By Caleb Slinkard
The Commerce Journal
COMMERCE — Texas A&M University-Commerce (1,7, 1-5 LSC) took a two touchdown lead into halftime, but were unable to hold on as Abilene Christian (5-4, 3-4 LSC) defeated the Lions 24-17 in the Homecoming game.
ACU took little time marching down the field on their first possession, thanks to a steady stream of completed passes from senior quarterback Mitchell Gale, but the Lions held the Wildcats to a 26 yard field goal.
The Lions had some success running the ball on the next possession, due in part to the quick legs of senior quarterback Kevin Vye, starting his second game for A&M-Commerce. Senior Wayne Chapman plunged in from the one yard line for the Lions’ first touchdown by a running back all year to give the Lions a 7-3 lead.
The Wildcats took to the ground on the next drive before Gale hit junior wide receiver Taylor Gabriel to move ACU into the red zone. But Gale’s next pass bounced off of his receiver’s hands and was intercepted by senior defensive back Marlin Terrell to end the first quarter.
The Lions converted on several key third downs and Vye connected with Garrett Smith for a 28 yard touchdown pass after confusing the defense with a pump fake to give A&M-Commerce the 14-3 lead.
With 1:36 left in the second quarter, the Lions converted a fourth-and-five to get to the ACU 22. A roughing the passer penalty two plays later gave A&M-Commerce the ball at the 11 yard line with an automatic first down. But Vye had to recover a fumble for the fourth time in the second half, and the Lions decided not to spike the ball and stop the clock, but instead try to line up for a field goal. The Lions were unable to snap the ball in time as time expired.
On ACU’s first possession of the second half, Terrell recovered a fumble by Gale and returned it to the Wildcat’s 15 yard line. But A&M-Commerce could not move the ball and had to settle for a 33 yard field goal to take a 17-3 lead.
Junior wide receiver Darrell Cantu-Harkless gave the Wildcats great field position when he returned the kickoff 68 yards to the Lions’ 32. The return came on a second kickoff, after the first one, which went out of the back of the endzone, was called back because the Lions were offside.
ACU converted two key third downs in A&M-Commerce territory, and Gale capped off their seven play, 36 yard drive with an eight yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Darian Hogg to bring the Wildcats to within seven. ACU scored again on a 22 yard scamper by Harkless to tie the game 17 all.
Vye connected with senior Tyler Rawlings for a 34 yard pass to move the Lions deep within Wildcat territory. A personal foul penalty gave the Lions a fresh set of downs in the redzone, but Chase Thrasher missed a 21 yard field goal four plays later.
Senior linebacker Danny Mason recovered a fumble on the Wildcats’ ensuring possession and the Lions got the ball back on ACU’s 31 yard line, but Vye threw an interception two plays over to give ACU the ball back.
Two possessions later, Gale connected on an 85 yard pass to Hogg to give the Wildcats their first lead since the first quarter 24-17. The Lions got the ball back with 1:20 left, but the coaching staff managed the clock poorly. The Lions had the ball on the ACU 30 with less than nine seconds left and one timeout, but Vye’s pass was intercepted as the clock ran out.
Vye finished 31-43 for 313 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Smith finished with nine receptions for 93 yards and one touchdown. Once again, the Lions couldn’t run the ball well, finishing with 78 rushing yards. Junior defensive back Joel Wren and Mason led A&M-Commerce with eight total tackles.
The Lions will travel to Blackwater Draw New Mexico to take on Eastern New Mexico next week. Kickoff is at 2 p.m.