Lions corral Mustangs with dominant win for ESPN Division ll Showcase


Photo Credit | Joseph Miller

Lions QB Miklo Smalls checks with the sideline for the play

Tyler McDonough, Senior Sports Reporter

By: Tyler McDonough | Sr. Sports Reporter

The No. 20 Texas A&M University-Commerce Lions improved to 5-1 and 3-0 in Lone Star Conference play after defeating the Midwestern State University Mustangs 54-28 at Memorial Stadium in the NCAA Division II Showcase game featured on ESPN3 on Saturday night.

Penalties still cost the Lions a lot of yardage as A&M-Commerce racked up six penalties for 60 yards to just the two penalties for 20-yards from MSU. The Lions did have almost 100 more yards total than the Mustangs as TAMUC knotted 501 total yards, while MSU only managed 400 yards. The Lions out-rushed the Mustangs 315-94. Time of possession was also key for the Lions as they had to ball for nearly 20-minutes longer with a 40:07 to 19:53 advantage.

According to Lion Athletics, after the game Head Coach David Bailiff said, “wins build confidence and we’re still dreaming big; we’re still working hard to make those dreams come true. Every week we get closer as a football team, and every week we learn to rely on each other, and I still think the best has yet to come.”

The Lions jumped out early as Dominique Ramsey returned the opening kickoff deep into MSU territory, and scored quickly in just five plays as quarterback Miklo Smalls found Ryan Stokes on a 24-yard touchdown to take a 7-0 lead. 

The Mustangs responded efficiently, marching down the field with a 12-play drive when Triston Williams found Lazarus Fisher on a 3-yard touchdown. 

Antonio Lealiiee and Darian Owens carried the load on the next possession for A&M-Commerce as Owens broke open a 24-yard rush and Lealiiee busted a 34-yard rush to get the Lions deep into the redzone. Smalls proceeded to hit Kelan Smith on a slant route from six yards out to take a 14-7 lead. 

On the ensuing kickoff, Jake Viquez pooch kicked the ball deep in Mustang territory and was mishandled by MSU, only to be recovered by Alex Shillow. A few plays later Viquez knocked in a 40-yard field goal to extend the lead to 17-7. 

MSU marched down the field in 14 plays converting 78 yards, but were held on fourth down by the Lions. After taking over possession, Smalls found Lealiiee on a short two-yard swing pass to take a 24-7 lead. 

The Lions scored again after holding the Mustangs to a punt, when Lealiiee broke free for a 37-yard rush to give the Lions a first and goal. Carandal Hale punched it in from five yards out to take a commanding 31-7 lead. 

MSU did score before the half on a 75-yard drive that was capped off by a four-yard rush from Quinton Childs. The Mustangs did threaten to score again before the half, but Williams was intercepted by Ramsey and the two teams went into the break with a 31-14 A&M-Commerce lead. 

MSU started to make things interesting after Xavier Land scored on a 34-yard pass from Williams to make it just a 10-point game at 31-21. 

Ramsey made sure to stop any kind of momentum the Mustangs were trying to generate, returning two fantastic punts, setting up a Eric Hebert 7-yard touchdown catch from Smalls and a 30-yard touchdown pass from Smalls to Tyler Guice to take a 45-21 lead.

The Lions did score two more times as Viquez knocked down a 28-yard field goal and a 9-yard touchdown rush from Spencer Long. 

MSU did move the ball well in the fourth quarter, but was only able to turn it into one touchdown in the last quarter of play. Ramsey recorded his second interception of the night and sealed the game for A&M-Commerce.

Smalls was named the Lone Star Conference Offensive Player of the Week, as announced Monday morning. It is the second time this season he has received the award.

Next Matchup

The Lions are back in action this Saturday in a battle with No. 4 Tarleton Texans for sole possession of first place in the Lone Star Conference. Kickoff will be at 6 p.m. on October 19th in Stephenville at Memorial Stadium.