The No. 23-ranked Texas A&M University-Commerce Lion football team appears to have locked up a playoff spot after coming out on top of a defensive struggle on Saturday, defeating Angelo State 17-3 on the road at LeGrand Stadium.
Saturday's game was the 51st meeting between the A&M-Commerce Lions and Angelo State Rams, but even after the result the Rams still hold a 27-22-2 lead in the all-time series. The Lions have won the last six meetings in a row.
Both teams struggled mightily on offense throughout the game, as two stout defensive units clashed in San Angelo. Angelo State got on the board first with a 42-yard field goal from Connor Flanigan. A&M-Commerce couldn't get on the board until the final minute of the first quarter, when quarterback Miklo Smalls scampered around the left end 17 yards for a touchdown. The Lions led 7-3 after one.
The middle two quarters saw an epic defensive battle as neither team could break through. Even without turnovers from either team, defense was still the name of the game. The 7-3 score held at halftime and was also the score by the end of the third quarter.
The Lions looked poised to reach the endzone in the fourth quarter until Antonio Lealiiee fumbled the ball at the Rams' 12 yard line. However ASU couldn't do anything with the ball and was forced to punt.
The lead was finally increased on A&M-Commerce's next drive, as Jake Viquez booted a 40-yard field goal, recovering from a prior miss from 37-yards out.
As time began to wind down, the Lions finally put the game away with just over two minutes to play, as Smalls found Tyler Guice wide open in the endzone for a two-yard score, giving A&M-Commerce the 17-3 advantage that would hold until the final horn.
Rams quarterback Payne Sullins completed 21 of 35 passes on the day, but for only 93 yards. He was also sacked twice by Lion defenders. Daven Manning led his team with 68 rushing yards on 18 carries. Kyle Hunter had 14 tackles and two sacks. Angelo State could only muster 161 yards on total offense on 64 plays for an average of 2.5 yards per play.
Smalls completed 13 of 21 passes on the night for 134 yards and one touchdown, and was sacked four times. Jemal Williams led the Lions with 72 yards on eight rushes, including a 40-yard run on A&M-Commerce's final scoring drive. Lealiiee ran 11 times for 56 yards. The Lion defense had nine tackles for a loss Saturday. Jaylon Hodge was a terror in the Rams backfield, getting two sacks and three tackles for a loss.
The win improves A&M-Commerce to 8-2 overall and 7-1 in the Lone Star Conference, while Angelo State falls to 8-3 and 5-3 in LSC play. Coming into the game, the Lions sat at No. 6 in the NCAA Super Region 4 rankings while the Rams were No. 7, with the top seven teams from each Super Region making the playoffs. Both teams will learn their final rankings Sunday at 4 p.m. with the NCAA Division II Selection Show.
A watch party for the selection show is being held at the Sam Rayburn Student Center on the A&M-Commerce campus, located at 2200 West Neal Street in Commerce. The watch party will begin at 3:45 p.m. on Nov. 17.