Lion defense leads the way in Regional Semifinal victory over Colorado School of Mines


Photo Credit: Joseph Miller

Lions call the roll after a playoff victory

Tyler McDonough, Senior Sports Reporter

By: Tyler McDonough | Sr. Sports Reporter

The No. 21 Texas A&M University-Commerce football squad picked up another playoff road victory, as the Lions eliminated the No. 7 ranked Colorado School of Mines 23-3 last Saturday in Golden, Co. 

With the win the Lions improve to 11-2 on the season, and advance to the Regional final for the second time in three years. The Lions will travel North to take on the number one seed in the South Central Regional, Minnesota State-Mankato in a rematch of the regional finals from 2017 (the year in which we saw the Lions take home the National Championship). 

A&M-Commerce started the game off hot on the first possession of the game, as quarterback Miklo Smalls found Chance Cooper on a 53-yard bomb to get things going. The Oredigger defense however held the Lions to a field goal attempt from Jake Viquez, but the kick was blocked to keep the game scoreless. 

After the teams punted on their next possessions, Mines broke through the Lion defense with a pair of big plays to get into the red zone, however the Lion defense (which has only allowed an average of seven points per game the last three games) held the Orediggers to a field goal. 

Smalls made his only mistake of the game on the next Lions possession as he was intercepted on a deep ball to Ryan Stokes. On the next possession for Mines, quarterback Jon Matocha connected on a deep ball that looked like a for sure touchdown, however L.A. Dawson never quit on the play and ran down the receiver, punching the ball into the end zone where fellow defensive back Jalon Edwards-Cooper recovered the ball for a touchback. 

Smalls responded with his legs as he marched the Lions down the field, eventually scoring on a read-option with one second left in the first quarter to give the Lions a 7-3 lead. 

Early in the second quarter, the Orediggers put together a solid drive, marching down the field inside the 5-yardline of the Lions, but Edwards-Cooper once again got in the mix of things, as he forced a fumble to keep Mines out of the end zone. 

The teams traded punts in the final minute of the first half, and the Lions got another big turnover when Jaylon Hodge forced a fumble, giving A&M-Commerce the ball at mid field with 40 seconds remaining. The Lions drove into field goal range, but a penalty knocked them too far back and ended the half.

Colorado School of Mines deferred to the second half, and started with the ball, however the Lions picked up another sack to force Mines to punt. Ryan Stokes was stripped on the next possession for the Lions, but the defense once again held the Orediggers, forcing a turnover on downs. 

The Lion offense woke up and began to drive down the field, as Stokes made up for the fumble, starting the drive with a 22-yard reception to get on the Mines side of the field. A few plays later, A&M-Commerce sent out Viquez to attempt a 51-yard field goal, but the Lions had other plans in mind as Preston Wheeler audibled the field goal team into a shotgun formation, rolled out to the right, and found Tyler Guice wide open on a 34-yard touchdown pass to put the Lions up 13-3. 

The Lion defense continued to maul Matocha, getting consecutive sacks, along with a strip sack from Peyton Searcy, which the Lions recovered in the red zone. A deep ball from Smalls to Kelan Smith set up the Lions perfectly to blow the game wide open, and the Lions did just that, as Jemal Williams waltzed into the end zone to give A&M-Commerce a commanding 20-3 lead at the end of the third. 

Mines attempted to make it a game and put together a drive to get into the red zone, but once again the Lion defense held strong when Terrell Collins picked up another sack on fourth down to hold the Orediggers, giving the ball back to the Lions.

A&M-Commerce put together another solid drive, but was held to another field goal attempt. Special Teams coach Jack Welch drew up another trick play when Wheeler converted with Joe Butler to put the Lions deeper into Mines territory. Viquez knocked down a field goal a few plays later to push the lead and eventual final score to 23-3. 

Next Matchup

Kickoff is on Saturday in Mankato, Minn. will be at noon CST from Blakeslee Stadium as the Lions look to knock off the South-Central Region top seeded Mavericks. If A&M-Commerce is able to knock off the No. 4 team in the nation, the Lions will advance to the Final Four.