By Caleb Slinkard
The Commerce Journal
It was a wild night on Saturday in Commerce as Texas A&M University-Commerce defeated its future Lone Star Conference football opponent McMurry University (1-6), 65-43.
Backup quarterback Deric Davis tied a school record with five rushing touchdowns and added another through the air, and K-J Garrett was the first Lion back with 100 yards in a game since 2011. Davis earned LSC offensive player of the week for his performance.
A&M-Commerce (5-2) was without star quarterback Tyrik Rollison, who suffered a high ankle sprain in last week’s win over Texas A&M University-Kingsville. Junior quarterback Harrison Stewart filled in for the junior college transfer and finished with 342 yards passing and a touchdown.
The Lions got on the board first, following a 74-yard opening kickoff return by wide receiver Vernon Johnson. Davis scored on a 1-yard plunge to put A&M-Commerce up 7-0.
The War Hawks didn’t take long to return the favor, as quarterback Gabe Rodriguez scored on a scramble from the 12-yard line.
Stewart completed a 56-yard pass to Johnson and wide receiver Seth Smith scored a couple plays later to give A&M-Commerce the lead again.
Stewart connected with Johnson again on fade from the 22-yard line to give A&M-Commerce the 21-7 lead.
Rodriguez and wide receiver Greg Livingston struck right back with a 90-yard touchdown pass to draw McMurry to within one touchdown.
Johnson recorded an 81-yard kickoff return to set up another 1-yard Davis run.
Junior defensive back Tyree Barton intercepted the ball and ran it 25 yards for a TD, but was flagged for showboating at the end of the play and the touchdown was negated.
Saul Martinez booted a 37-yard field goal to put the Lions up 31-14. The War Hawks marched down the field in five plays as Rodriguez connected with wide receiver Jeret Smith on a 12-yard pass.
A&M-Commerce marched into the red zone again, but Stewart’s pass was picked off in the end zone by junior defensive back Greg Adams. Freshman linebacker Cameron Rodgers returned the favor for the Lions, picking off Rodriguez and returning the ball to the Lions’ 29. Martinez’ 26-yard field goal made it 34-21 Lions.
Rodriguez connected with Livingston again to draw the War Hawks to within six at the end of the first half.
Stewart was sacked and fumbled the ball in the third quarter and McMurry defensive lineman Joshua Fisher returned the ball to the A&M-Commerce 1-yard line. Junior running back Chris Simpson sealed the deal on the next play to give McMurry its first lead and the War Hawks recovered the ensuing blocked extra point to score two points. McMurry led 36-34.
Saul Martinez made his third field goal of the game, this one from 26 yards, to give the Lions a 37-36 lead, and Rogers snagged his second pick of the game after Rodriguez’s attempt was tipped at the line. Stewart drifted out of the pocket on a second-and-20 and threw an interception into triple coverage. But a roughing-the-passer penalty gave the Lions the ball back on the 38. The Lions didn’t hold onto the ball for long, however, as freshman running back Richard Cooper gave the ball right back on a fumble.
Rodriguez connected with Smith again for a 19-yard touchdown strike to give McMurry the lead.
The Lions took it back after Davis ran his third 1-yard touchdown to make the score 44-43.
Later in the quarter, Davis had his longest run of the game for another touchdown: 4 yards. Garrett led the Lions to the 1-yard line again, and Davis scored his a record-tying fifth touchdown as the Lions took the 58-43 lead.
Defensive lineman Corey Childs intercepted the ball and returned it 13 yards as the Lions increased their lead to 65-43.
A&M-Commerce will travel to Stephenville to take on Tarleton next week. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.