Sixth seeded Lions defeat No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth, set for Rematch against No. 2 Tarleton St.

Tyler McDonough, Senior Sports Reporter

Dominique Ramsey returns a Punt for a Touchdown against Minnesota-Duluth | Photo by Josh Manck

By Tyler McDonough | Senior Sports Reporter

The sixth-seeded Texas A&M University-Commerce Lions football team punched their ticket to the second round of Super Region IV in the NCAA Division II Playoffs after traveling to chilly Minnesota-Duluth, taking home a 33-17 victory over the Bulldogs.

The sixth-seeded Lions will move on to the regional semi-final round with the win, propelling their record to 10-2, while third-seeded Minnesota-Duluth goes home finishing their season at 11-1.

The defense and special teams led the way for the Lions as two touchdowns were scored on that side of the ball for A&M-Commerce. In addition, the Lion defense only allowed 188 yards and three points from the Bulldogs.

The Lions struck first after holding Minnesota-Duluth to a three-and-out, forcing just a 12-yard punt to give A&M-Commerce great field position. The Lions moved the ball down the field into the red-zone and finished off the drive as Ovie Urevbu scampered in from 15-yards out to give the Lions a 7-0 lead.

The Lions got the ball back shortly and marched down the field again, but a costly penalty hurt the Lions when Kane Wilson found Vincent Hobbs for a touchdown, but a pass interference on Ryan Stokes wiped the touchdown off the board. The Lions had to settle for a Kristov Martinez field goal, but that try failed after a bad snap.

The Lion defense/special teams stepped up again as the Lions forced another three-and-out. Following the stop Chris Smith blocked the punt to give the Lions the ball around midfield. Wilson found Stokes for a big gain to put the Lions in striking distance again, but had to settle for a 25-yard field goal from Señor Automático as the great Charlie Chitwood would proclaim to make the score 10-0.

Following the Kristov Martinez field goal, the Lion defense kept up the momentum forcing Minnesota-Duluth to punt once more, but the Lions sniffed out the fake punt try, giving the ball back to Wilson and the offense.

With all the Momentum the Lions drove the ball down the field again, but Minnestoa-Duluth finally made a big play as Gus Wedig stepped in front of a Kane Wilson screen taking it 80-yards to the house to cut the Lions lead 10-7.

After both teams traded punts the Bulldog defense made another big play as Nate Pearson intercepted another pass from Wilson taking it 29-yards to the endzone to give Minnesota-Duluth a 14-10 lead with 8:01 left in the second quarter.

A gut punching touchdown from Minnesota-Duluth gave the Lions their first deficit of the game, and with the Lions clearly outplaying the Bulldogs, but losing, the Lions needed a big play to regain the momentum. Defensive Coordinator Scott Power called on his defense/special teams to come up big again and they did just that.

Just before the end of the first half Dominique Ramsey fielded a UMD punt at the 21-yard line and returned it 79-yards to the house, eluding many Bulldog defenders to give the Lions a 17-14 lead with 5 seconds remaining in the half. The touchdown for Ramsey is his fourth touchdown of the season and his second punt return for a TD.

Getting the ball to start the second half and leading 17-14 the Lions looked to extend their lead. Kane Wilson did just that as he found Marquis Wimberly on the sixth play of the drive for a 40-yard touchdown. Wimberly’s touchdown was the only score of the third quarter for either team.

Minnesota-Duluth scored their first and only offensive points of the day early on in the fourth when Dan Branger nailed a 32-yard field goal to cut the Lions lead to 24-17 with 12:56 left in the game.

The Bulldogs eventually got the ball back looking to tie the game, but once again the Lion special teams came up big as Felipe Chambers blocked a UMD punt and Dayne Douglass scooped it up and ran it in to the endzone from 20-yards out to give the Lions a 30-17 lead.

With some breathing room the Lion defense came up big again as Mark Westbrook intercepted a pass in Minnesota-Duluth territory to set up a Kristov Martinez 43-yard field goal to extend the lead 33-17 with 4:20 left in the game.

Still down just two scores, Minnesota-Duluth had a couple more chances to get back into the game, but that was halted as Deionte Haywood strip sacked UMD quarterback Mike Rybarczyk and Mark Westbrook stopped the Bulldogs on fourth down to ensure the victory for the Lions.

The win for the Lions is their twelfth straight on the road and sixth straight playoff victory. The Lions have won three playoff games the last two years in the state of Minnesota (3-0).

A&M-Commerce will travel back to the Lone Star State for a rematch against Lone Star Conference rival and second-seed Tarleton State in round two of the playoffs. The Lions fell in week 8 to Tarleton St. 47-21. The game will be 1 p.m. this Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Stephenville.