COMMERCE — The No. 24-ranked Texas A&M University-Commerce Lion football team ended their home schedule on the right foot with a 44-13 victory over the UT Permian Basin Falcons Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.

This was the fourth victory for the Lions in four all-time matches against the Falcons.

The normally-potent A&M-Commerce offense took a while to take off. On their first drive, the Lions stalled out and were forced to try a 30-yard field goal, which was blocked by UTPB’s Demarr Hayes. However, A&M-Commerce wasted no time getting on the board as Kader Kohou intercepted a passion the next play that was initially tipped by fellow Lion defender Felipe Chambers and ran 28 yards for the first points of the game.

Later in the quarter, Jaquorious Smith blocked a Falcon punt, and A&M-Commerce started inside the 20 yard line. Miklo Smalls found Tyler Guice for a three yard touchdown pass that gave the Lions their first offensive score of the game. The 14-0 score held as the first quarter came to a close.

In that first quarter, the Lion defense held UT Permian Basin to minus-five yards of total offense.

Neither team had much success in the second frame, with the only scoring being a 38-yard field goal from A&M-Commerce’s Jake Viquez. Falcon quarterback Clayton Roberts was struggling, and tossed another interception, this time to Jalon Edwards-Cooper, late in the quarter. As the teams broke for halftime, A&M-Commerce held a 17-0 advantage.

Edwards-Cooper made his presence known again, intercepting another Roberts throw on the third play of the second half. Viquez added two more field goals, from 47 and 48 yards out, on back-to-back drives.

UT Permian Basin finally broke through the next time they had the ball, taking less than three minutes to drive down the field and get on the board for the first time on a 28-yard pass from Roberts to Jeremiah Cooley.

But the momentum swung back firmly in the Lions favor as they scored two more touchdowns in the third quarter. Smalls found Matt Childers wide open who ran the rest of the way for a 78-yard score, while Jemal Williams had a 19-yard touchdown run. The third quarter score was 37-7.

The game was put out of reach at that point. The Falcons scored in the fourth quarter on a five-yard run by Davion Sutton, but Williams scored again for the Lions in the frame. Kohou stopped a potential UTPB score by intercepting his second pass of the game in the end zone.

A&M-Commerce then cruised to the 44-13 victory.

Roberts had a rough game for the Falcons, completing 12 of 31 passes for 142 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. He also ran five times for 24 yards. Sutton was his team’s leading rusher, picking up 44 yards on 20 carries.

Smalls was solid Saturday night, completing 21 of 33 throws for 282 yards and two scores while also running 11 times for 73 yards. Childers had three catches for 136 yards and a touchdown. Williams, who is on the depth chart as the fifth-string running back, has been called into action due to the many injuries on the team. The sophomore from Inglewood, Calif. began the season as a linebacker, but has taken to the new role on offense, picking up 103 yards and two touchdowns on 18 rushes. Kohou and Edwards-Cooper had a pair of interceptions.

Lions Head Coach David Bailiff credited UTPB coach Justin Carrigan with the work he has done with the team.

“Carrigan has really put together a nice team,” Bailiff said. “They are a team that has struggled by record, but his kids played extremely hard tonight.”

Bailiff said that he has been proud of the players who has stepped in and played well after injuries have hampered the team.

“This is a game where you tell the 2 he is just a play away from being a 1 and you tell a 3 he is two players away,” Bailiff said. “It’s exciting when you reach down in your depth chart, and your guy may not be the most dynamic runner, but he knows what to do and how to help you win ball games.”

Williams, the linebacker-turned-runningback, said that next week will be huge for the team.

“Next week, that will be the game right there,” Williams said. “We are trying to set ourselves up for the playoffs.”

The win improves the Lions to 7-2 on the season and 6-1 in Lone Star Conference play, while the Falcons fall to 3-7 and 1-6 in the LSC. A&M-Commerce will finish the regular season on the road against No. 21 Angelo State, while UT Permian Basin ends their season at home against A&M-Kingsville.

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