The top-ranked Texas A&M University-Commerce football team held an early lead, but fell victim to turnovers in a 23-13 loss to No. 22 Colorado State University-Pueblo at Ernest Hawkins Field at Memorial Stadium on Saturday evening.
With the loss, the Lions fall to 3-1 on the season, while CSU-Pueblo also has a 3-1 season mark. The defeat snaps a 13-game winning streak for A&M-Commerce.
The Lions will look to rebound at home on Saturday, September 29, against Lock Haven. Kickoff on Hall of Fame and Former Letterwinners’ Day is set for 6 p.m.
INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
– Persistent rainy conditions hampered both teams’ offensive efforts, as there were only 24 combined first downs in the game.
– A&M-Commerce turned the ball over five times with four lost fumbles and an interception. On the opposite side, Colorado State-Pueblo only lost the ball once.
– Dominique Ramsey (Converse – Judson) had a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown to open the day’s scoring in the first quarter. He would finish with five punt returns for 106 yards, a 19-yard kickoff return, and four tackles.
– Kristov Martinez (Edinburg) connected on field goals of 25 and 32 yards.
– Neema Behbahani (Plano) and Pierre Leonard (Tyler – John Tyler) tied for the team lead with 10 tackles, and Behbahani had three tackles for loss.
– Mark Westbrook (Schertz – Clemens) had nine solo tackles and two bass breakups, while Brucks Saathoff (San Antonio – Reagan) had eight stops and a fumble recovery.
– E.J. Thompson (Cypress – Cy Ranch) was the Lions’ top rusher with 14 carries for 47 yards.
– Kane Wilson (New Orleans, La.) completed 7-of-15 passes for 108 yards.
– Tristan Perry (Mineral Wells) averaged 43.6 yards on five punts with a long of 60 yards.
HOW IT HAPPENED
In rather predictable fashion with such damp conditions, both teams had issues getting first downs early, as the first five drives of the games ended in punts and drives of less than three and a half minutes.
Ramsey took advantage of CSU-Pueblo’s third punt of the game, scampering 72 yards on the return for the touchdown to give the Lions a 7-0 lead with 5:18 left in the first quarter.
After another ThunderWolves punt on the next drive, the Lions capitalized with Martinez’ 25-yard field goal to go up 10- with 1:26 left in the first quarter. The score was set up by a 42-yard completion from Wilson to Ryan Stokes (St. Louis, Mo.) on second-and-8 from the Lions’ own 43 yardline.
The ThunderWolves got on the board with their first drive of the second quarter. A pass interference penalty and long run put CSU-Pueblo in Lion territory before the drive stalled out just outside the red zone. Mitchell Carter made a 38-yard field goal with 8:45 left in the half to make it a 10-3 game.
CSU-Pueblo snagged an interception on a tipped ball with 3:13 left in the second quarter, and assembled the first sustained drive for either team. Two third down conversions helped the visitors down the field, but the Lion defense buckled down inside the 10 and held CSU-Pueblo to a 20-yard field goal. The Lions would take a 10-6 lead into the halftime break.
The Lions fumbled away the return of the kickoff to start the second half, but escaped true damage as the ThunderWolves missed a 41-yard field goal attempt. Another Lion drive stalled and a fumbled snap allowed CSU-Pueblo to recover the ball deep in Lion territory. Three plays later, Austin Micci scored the first offensive touchdown of the night to give the ThunderWolves their first lead at 13-10 with 9:16 left in the third quarter.
Yet another kickoff return was fumbled away on the ensuing action, but the Lion defense once again limited their foes to a field goal, and the score was 16-10 with 7:22 left in the third quarter.
Michael Onuoha (Edmond, Okla.) stripped the CSU-Pueblo quarterback of the ball two drives later and Saathoff recovered the ball at the visitors’ 31-yardline, but the offense was unable to capitalize.
The Lion offense put together a solid drive in the late stages of the third quarter and spanning into the fourth. Wilson had three completions of over 10 yards to move the chains, but A&M-Commerce had to settle for Martinez’ 32-yard field goal, cutting the lead to 16-13 with 12:39 to play.
Martinez then perfectly executed an onside kick, energizing the Lion sideline and crowd. Two incomplete passes on close plays forced a punt opportunity, but a wayward snap allowed the ThunderWolves to start the drive at the Lion 27-yardline.
Six plays later, Marcus Lindsay punched the ball in for a touchdown from four yards out on fourth down, making it a 23-13 contest with 8:14 on the clock.
The Lions fumbled the ball away, but the defense bowed up again and forced a punt opportunity, but the ThunderWolves executed a fake that would help an extra two minutes run off the clock before the Lions could regain possession. From there, A&M-Commerce was unable to move the ball downfield and score, and CSU-Pueblo was able to kneel out the clock.