For the third week in a row, the A&M-Commerce football team goes into a game as underdogs to a nationally ranked opponent. This time, it’s no. 23 Midwestern State. The Lions (2-1, 0-1 in the Lone Star Conference) kick off against the Mustangs (1-1, 0-1 LSC) at 6 p.m. at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
Conventional wisdom says that Midwestern State is the number-two team in the conference, behind powerhouse no. 4 West Texas A&M, which thumped the Lions 62-29 on Sept. 21 at Memorial Stadium. The Mustangs started their season by suffering a frustrating 27-24 upset at the hands of Tarleton State on Sept. 14 during the Lone Star Football Festival at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Midwestern rebounded last week with a 38-28 defeat of West Georgia at Carrollton, Ga.
The Mustangs rely on the run, while the Lions favor the pass, so Saturday night’s forecast for rain doesn’t necessarily bode well for A&M-Commerce. Current forecasts give a 70% chance for showers or thunderstorms, with temperatures in the 70s. However, those clouds have a silver lining for passing-minded offenses: forecasts also predict that this afternoon's winds will calm down this evening, with almost no wind expected during tonight's game.
Some notes from the A&M-Commerce athletics department:
Harvey Martin Classic Where It Belongs
For the past five seasons, A&M-Commerce has staged the Harvey Martin Classic, honoring the Lion All-American and Super Bowl champion. The previous five games have taken place at both the Cotton Bowl and Cowboys Stadium, but for the first time, the Classic returns to the place where Martin made a name for himself - Memorial Stadium. A&M-Commerce will bring the classic to Commerce when it takes on LSC rival Midwestern State on September 28th, putting the game on the same field where Martin was one of the most feared defensive players of his era. Martin was a two-time All-American and first team All-Lone Star Conference selection for East Texas State, serving as one of the key figures in the Lions' national championship run in 1972. He then went on to a stellar career with the Dallas Cowboys, being named the co-MVP of Super Bowl XII and was the team's all-time sack leader with 114 up until this past Sunday when he was passed by DeMarcus Ware.
Scouting the Mustangs
2013: 1-1 overall, 0-1 Lone Star Conference. Ranked 25th in last week's AFCA Division II Coaches poll
Last Week: Defeated West Georgia 38-28 in Carrollton, Ga.
Head Coach: Bill Maskill (Western Kentucky, '71). 12th season at Midwestern State (89-35, .718); 14th season overall (102-43, .703)
Key Offensive Players:
• #4 Jake Glover (Jr., QB): 22-of-34 passing (64.7%) for 259 yards, 2 TDs
• #1 Keidrick Jackson (Sr., RB): 44 rushes for 230 yards (5.2 avg.), 2 TDs, long of 27
• #28 Dante Taylor (Fr., RB): 9 rushes for 127 yards (13.7 avg.), 2 TDs, long of 56
• #10 Joe Sanders (Jr., WR): 11 catches for 112 yards (10.2 avg.), 1 TD
Key Defensive Players:
• #17 Marqui Christian (So., S): 19 tackles (12 solo), 1.0 TFL, 1 PBU
• #8 Taiyon Jackson (Sr., DB): 19 tackles (12 solo), 1.0 TFL, 2 FF, 1 FR
• #33 Daniel Laudermilk (So., LB): 15 tackles (7 solo), 1.5 TFL
• #18 Ricardo Riascos (Jr., CB): 10 tackles (7 solo), 1 INT, 1 PBU
Synopsis: Midwestern State enters Saturday's game with a 1-1 overall record, coming off a 38-28 victory at West Georgia Saturday night. Keidrick Jackson continued to pace the Mustangs offensive attack, rushing for 184 yards and a pair of touchdowns as Midwestern State held off a late West Georgia rally to preserve the victory. It comes one week after the Mustangs fell to Tarleton State 27-24 at the Lone Star Football Festival at AT&T Stadium, dropping the Mustangs from 13th to 25th in the AFCA Coaches Poll.
Saturday's game marks the 18th all-time meeting between A&M-Commerce and Midwestern State with the Lions holding an 11-6 edge in the all-time series which dates back to 1947. A&M-Commerce won the first 10 meetings between the two, but it is the Mustangs that have had the edge in recent years, winning six of the last seven, including a pair of convincing victories the past two seasons at Cowboys Stadium. Saturday's game marks the first time the Mustangs have visited Memorial Stadium since 2005 as A&M-Commerce is 7-1 all-time against Midwestern State in Commerce.
Junior wide receiver Vernon Johnson has made quite a splash on the A&M-Commerce offense in his first two games as a Lion, catching 12 passes for 266 yards and four touchdowns. Johnson and quarterback Tyrik Rollison connected on a 75-yard strike on the first play of the game against West Texas A&M as he leads the Lions with 24 points on the season, averaging 12.0 points per game.
Closing in on 1,000
Through the first three games of 2013, junior quarterback Tyrik Rollison has spearheaded the A&M-Commerce offense, completing 68 of his 109 passes (62.4%) for 923 yards and nine touchdowns. Rollison had back-to-back 300-yard passing games in his first two outings for the Lions as the Sulphur Springs native sits just 77 yards shy of surpassing 1,000 yards for the season. If he continues at his current pace, averaging 307.7 yards per game, Rollison could become the first Lion to throw for over 3,000 yards in a single season.
Change of Pace
One of the biggest differences Lion fans have seen thus far in 2013 is the vastly improved offensive schemes for A&M-Commerce. Through the first three games of the season, the Lions have scored 124 points, which is just two shy of the 126 A&M-Commerce scored in all of 2012. The Lions are also averaging 392.7 yards of total offense per game, which is over 100 yards more than the 280 yards per game A&M-Commerce averaged in 2012.
Fore Sets Career Mark in Kimbrough
Senior safety Marcus Fore had a night to remember Saturday in Canyon, setting a new career-best with a team-high nine tackles against the Buffs. The senior from Fort Worth recorded nine stops on the night, including seven solo, complemented by a forced fumble. It surpassed his previous career-best of seven tackles set at Angelo State in 2012, as Fore now has 95 tackles for his Lion career, just five shy of reaching 100 all-time career stops.
100 in Their Sights
A trio of senior defensive anchors are within striking range of reaching 100 career tackles. Defensive lineman Jake Williams has posted seven tackles in 2013 and sits at 95, along with safety Marcus Fore after notching 14 thus far. Williams' defensive line partner in crime Tevin Moore is right behind at 94 career stops after tallying 14 thus far in 2013. All three have been staples on the A&M-Commerce defense for the past four seasons and are three of the few returning starters who have been the leaders of the Lion defensive attack.
A&M-Commerce Lions vs. #25 Midwestern State Mustangs
Sat. Sept. 28 • 6 p.m.
Memorial Stadium • Commerce
Records: A&M-Commerce (2-1, 0-1 LSC); Midwestern State (1-1, 0-1 LSC)
Live Video: LionAthletics.com (subscription required)
Radio: KETR 88.9 FM (listen online at KETR.org)
Live Statistics: LionAthletics.com
Twitter Updates: @Lion_Athletics