and junior place-kicker Bailey Giffen, who played at Rudder, aren’t just going to be standing on the sidelines looking up in the stands for family and friends. They are big reasons Lamar has won its first two games and is receiving votes in both major Football Championship Subdivision polls.
Giffen hit a 44-yard field goal in overtime last week to give the Cardinals a 23-20 victory over Mississippi Valley State after he’d missed a pair of field goals in the first half.
“I had confidence from my teammates,” Giffen said. “Everybody was there to pick me up. Nobody was taking me down. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t [have made the kick].”
Giffen also hit from 22 and 39 yards and added a pair of extra points, the last to tie the game with 31 seconds left. Mississippi Valley State missed an extra point early in the game.
“I thought Bailey had a good night,” Lamar coach Mike Schultz said. “He hit some [kicks] in crucial times and made big kicks when we needed him to.”
Giffen has hit 4 of 6 field goals this season and has hit all eight extra-point attempts. He’s also kicked off 16 times with five touchbacks.
The 6-foot, 215-pound Daily had four tackles in the opener and three more last week. He has two tackles for loss, including a sack.
Daily redshirted in 2017 when the Cardinals went 2-9 under first-year coach Mike Schultz. That allowed him to get bigger and stronger.
“I also got faster,” Daily said. “I play with a lot more technique, because athletic ability can get you only so far.”
Daily is aiming for a breakout season. He played in 12 games last year, making three starts. He ended with 31 tackles as Lamar improved to 7-5, including 6-3 in the Southland Conference to finish third after being picked to finish 10th. The Cardinals made the FCS playoffs for the first time, losing in the first round to Northern Iowa 16-13.
“It’s our attitude,” Daily said. “The attitude has changed since I’ve been here. We had a great year last year. We’re trying to repeat that and do better than we did last year. We’ve got that mindset that we can do it.”
Giffen said the entire program has a driven focus.
“Everyone is working hard,” Giffen said. “As long as we can stay true to ourselves and stay consistent, we’ll do well.”
A&M, which beat Lamar 73-3 five years ago, will be a decided favorite Saturday, but Daily appreciates the opportunity to play at Kyle Field.
“I’m going to come out there ready to play,” he said. “One thing my dad and my uncle always told me, let your motor run no matter who you are playing against, always be ready to go. I just know I’ll go hard when I step on the field.”
That’s why Daily will treat Saturday’s game like any other, though there could be 100,000 people in the stands compared to the 7,200-plus that watched each of their first two games in Beaumont.
“I’ve got to remember it’s not about me. My team goes first,” Daily said.
Both players will have a large contingent of fans, though getting tickets could be a problem, since most of the team’s players are from Texas.
Daily might be getting the most requests. A&M Consolidated boys basketball coach Andrew Daily, who took Hearne to the state tournament before returning home, is Abel’s older brother. Daily’s other older brothers Drew, Appolos, Abraham and Kip also played for Consol, while senior Anaiah Daily is a defensive back on this year’s team with more Daily brothers on the way.
“My phone has been blowing up,” Daily said of the ticket requests from family and friends. “I can’t keep track. They’ve been excited since they found out.”
And despite the bit of chaos, Daily says he’s excited, too.
“I’m just happy to go back home,” Daily said. “I love it out here in Beaumont, but it’s always good to go back where I come from.”
NOTES — Giffen earned All-Southland honorable mention special teams player of the week honors this week. ... Giffen, who played baseball and football at Rudder, began his college career at Texas-Permian Basin. He averaged 37.7 yards on 61 punts in 2016 as a freshman, hitting all five field-goal attempts. As a sophomore he averaged 38.4 yards on 76 punts and made 11 of 17 field goals with a long of 55 yards. Coincidentally, he had one of his better games as a sophomore at Lamar, kicking three punts over 50 yards in a 72-6 loss. Giffen transferred to Stephen F. Austin as a walk-on last season but had knee surgery and didn’t play. “After that, Lamar gave me a chance, and I’m grateful for it,” he said. “It’s just a blessing to be here.” ... Giffen kicked only four field goals as a senior at Rudder, and he says he’s improved since then under kicking coach Nick Gatto. “Practice makes perfect,” Giffen said. “As long as I stay true to myself and trust the process, everything will work out.” ... Giffen said he didn’t realize he’d be returning home to play the Aggies until he arrived at Lamar for fall camp and the coach went over the schedule.