1) The Leopards are going young this weekend, especially on defense. Six freshmen are set to start on defense against Occidental, including three on the defensive line. Leading the interior of the defense will be Mikael Bunse, who has 17 total tackles on the year, including five for loss. Fellow rookies Nicholas Griffin and Conner Johnson will start alongside Bunse.
Robby Bagley III returns from a two-game absence and will start at middle linebacker and Alex Martinez, who notched seven tackles and a sack against Redlands last week, will flank him.
Josh Padilla, who made eight tackles last week, will get the start at free safety.
2) The big change on offense comes at quarterback. Zachary Tomlinson will make his first collegiate start after Josh Evans picked up a knock against Redlands. Tomlinson served as the Leopards' backup last year and appeared in the first round of the NCAA Championship against St. Thomas (Minn.).
Tomlinson was 2-of-4 passing for 21 yards after checking in for Evans last week.
3) If there is a good matchup for a quarterback making his first career start, the Tigers' defense might be as good as any. Oxy ranks dead last in the nation in total defense and scoring defense. It is the only team in the country that's giving up more than 600 yards per game (606.8) and more than 50 points per game (50.5) to opposing offenses.
4) The young Leopards will go up against arguably the best quarterback in the SCIAC. Bryan Scott, the 2015 First Team All-SCIAC signal caller, leads the league in completions (121), attempts (183), completion percentage (66.1), total yards (1430), yards per game (357.5) and touchdowns (12). And he has thrown only one interception on the season.
La Verne beat Occidental, 48-27, in last year's meeting between the two teams but Scott did complete 28-of-44 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns without an interception.
5) Running back Robert Fernandez has emerged as a much-needed change-of-pace back for La Verne. The junior gained more than 50 yards on the ground in each of the last two games and ran for a career-high 73 yards and the first touchdown of his career on 15 carries last week against Redlands.