Lions eat up WT offense in defensive slugfest

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Texas A&M-Commerce running back Carandal Hale (26) avoids a tackle from West Texas A&M’s Gage Smith during a Lone Star Conference contest on Saturday night at Buffaloes Stadium. [Keirstyn Kelley/ Press Pass Sports]

Costly mistakes and a stingy Texas A&M-Commerce defense doomed West Texas A&M in a Lone Star Conference showdown in front of announced crowd of 6,216 fans on Saturday night at Buffaloes Stadium.

The Lions ate up the Buffs offense keeping WT out of the endzone in a 15-3 victory that snapped a two-game win streak for the Buffs.

It’s also the first time since Oct. 3, of last year in a 34-6 loss at Stephen F. Austin State that the offense failed to score a TD.

“It was a defensive football game,” WT coach Hunter Hughes said. “Both defenses played outstanding. We just had too many mistakes on offense, and on special teams.”

The WT offense had four turnovers in the game, only 86 yards at halftime and four first downs. Commerce continued that effort in the second half, holding the Buffs to a season-low 220 yards of total offense, 6-of-16 on third downs, and 98 yards passing.

The WT defense stood on its head the entire way, especially in the first half, trailing by an odd score of 5-0. The Buffs forced a fumble with Lions trying to score at the WT 1-yard line in the first quarter. In the second quarter after a WT fumbled punt, Tobias Harris picked off quarterback Miklo Smalls inside the WT 10-yard line.

“With all the mistakes we made, giving up a safety, fumbling the ball, it was only 5-0,” Hughes said. “Our defense did everything we asked of them. The defense played a really good football game. The offense and special teams did not.”

Commerce pushed the advantage to 12-0 with the game’s only touchdown with 12:16 third quarter on a Smalls 9-yard run, sneaking the ball inside the pylon.

The Buffs offense seemed to finally click on the ensuing drive. WT finally crossed midfield and with seven minutes remaining quarterback Nick Gerber had Caleb Ollison streaking by himself for what looked like a sure 18-yard score, however, Ollison couldn’t hang on to the ball. The Buffs settled for a field goal, cutting the lead to 12-3, never coming any closer to the lead.

Gerber finished the night with 98 yards passing and two interceptions. Running back Brandon Blair carried the ball 16 times for 60 yards.

The WT defense held Commerce to 290 total yards in a tough effort. Linebacker JT Cavender and Taylyn Hickerson made a team-best nine tackles.

Smalls led the Lions (5-3, 3-1) with 186 yards passing with a rushing TD.

The NCAA Division II playoffs seem out of question for the Buffs, who fall to 4-4 overall and 3-2 in the LSC. But Hughes wants to see how his team will respond with three games remaining.

“We have to keep getting better,” said Hughes, who fell to 0-4 all-time against Commerce. “It’s up to the players now. I want to see if they want to continue to play and show they’re a better team than we’ve been. I know we have a lot of character. I think they’ll continue to play and fight to get better.”

For full game stats, please visit, https://gobuffsgo.com/sports/football/stats/2021/texas-am-commerce/boxscore/8187

Next Up

The Buffs continue LSC play traveling south to to take on Texas A&M-Kingsville with kickoff set for 7 p.m. Saturday at Javelina Stadium.

LSC Week 8 scores

Saturday’s games

A&M-Commerce 15, W. Texas A&M 3

A&M-Kingsville 28, W. New Mexico 19

UT Permian Basin 44, E. New Mexico 21

Tarleton 17, Midwestern State 14

Angelo State 51, Simon Frasor 10

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