By Caleb Slinkard
The Commerce Journal
Entering last week’s game against Incarnate Word, the Texas A&M University-Commerce football team had a significant amount of momentum. The Lions had shocked Texas A&M University-Kingsville 21-14 the previous week and were playing a school they’ve lost to by only one point in each of the past two years.
But the momentum was short-lived. The Cardinals dominated the Lions in the first half, sacking junior Quarterback Deric Davis eight times en route to a 31-9 victory. This week, the Lions (1-4. 1-2 Lone Star Conference) host Tarleton State (2-3, 2-2 LSC) in the third annual President’s Trophy game, an award Tarleton has won the first two times.
A&M-Commerce is naturally the underdog. They’ve won only two games in the last two years, and have struggled against other Texas teams during Head Coach Guy Morriss’ four years at the university. The Lions are averaging only 13.2 points and 61 rushing yards per game. Defensively, they’re allowing 33.6 points and more than 200 yards on the ground per game.
There have been some significant bright spots for A&M-Commerce so far. Davis is a playmaker who has shown that he can play winning football. Junior wide receiver Garret Smith has emerged as Davis’ favorite target on offense, leading the Lions in receptions (22) and receiving yards (263).
Senior linebacker Danny Mason has been a one-man wrecking force on defense. The former All-LSC first teamer has recorded 54 tackles and 3.5 sacks in five games this year. Junior punter Cameron Frosch is averaging 40.9 yards per punt, third in the LSC.
But it’s clear that the Lions are overmatched at the point of attack, specifically at the offensive line. A&M-Commerce is averaging 2.2 yards per carry, dead last in the LSC. Similarly, the Lions haven’t been able to stuff the run, and Tarleton is third in the LSC, averaging a little more than 200 yards a game on the ground. Junior running back Vaughn Smith has 386 yards (second in the LSC in yards per game) and three touchdowns this year. Look for him to have a big game on the ground. Texans’ senior defensive end Rufus Johnson (4 sacks) will plague Davis all game.
If A&M-Commerce can score early, something they haven’t done all year, they might have a chance to force the Texans out of their rushing attack. Even then, an experienced but underperforming Lions’ secondary will struggle to stop Tarleton’s junior quarterback Aaron Doyle (1,243 yards, 9 touchdowns). Tonight’s game will be an uphill battle for the Lions.