The No. 21-ranked Texas A&M University-Commerce Lions took their eighth-straight win over the longtime-rival Texas A&M University-Kingsville Javelinas, using a dominant third quarter to run away with a 33-6 win on the road.
Since 1992, the matchup between the two teams has been the battle for the Chennault Cup, named for Lt. General Claire Chennault, a Commerce-born World War II-era hero who spent part of his life at the Naval Air Station in Kingsville. Following Saturday's triumph, the Lions have now won the last eight Chennault Cups dating back to 2012, but still are behind with an 11-16 mark in Cup games and a 30-35-1 all-time record against A&M-Kinsgville.
The eighth-consecutive Cup win is also the longest streak in the history of the series between the two teams.
The Javelinas donned throwback "Texas A&I" uniforms for the game, which was Family Weekend and Navy Night at Javelina Stadium.
Both teams got off to an inauspicious start, with each squad fumbling away their first drive of the game. Eric Hebert fumbled what would have been a first-down catch on the Lions' fourth play from scrimmage, while A&M-Kingsville got within the 10 yard line before Kris Barnes had the ball stripped away and possession returned to A&M-Commerce.
Hebert redeemed himself at the end of the quarter, catching a touchdown pass from Miklo Smalls as time expired in the first quarter to give the Lions a 7-0 lead after one.
A&M-Commerce got good field position for their next drive after a botched Javelina punt gave the Lions the ball at their opponent's 29 yard line. But a trip inside the 10 stalled, and they had to settle for a 24-yard chip shot field goal from Jake Viquez to extend the lead to 10 points.
For the second week in a row, A&M-Commerce's defense allowed their opponent to get a score late in the first half, as A&M-Kingsville got the ball with less than a minute left and started with good field position after a 26-yard punt return by Donte Ross, culminating with a touchdown pass from Cade Dyal to Amonte Brown.
However, on the point-after-attempt, the Lions blocked a kick for the second time this season. Darius Williams blocked the attempt, and it was returned the rest of the way by Alex Shillow for the rare defensive two-point conversion. As the teams broke for halftime, A&M-Commerce held a 12-6 advantage.
What was shaping up to be a close game got completely blown open in the third quarter, as three long touchdowns by the Lions punctuated a dominant frame for the visiting team. Antonio Lealiiee ripped off a 56-yard scoring run, while Smalls found Darian Owens and Ryan Stokes for touchdown strikes of 62 and 34 yards, respectively. When all was said and done, A&M-Commerce was up 33-6.
The fireworks stopped from there, as neither team could put any points on the board. The 23-unanswered points by the Lions sealed the deal on the 33-6 victory.
Quarterback Dyal had a respectable night, completing 23 of 37 pass attempts for 189 yards, one touchdown and one interception. However, he was pressured heavily and A&M-Commerce defenders sacked him four times on the night. The Javelinas were stifled on the ground, only picking up 32 net rushing yards. Luis Lopez led the team with 33 yards on six attempts.
Smalls had a good night, going 14-of-20 through the air for 222 yards and three scores. Lealiiee had his best outing of the season, gaining 141 yards and scoring once on just 13 rushes. Carandal Hale came into the game in the fourth quarter and picked up 56 yards on seven carries. The Lions outgained A&M-Kingsville in total offense 470-233, despite running 18 fewer plays, for an average of just over nine yards per play.
The win brings A&M-Commerce to 3-1 on the season and 2-0 in Lone Star Conference play, while the Javelinas fall to 1-4 and 0-3 in the LSC. The Lions return home next weekend for one of their toughest tests of the season against Midwestern State, while A&M-Kingsville remains home to face Western Oregon next Saturday.