The no. 13-ranked Texas A&M University-Commerce Lion football team opened their season and had no trouble defeating the visiting Selección Nuevo León Leones by a score of 83-0 in the program’s first game against an international team Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.
The game marked the first contest for new Head Coach David Bailiff, and his first action on the sidelines since leaving Rice University at the end of the 2017 season.
There was a warm welcome for the visiting team from Mexico, with the Mexican national anthem sang before the start of the contest along with the American anthem.
Things got off to a rough start for Nuevo León, as Victor Garcia ran for a loss of six yards on the opening play and took a rough hit, coming off of the field with an injury. This set the tone for the night, as the visiting Leones had trouble getting positive yardage all night.
The polar opposite was the case for A&M-Commerce, as they scored early and often. They took just under two minutes to break open for their first score, and from that point the rout was on.
Nuevo León looked outmatched against the Lions, and multiple turnovers and missed tackles spelled doom. The Lions poured on the scoring, and by the end of the first quarter, one that took more than an hour, A&M-Commerce was ahead a whopping 43-0.
Since the game was not an official NCAA matchup between two member schools, the teams agreed to shave the clock down to 10-minute quarters for the rest of the game to speed things along.
The offensive fireworks slowed down dramatically in the second quarter, with the Lions only able to add two field goals as the quarter moved by much quicker. Heading into the halftime locker room, A&M-Commerce held a 49-0 lead.
As backups went into the game for the Lions, the scoring didn’t stop. The Lions had another dominant quarter as they dropped 27 in the third frame to go up 76-0 with just 10 minutes of game clock to go.
A single touchdown was added in the fourth quarter as A&M-Commerce became more concerned with winding the clock down, and the game ended with the lopsided 83-0 score.
The mood was cordial following the game, however. The Nuevo León team received a standing ovation for their efforts by the remaining crowd, with the team not giving up until the bitter end. Both teams posed for a large group photo following the game, and conversed among each other, sharing stories and taking photos together in something not normally seen following a football game.
For the Leones, quarterbacks Saul Cantu and Miguel Angel Martinez shared the workload. Cantu completed one of four passes for -3 yards, while Martinez went zero-for-five through the air. Both threw one interception. Nuevo León struggled even more on the ground, with nine different runners combining for a total of -80 yards on 32 carries, with only one runner finishing with positive yardage. The Leones did not get a first down on offense all game, and lost three fumbles.
The Lions did what they wanted on offense, gaining 411 total yards on just 36 plays for an average of 11.4 yards per snap. Rice University transfer Miklo Smalls got the start at quarterback, and completed all four of his passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns. A&M-Commerce gained 303 yards on the ground, with true freshman Spencer Long leading the way with 73 yards and a score on seven carries. Antonio Lealiee had two touchdowns and 65 yards on eight rushes. The Lion defense had 22 tackles for loss on the night.
Bailiff commended Nuevo León on their efforts Saturday following the game.
“For those guys to bus all the way from Monterrey, about 24 hours, to play tonight, they showed a lot of heart,” Bailiff said. “They have a lot of love for the game of football. I think they did a great job of not only making their university proud but their country proud with how hard they played.”
Bailiff did take issue with the amount of penalties committed by his team, 10 for 95 yards, the only dark spot on an otherwise resounding success.
“We had way too many stupid penalties out there,” Bailiff said. “We want to make this the hardest-working, smartest team in the Lone Star Conference. They worked hard out there but they didn’t always play smart.”
He added that the team will need to cut down on mistakes to have success in the future, but that he was happy with the team’s performance on offense and defense Saturday.
The win improves the Lions to 1-0 on the season, however this game will not be considered for playoff purposes as it was not an official NCAA game. A&M-Commerce will next head more than 2,000 miles to the Pacific Northwest to face Western Oregon next Saturday.