Defense stands firm

It was nail-biting time on Saturday, as the Texas A&M University – Commerce Lions were hanging on to a seven-point lead against the Tarleton State Texans with the game clock winding down, but a tackle made by Leo Migo on the game’s final play sealed a 56-49 victory for the Lions.

The Lions had high hopes coming into the game, with the Lone Star Conference title firmly in hand, and having throttled the Texans in their previous meeting. Early on, it would be evident that this would be a back-and-forth affair for most of the game.

The Texans were the first to score, taking the lead less than five minutes into the game. This score started a see-saw of scoring which saw the Lions and Texans alternate touchdowns for the next seven scores, which ended with the Lions heading to the locker rooms at halftime trailing 28-21.

The Lions quickly answered the call within the first two minutes of the third quarter with a touchdown pass from Deric Davis to Vernon Johnson. This started a run where the Lions scored 27 straight points to take a 48-28 lead with 4:51 left in the third quarter. This run included a Tarleton State field goal that was blocked by Ronald Fields, which was scooped up by Ransom Cook and returned 80 yards for a score. Cook’s efforts during the game earned him the Special Teams Player of the Week for the Lone Star Conference.

The good vibes for the Lions were quickly dissolved as the Texans refused to go quietly into the night. Tarleton proceeded to go on a 21-point outburst which put the Lions behind by a score of 49-48 with 8:24 to go.

The Lions would finally break the chain by mounting a 12-play, 94-yard drive which culminated in a touchdown run by Joe Bergeron, which was his third of the game. With the Lions needing a successful two-point conversion to be up by seven, Davis completed a pass to Ricky Collins to put the Lions on top 56-49.

Then the Texans mounted a critical drive. The Lions defense, who had shown some holes during the game, tightened the net to hold the Texans and set up a situation with the Texans on the Lions six-yard line with only 1.5 seconds left on the clock. After what seemed to be a game-ending incompletion was soon turned into shock to Lions’ fans as a defensive pass interference penalty, which was number 13 against the Lions, gave the Texans one last untimed play from the Lions’ two-yard line.

With the game on the line, the Texans handed the ball to running back Zach Henshaw, who had already scored twice, but he was met by senior Leo Migo, who capped his career game with his fourteenth tackle and saving the game in the process.

Statistically, the Lions were uncharacteristically outgunned offensively, 666-569 yards. Statistical leaders for the Lions were Bergeron, who had a career day with 140 yards and three touchdowns on just 20 carries. Quarterback Tyrik Rollison threw for 365 yards and three scores on 16-26 passing, with backup quarterback Davis adding a five-yard touchdown. Collins had a huge day with 160 receiving yards and two scores on just five receptions, and Johnson also had two scores along with 98 yards.

Texans quarterback Zed Woerner passed for a Tarleton school record 470 yards as well as three scores in his first collegiate start.

Migo led the Lion defense with 14 total tackles as well as a sack, and Tyree Barton and Toni Pulu recorded two tackles-for-loss each, which gave the team 10 total.

The Lions, who are fighting for a spot in the NCAA Playoffs, have broken back into the AFCA Top 25 poll, coming into the No. 24 spot. The Lions also moved up one spot to seventh in the Region IV rankings, needing to be sixth or better to advance to the NCAA Playoffs.

The Lions hope to grab a spot in the playoffs with a win against the Angelo State Rams this Saturday in the final game of the Lone Star Conference Playoffs. The Lions defeated the Rams earlier this season in a heart-pounding 41-40 win in San Angelo on a last second field goal miss by the Rams.

The Rams currently sit one place behind the Lions at eighth in the region rankings, and currently hold a 7-2 overall record. The Rams are led by quarterback Kyle Washington. Washington currently sits fourth in the nation with 353.6 yards of total offense, and has amassed 34 touchdowns (9 rushing, 25 passing). Washington leads the team in both rushing yards and passing yards.

In the previous meeting, Washington recorded 387 total offensive yards and four touchdowns (one rushing and three passing).

The Lions will host the Angelo State Rams on Saturday, Nov. 15 at 4 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.