LATE WILDCAT STRIKE HANDS LIONS 24-17 HOMECOMING DEFEAT
Abilene Christian 24, A&M-Commerce 17
Location: Memorial Stadium – Commerce, Texas
Records: A&M-Commerce (1-7, 1-5 LSC); Abilene Christian (5-4, 3-4 LSC)
Up Next: at Eastern New Mexico – Saturday, Nov. 3 – Portales, N.M.
COMMERCE, Texas – For the second-straight week, A&M-Commerce seemed in complete control at halftime against a tough Lone Star Conference foe. But for the second-straight week, the Lions drop a heartbreaker in the fourth quarter, falling to the Wildcats 24-17 on Homecoming. The loss drops A&M-Commerce to 1-7 on the year and 1-5 in Lone Star Conference play.
The loss overshadowed what was one of the Lions' best games in recent history as A&M-Commerce outgained Abilene Christian 391-352, including a 313 to 236 yard in passing offense. Quarterback Kevin Vye had an impressive afternoon, completing 31-of-43 passes for 313 yards and a touchdown. Both Tyler Rawlings and Garrett Smith hauled in nine receptions each, with Smith tallying 93 yards and Rawlings finishing with 91.Tevin Godfrey added five catches for 52 yards as well.
On the ground, A&M-Commerce finished with 78 yards on 31 carries, led by 28 yards on nine carries and a touchdown for Wayne Chapman. Kaylon Alexander posted six carries for 27 yards with Vye rushing for 22 yards on 12 carries.
Defensively, the Lion pass defense came into the game ranked 12th nationally and remained solid, holding Abilene Christian's Mitchell Gale to just 236 passing yards with 85 of them coming on the game-clinching touchdown for the Wildcats. Joel Wren and Danny Mason led the way with eight tackles each with Marcus Fore adding seven and J.T. Bates recording five.
Senior cornerback Marlin Terrell had one of his best games in a Lion uniform as well, recording four tackles and notching a pair of takeaways – a 32-yard interception return and a 22-yard fumble recovery.
Playing the final game in the longest-standing series in the Lone Star Conference, Abilene Christian struck first, driving the length of the field deep in to A&M-Commerce territory. But the Lion defense held strong, holding the Wildcats to just a field goal on the 12-play, 64-yard drive.
With the ball in his hands, Vye led the Lion offense to one of its most efficient first half showings of the season. The Lions put together an 11-play, 75-yard drive that covered six and a half minutes, capped by a one-yard plunge by Chapman to put A&M-Commerce on top 7-3 late in the first. It marked the first rushing touchdown by a non-quarterback on the season for the Lions.
Abilene Christian looked like it would match the Lions, using an extended drive to push deep into A&M-Commerce territory. But Terrell snagged a tipped pass, returning it back 32 yards to thwart the Wildcat threat. Vye then engineered another impressive drive, driving 73 yards in 11 plays for the Lions and finding a wide open Smith for a 28-yard touchdown strike, pushing the lead to 14-3 midway through the second.
After holding the Wildcats to a punt, A&M-Commerce was looking to make a huge statement late in the half, driving into the redzone for the third time in as many drives. But clock management issues late in the half had A&M-Commerce scrambling in the waning seconds as the game clock expired before A&M-Commerce could get off a field goal at the end of the half, leaving the advantage at 14-3 at intermission. Vye had the Lions in charge, completing 14-of-15 first half passes for 162 yards.
A&M-Commerce would extend their lead to 14 at 17-3, its largest of the season, off a 33-yard field goal from Chase Thrasher midway through the third. But a 68-yard kickoff return put Abilene Christian in prime position as the Wildcats notched their first touchdown of the afternoon with an eight-yard pass into the corner of the endzone, cutting the lead to 17-10 with 6:26 left in the third.
After holding the Lions to a punt, the Wildcats return game struck again, returning the ensuing punt 39 yards to the A&M-Commerce 42-yard line. Four plays later, Abilene Christian found the endzone again, breaking a 22-yard touchdown run to the far side and knotting the game at 17-17.
The Lions had a chance to get back on top in the waning minutes of the third, putting together a 13-play, 77-yard drive and driving down to the edge of the Wildcat endzone. But it proved to be for naught as Thrasher hooked a 21-yard field goal wide right and the game headed into the fourth quarter tied 17-17.
The final 15 minutes proved to be a chess match between the two teams as A&M-Commerce forced an Abilene Christian fumble, which was recovered by Mason at the Wildcat 31-yard line and giving A&M-Commerce a golden opportunity to reclaim the lead. But two plays later, Vye's pass was intercepted at the 12-yard line, ending the Lion scoring opportunity.
A&M-Commerce held Abilene Christian on the drive, getting the ball back at their own 30 with 4:36 remaining. The Lions were able to get to near midfield, but ended up having to punt the ball back to the Wildcats, pinning Abilene Christian at their own 15 with 1:31 remaining in the game and looking for a key defensive stop.
But on the first play of the ensuing drive, Gale found Hogg on a seam route along the far sideline as Hogg got behind the Lion secondary and scrambled 85-yards to give Abilene Christian its first lead of the game at 24-17 with 1:20 remaining in the game.
The Lions mounted one final comeback, getting down to the Wildcat 30-yard line with nine seconds remaining. But Vye's final heave into the endzone was intercepted by Abilene Christian, sealing the win for the Wildcats.
It was a dramatic game providing what looks to be a fitting conclusion to the longest standing rivalry in the Lone Star Conference. Abilene Christian got the win in the 69th meeting between the two, dating back to 1922. The Wildcats will make the jump to Division I beginning in 2013, taking a 41-27-1 tally in the all-time series.
After a pair of tough losses in back-to-back weekends, the Lions look to end the skid next weekend, traveling to Eastern New Mexico for the final road game of the season. The Lions and Greyhounds will clash at 2 p.m. Saturday, November 3rd at Greyhound Stadium in Blackwater Draw, N.M.