The No. 24-ranked Texas A&M University-Commerce Lion football team broke the stalemate with a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter to take a 34-20 victory over West Texas A&M on the road in their first visit to the new Buffalo Stadium Saturday evening.
The game was nationally broadcast on the ESPN3 platform, and was the third Lion football game of the season to be shown to either a regional or national audience.
The win improves A&M-Commerce to 20-14 all-time against West Texas, and is the sixth-consecutive victory over the Buffs for the blue and gold.
The Buffaloes got the scoring started first, jumping out to a 7-0 lead following a two-yard run by Logan Vallo just over five minutes into the game. The Lions answered on a six yard scoring run by Antonio Lealiiee, but the extra point was blocked leaving A&M-Commerce behind by a point.
The deficit didn't last long as Felipe Chambers picked off WT quarterback Nick Gerber and ran the ball 35 yards to the house.
The Lions took their 13-7 advantage into the second quarter.
They added to their lead when Elijah Earls blocked a punt and Jemal Williams recovered the loose ball in the endzone to give A&M-Commerce a two-score lead.
The Buffaloes kept things interesting as Gerber found P.J. Leonce for a 28-yard touchdown pass on their next drive, but failed to convert the extra point.
On WT's next drive, the team drove all the way down deep into the Lions' red zone, but failed to score on four tries from inside the 15 and turned the ball over on downs.
A&M-Commerce looked to add to their lead late in the quarter, but Chance Cooper fumbled a first down reception and gave the Buffaloes a final crack at a touchdown before halftime. Then Gerber tossed up another interception, this time to Jalon Edwards-Cooper, on the next play.
The half ended with the Lions up 20-13.
Neither team could break through on offense in the third quarter until WT used a hurry-up offense to drive downfield and reach paydirt as Jordan Johnson ran it in from 19 yards out to tie the game up at 20-20 late in the quarter.
As the quarter ended and the final frame began, the Buffaloes once again drove into A&M-Commerce's red zone, but found the same result as in the first half and they failed to score and turned over on downs.
This was the momentum swing that the Lions' needed, and they took control in the fourth quarter. A&M-Commerce quarterback Miklo Smalls, who had been elusive all game, used both his legs and his arm as he both ran for a touchdown and passed for one to give the Lions a 34-20 lead that they would carry to the end of the game.
Gerber struggled through the air, completing 14 of 31 passes for 131 yards, one score and three interceptions, while also picking up 34 yards on nine rushing attempts. Duke Carter IV had a team-high 89 rushing yards on 20 carries, while Johnson had 48 yards and a touchdown on nine rushes.
Smalls finished the game going 18-of-28 through the air for 214 yards and one score. He also had 36 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. Lealiiee had 62 yards and a touchdown on nine carries before leaving the game with an injury. Williams had the punt block touchdown, but also gained a team-high 80 yards on 14 rushing attempts. Chance Cooper had six catches for 63 yards, while Kelan Smith caught four balls for 47 yards and a score.
The win improves the Lions to 6-2 on the year and 5-1 in Lone Star Conference play, while WT falls to 6-3 and 3-3 in the LSC. A&M-Commerce will return home next weekend to face UT-Permian Basin on Senior Night, while the Buffaloes face Texas A&M-Kingsville on the road.