The Texas A&M University-Commerce 2014 football season begins with a couple of non-conference games against old-time foes and ends with a big question mark. The Lone Star Conference will begin a four-team playoff system this fall, so the Lions' season will end early on Nov. 1 unless they qualify for the postseason.
The good news, of course, is that A&M-Commerce has a chance to host playoff games in November. With McMurry set to rejoin the Lone Star Conference, eight schools will be competing in football. Beginning this year, the top four finishers will meet in a mini-bracket playoff to determine the conference champion. The losers of the first-round games will face each other the following weekend in a third-place game, so all four qualifiers are guaranteed two games, with seeding and home-field advantage determined by conference record.
The Lions will kick off Sept. 4 at home against East Texas Baptist University, an opponent the Lions have not faced since the presidential administration of Warren G. Harding. The institutions, which met annually 1920-22, were known as East Texas State Teachers College and the College of Marshall at the time. The all-time series stands at 1-1-1. The game will be played on a Thursday evening, the only time the Lions are not scheduled to play on a Saturday in 2014.
The short non-conference slate concludes Sept. 13 at Nacogdoches against Stephen F. Austin, a former Lone Star Conference member. The Lions have a 43-12-1 record against the Lumberjacks. Since Stephen F. Austin left the conference in 1983, the schools have played football only once, with the Lumberjacks winning 48-21 at home in 2000.
"We are really excited about our 2014 schedule, opening up with a couple of regional match-ups against ETBU and SFA," Lions head coach Colby Carthel said. "Those games will draw a lot of attention from football fans across the East Texas region."
The rest of the season A&M-Commerce will face longtime rival Texas A&M-Kingsville on Sept. 20 at AT&T Stadium as part of this year's Lone Star Football Festival. The Lions will be trying to keep the Chennault Cup for consecutive season for the first time since 1997-98.
Any local fans wishing to have the unique experience of seeing a football game at "Blackwater Draw" should make the trip to New Mexico the following week. A&M-Commerce plays Eastern New Mexico Sept. 27 at Greyhound Stadium, which is located in an unincorporated area between Portales, N.M., and Clovis. Nicknamed "Blackwater Draw" for a nearby creek bed, the 45-year-old stadium standing alone on a featureless desert plain is famous and infamous in southwestern college football. By the time the Lions return for the 2106 game, Eastern New Mexico is expected to have a new stadium located on its campus in Portales.
A&M-Commerce will then enter a tough, four-game stretch against the teams that are the early favorites to compete against the Lions for the four conference playoff spots. The Lions will return to Memorial Stadium for an Oct. 4 game against annual contender Tarleton State. The Lions will then travel west again for an Oct. 11 contest against Angelo State before coming home again to face West Texas A&M on Oct. 18. The gauntlet of conference heavyweights will conclude with a trip to Wichita Falls to play Midwestern State on Oct. 25.
"Our LSC schedule will be a challenge, with four really tough road games," Carthel said. "The home slate in October should be exciting with Tarleton and West Texas A&M each coming to Memorial Stadium. Hopefully we are able to play well and set ourselves up in good position for the LSC Playoff the last two weeks of the season."
The last game of the regular-season schedule will be the only home game with an afternoon kickoff time, a Nov. 1 matchup against McMurry.
The Nov. 8 and Nov. 15 dates are left open for the Lone Star Conference playoffs.
2014 A&M-Commerce Football Schedule
Thursday, Sept. 4th, vs. ETBU – 7:00 pm
Saturday, Sept. 13th, at SFA – TBD
Saturday, Sept. 20th, at AT&T Stadium vs. A&M-Kingsville - TBD
Saturday, Sept. 27th, at Eastern New Mexico - TBD
Saturday, Oct. 4th, vs. Tarleton – 7:00 pm
Saturday, Oct. 11th, at Angelo State - TBD
Saturday, Oct. 18th, vs. West Texas A&M, 7:00 pm
Saturday, Oct. 25th, at Midwestern State - TBD
Saturday, Nov. 1st, vs. McMurry – 2:00 pm
Saturday, Nov. 8th - TBD
Saturday, Nov. 15th - TBD