Happy Homecoming: A&M-Commerce 36, West Texas A&M 0

Oct 29, 2016

The game was college football and not the World Series, but the Texas A&M University-Commerce defense threw a shutout and the Lions celebrated Homecoming with a 36-0 victory over West Texas A&M University at Memorial Stadium in Commerce on Oct. 29. A&M Commerce, ranked no. 8 nationally going into Saturday's action, improved its NCAA Division II and Lone Star Conference record to 7-1 and 5-1, while Buffaloes fell to 5-4, 4-3 in the LSC.

The numbers tell the story of the way the Lions defense dismantled WT. Four interceptions, returned for a total of 170 yards and two touchdowns. The Buffs totaled 284 yards of toal offense, of which only 43 came from rushing. A&M-Commerce recovered two Buffaloes fumbles. West Texas A&M converted just two of 13 attempts on third down. Individually, defensive back Uriah Harris les the Lions with nine tackles, while linebacker Brucks Saathoff netted seven.

The Lions offense held up its end of the bargain with a typically proficient display. Running back Richard Cooper became the fifth player in school history to accumulate more than 3,000 yards rushing during an evening when he netted 118 yards on 26 attempts and scored a touchdown. Quarterback Luis Perez finished the evening 18 for 24 with one TD and one interception.

A play late in the third quarter typified the way the game went for both sides. Trailing 26-0 with about five and a half minutes left in the period, the Buffaloes seemed poised to score a much-needed touchdown to get back into the game. But on third-and-7 at the A&M-Commerce 11-yard line, Lions safety Chris Smith intercepted an Arbuckle pass at the goal line and preserved the shutout. A&M-Commerce then went on a long drive down the field that culminated in a 38-yard field goal at 14:09 of the fourth quarter.

The most exciting play of the game also came in the third. WT capitalized on a Lions fumble and had advanced to the A&M-Commerce 23-yard line. Arbuckle's next pass went into the hands of Harris, who rumbled 85 yards for a touchdown that, after the extra point, gave A&M-Commerce a 26-0 lead with 7:51 to play in the quarter.

Another pick-six later in the game put the outcome of the evening's contest beyond doubt. Yusef Sterling-Lowe's interception and 54-yard return for a touchdown helped put the Lions ahead 36-0 with 7:16 left in the game.

Lions defense dominated first half

A&M-Commerce led 19-0 at halftime thanks in large part to a stifling performance by the Lions defense, which limited WT to just 15 yards of net rushing on 12 attempts. The A&M-Commerce defense also forced three Buffaloes turnovers, two of which resulted in points for the Lions.

Cooper's 8-yard touchdown run at 10:35 of the first quarter opened the game's scoring. A 45-yard pass play from Perez to Darby Smith had given A&M-Commerce a first down at the WT 17-yard line. A rare extra-point miss by Kristov Martinez left the score at 6-0.

The Buffaloes' most effective drive of the first half chewed up about six minutes of game clock, but yielded no points. WT started from its own 25 and used a successful fourth-down conversion near midfield to advance to the Lions' red zone. Facing another fourth down at the A&M-Commerce 11-yard line, the Buffs called a run by Ben Arbuckle, but Hatari Byrd forced a fumble, which was recovered by Jeremaiah Walters at the Lions' 10-yard line.

Early in the second quarter, a 64-yard punt by A&M-Commerce's Hector Dominguez pinned WT on its own four. After a three-and-out and punt by the Buffaloes, the Lions began a drive at the WT 37 and were able to cash in a few plays later with a 20-yard field goal by Martinez to make the score 9-0 with 9:02 remaining in the half.

The Buffaloes' next drive ended on its third play, when an Arbuckle pass was intercepted by Pierre Leaonard, a defensive lineman, whose 7-yard return gave the Lions the ball at the WT 37. On the next play, A&M-Commerce called a flea-flicker that caught the Buffs off guard. Perez handed to Cooper, who pitched back to Perez, who then tossed a 29-yard touchdown pass to Hayden Marsh. Martinez' kick brought the score to 16-0 at 7:26 of the second quarter.

Another WT turnover soon resulted in more Lions points. Saathoff forced a fumble by the Buffaloes' Devon Paye. Kieston Carter recovered and gave the Lions the ball near midfield with about six minutes left in the half. The Lions offense used up most of the rest of the second quarter with a drive that ended in a 23-yard field goal by Martinez.

A&M-Commerce headed to Odessa

Next week, UT-Permian Basin (2-6, 0-6 LSC as of publication time) will host the Lions at 7 p.m. on Nov. 5. The Buffaloes (5-4, 4-3) will be on the road again with a 6 p.m. matchup at Angelo State (3-6, 2-5 LSC).

Some other notes from Saturday's game:

The announced attendance of 9,629 set an attendance record for Memorial Stadium.

A&M-Commerce honored its heritage by wearing throwback uniforms for homecoming. The Lions wore simple blue jerseys with "East Texas" over the front numbers, similar in style to those worn last year in celebration of the school's 125th anniversary.

The last time the Lions shut out the Buffaloes was in 1996. WT had not been shut out by anyone since 2002.