The game went down to the wire as the No. 12-ranked Texas A&M University-Commerce Lion football team held off a last-gasp effort to beat the Western Oregon Wolves 34-27 on the road Saturday in the Lions' first NCAA-sanctioned game of the season.
A&M-Commerce had traveled more than 2,000 miles, the longest road trip in program history, to Monmouth, Ore. for the contest.
After going ahead 10-0 in the first quarter, the Wolves wowed their home crowd by reeling off 13 unanswered points to take a surprising three-point lead over a top-25 team heading into halftime.
The Lions regained their form in the third quarter, with their opening drive taking 12 plays and 74 yards to add a 20-yard field goal by Jake Viquez, and then adding a 23-yard touchdown strike from Miklo Smalls to Chance Cooper to retake the lead.
However, Western Oregon would not go quietly in the fourth quarter, scoring twice on consecutive drives, which included a 74-yard pitch and catch from Ty Currie to Thomas Wright, giving the Wolves the lead again.
The Lions fought hard to answer, and a 52-yard strike to Ryan Stokes set the team up for E.J. Thompson to punch the ball in from one yard out to tie the contest. A&M-Commerce got the ball back after snatching an errant Currie pass for an interception, the only turnover of the game, and Thompson again scored on a running play to give the Lions the advantage with time running out.
The Wolves fought valiantly, making it into the A&M-Commerce red zone with less than 30 seconds left. A pass from Currie fell to the ground on fourth down, and the Lions escaped with the victory.
Western Oregon's Currie had a hard day in the pocket, completing just 16 of his 32 passes for 226 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also ran the ball eight times for 27 yards and a score. Nico Jackson had 30 yards and a touchdown on nine carries while Omari Land had 20 and a score on seven rushes.
Smalls was an efficient passer for the Lions, completing 22 of his 30 throws for 240 yards and one touchdown. Stokes led the team with four catches for 60 yards. Thompson had 81 yards and three touchdowns on the ground on 17 carries.
The win improves A&M-Commerce to 1-0 on the season, as their victory last week against Selección Nuevo León does not count toward official NCAA records and playoff considerations, while Western Oregon drops to 0-2. The Lions will begin Lone Star Conference play next week at home against Eastern New Mexico.