SAN ANTONIO –
Looking to secure a win over a ranked opponent for the eighth straight season, the Texas A&M University-Commerce had upset on its mind on Saturday evening, but the No. 7/6 ranked UIW Cardinals used two late touchdowns to pull away to a 28-11 win at Gayle & Tom Benson Stadium.
The Lions scored the first points of the game, but trailed 14-3 entering the fourth quarter. On the first play of the final period, Javotrick Dotrey (Longview) picked off a Cardinal pass and returned it back for a 40-yard touchdown. The Lions converted the two-point conversion with Keith Miller (The Colony) making an acrobatic catch in the end zone, and trailed by just three points.
Both teams exchanged punts, until an interception by Daryion Taylor (Humble – Atascocita) flipped the field for the Lion offense. However, the Cardinals’ Ronald Wilson put the game away with a backbreaking 71-yard interception return for touchdown and the Cardinals added another touchdown score with 4:40 left in the game as Jarrell Wiley had a 14-yard rush.
The loss drops A&M-Commerce to 1-5 on the season and 1-1 in Southland Play. UIW, who is ranked No. 6 in the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) poll and No. 7 in the FCS Stats Perform Top 25, is 5-1 on the season and 2-0 in conference play.
The Cardinals move to 5-0 all-time against the Lions, who had beaten at least one ranked opponent in every season going back to 2015. UIW is the final ranked opponent remaining on the schedule for this season.
UIW’s first drive was stalled just outside of the red zone on a failed fourth down attempt, the Lions were not able to capitalize as they threw an interception. The Cardinals attempted a 34-yard field goal on their next drive and Mason Lawler’s kick was no good.
The Lions got the ball at their own 20-yard line and scored the first points of the game with Emmanuel Adagbon (Mesquite Horn) converting a 35-yard field goal kick. Christian Shaw (Mansfield – Lake Ridge) stalled the next Cardinal drive with an interception at the Lion 14-yard line.
On the ensuing drive, the Lions attempted a 47-yard field goal try, but it was no good. After a UIW punt, the Lions coughed up the football on their own 13-yard line on a fumble and it only took one play for Zach Calzada to find Wiley for a 13-yard touchdown pass.
In the second quarter, Clifford Funderburk (North Forney) sacked Calzada, which led to a fumble, and it was recovered at the UIW 36-yard line by Micah Owens (Forney). With 1:57 left in the first half, Calzada hit CJ Hardy for a 31-yard touchdown run that put the Cardinals up by 11 at halftime.
Playing aggressively all game, UIW went for it on fourth down four times, all coming in Lion territory and were unsuccessful in all four tries. The Cardinals picked up 24 first downs, compared to just 13 for the Lions. UIW outgained A&M-Commerce, 458 to 213, running 79 plays, compared to 66 for the Lions.
Calzada went 27 for 42, with 300 yards passing and two touchdowns, but did throw three interceptions. Josh Magana (Dinuba, Calif.) threw for 163 yards and two interceptions on 15 for 33 passing.
Taylor had team-best nine tackles, he also had 2.5 tackles for loss, which includes a sack and returned his interception for 32 yards. Levi Drake Rodriguez (Georgetown – East View) totaled seven tackles and 0.5 sacks. Funderburk had 1.5 sacks to go along with his forced fumble.
POST GAME INTERVIEW
The Lions host Nicholls at 3:30 p.m. next Saturday for the annual homecoming game. A&M-Commerce has won eight straight homecoming games.