The No. 20-ranked Texas A&M University-Commerce Lions grabbed a rare blowout of the Midwestern State Mustangs in a 54-28 victory at home Saturday.
Six of the previous seven matchups between these two teams had been decided by a single score. Saturday’s win also marked the first time that the Lions had defeated the Mustangs in back to back seasons since 2000, when A&M-Commerce had won the first 10 all-time matchups against Midwestern.
The game was broadcast nationally on ESPN3 as the NCAA Division II Showcase, marking the fifth-consecutive season where Lion football has been on a national broadcast.
A&M-Commerce sported pink Lion logos on its helmets in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and several players sported pink socks, gloves, towels and other uniform items.
Saturday’s contest also marked a national record for the Lions. With the combined efforts of current A&M-Commerce kicker Jake Viquez and former Lion legend Kristov Martinez, the boys in blue and gold now hold the NCAA Division II record for most consecutive point-after-attempts converted, successfully knocking through 125 extra points in a row since Sept. 16, 2017 against Eastern New Mexico. The previous record was held by Liberty University, which converted 123 consecutive PATs from 1976 to 1983.
The game appeared as if it would be an offensive shootout between the two squads, as the Lions struck first with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Miklo Smalls to Ryan Stokes less than three minutes into the game. The Mustangs answered with a score of their own three minutes later, utilizing the hurry-up offense and not giving A&M-Commerce time to coordinate its defense.
The Lions scored again just over a minute later on a six-yard pass to Kelan Smith, but were gifted an extra possession as Midwestern’s Terrell McLain fumbled the kickoff and the Lions recovered. They had to settle for a 40-yard field goal from Jake Viquez to take a 17-7 lead.
Things slowed down a bit from there. The Mustangs were threatening to score, moving into A&M-Commerce territory, but quarterback Triston Williams fumbled a fourth-down snap and the Lions took over.
In the second quarter, A&M-Commerce struck twice more to build a 24-point margin. Midwestern scored once in the frame to cut the deficit to 17, but the Lions still held a commanding 31-14 lead at halftime.
The Mustangs looked to change the course of the match, scoring on their opening third quarter drive less than two minutes in. But any semblance of a comeback was squashed as Smalls tossed two more touchdown passes in the period to give his team a 45-21 lead.
Viquez added another field goal in the fourth quarter, and soon after Midwestern scored on a 57-yard bomb from Williams to Kylan Harrison. In the final frame the Lions brought their backups in, and freshman Spencer Long capped off the scoring with a nine-yard run to seal the 54-28 victory.
On the last extra point attempt of the night, the snap sailed way over holder Preston Wheeler’s head and A&M-Commerce fell on the ball, missing out on an extra point but preserving the streak as a kick attempt was not made.
Williams had flashes of brilliance for the Mustangs but ultimately was stymied on the night. He completed 19 out of 40 passes for 306 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Tyrique Edwards caught five balls for 89 yards. Quinton Childs led his squad with 68 rushing yards and a score on 17 carries. Lazarus Fisher picked up 37 yards on seven rushes.
Smalls had another efficient night, going 19-of-27 with 186 yards, five touchdowns and no picks. He also ran five times for 24 yards. Antonio Lealiiee had a big game, picking up 169 yards on 18 carries, but did not find the end zone. Carandal Hale and Long both had five carries and a touchdown, with Hale gaining 16 yards and Long 15. All-American returner Dominique Ramsey had a big night, intercepting two passes on defense, rushing once for 15 yards, catching a pass for eight yards, a longest punt return of 31 yards and a longest kick return of 65 yards.
A&M-Commerce Head Coach David Bailiff said that he was very pleased with his team’s performance Saturday.
“I’m just so proud of this football team” Bailiff said. “Special teams played well, and what a great performance from several guys on offense.”
Bailiff praised the performances of players like Ramsey, who was all over the field.
“What a total game he had on offense, defense and special teams,” Bailiff said. “Those guys are rare.”
He added that the team will “enjoy this one tonight, but we’ve got a monster ahead of us in Tarleton.”
Lealiiee said that great preparation and great blocking was the perfect formula for his big game.
“We had a perfect week of practice,” Lealiiee said. “We watched a lot of film and were prepared, and the o-line blocked their butts off to make the holes for me to run through.”
Smalls said that it has been important to have success even with many injuries and changes to personnel, which led to the Lions calling on nine different runners and nine different receivers on Saturday.
“Having everyone come together and fit in the scheme and do a good job is the best way for us to succeed,” Smalls said. “I think we came together as a team to get this win.”
The win brings the Lions to 4-1 overall on the season and 3-0 in Lone Star Conference play, while the Mustangs fall to 3-3 and 1-3 in the LSC. A&M-Commerce has probably their biggest test of the year next weekend on the road against Tarleton State, while Midwestern returns home to face Texas A&M-Kingsville.