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TEXAS A&M-COMMERCE FOOTBALL PREVIEW: No. 24 Lions head to West Texas A&M for Division II Showcase showdown

TEXAS A&M-COMMERCE FOOTBALL PREVIEW: No. 24 Lions head to West Texas A&M for Division II Showcase showdown
  • PublishedNovember 1, 2019

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The No. 24 Texas A&M University-Commerce football team heads to face Lone Star Conference rival West Texas A&M University for their second NCAA Division II National Football Showcase Game of the season.

WHO: Texas A&M University-Commerce at West Texas A&M University
WHERE: Canyon | Buffalo Stadium
WHEN: 4 p.m. on Saturday, November 2
RECORDS: A&M-Commerce is 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the Lone Star Conference after defeating Western New Mexico, 62-21. West Texas A&M is 6-2 overall and 3-2 in the LSC after winning the Wagon Wheel with a 35-14 win over Eastern New Mexico.
RANKINGS: A&M-Commerce is ranked No. 24 in the AFCA Coaches’ Poll and the Media Poll. West Texas A&M is receiving votes in the AFCA Coaches’ Poll.

LIVE AUDIO: Lion Sports Network — KETR 88.9 FM, Commerce (
LIVE VIDEO: The game will be televised live on ESPN3 –
TICKETSClick here for tickets

• This is the 34th meeting between the Lions and the Buffs.
• A&M-Commerce holds a 19-14 lead in the all-time series.
• WT has a narrow 8-7 advantage in games played in Canyon.
• The series dates back to 1929 and the first meeting in Canyon on October 17, 1930 was the Lions’ first-ever night game.
• The Lions have won the last five meetings in a row, with two of those wins in Canyon.
• Prior to that, the Buffs had won six consecutive meetings.
• At least one team in this game has been ranked in the AFCA Top 25 in each of the last eight meetings, dating back to the 2012 season.

• The 2019 senior class claimed the school record for wins by a class with win No. 44 in game No. 52.
• They are one game away from tying the school record for most games played by a senior class.
• This year’s senior class is also in second behind with the 1951-54 class for highest winning percentage by a class.

Years Record Pct
2016-19 44-8 84.6
2015-18 43-10 81.1
2014-17 42-10 80.8
1951-54 36-5-2 86.0
2013-16 35-14 71.4
1957-60 34-7 82.9
1972-75 32-13-1 70.6
1936-39 31-8 79.5
1990-93 31-16-1 65.6

• Lion Football head coach David Bailiff was hired in December 2018 as the 20th head football coach at A&M-Commerce.
• Since East Texas joined the Lone Star Conference as charter members in 1931, Bailiff is the 13th head coach of the Lions.
• He has won all six of his “firsts” games at A&M-Commerce

First Game NUEVO LEON Sept. 7 W 83-0
First Road Game at Western Oregon Sept. 14 W 34-27
First LSC Game EASTERN N.M. Sept. 21 W 45-27
First LSC Road Game at Tex. A&M-Kingsville Oct. 5 W 33-6
First National TV Game MIDWESTERN ST. Oct. 12 W 54-28
First Regional TV Game WESTERN N.M. Oct. 26 W 62-21

• By qualifying for their fourth straight NCAA Division II Playoff berth in 2018, the Lions have the third-longest active playoff streak in the nation.
• Only Northwest Missouri State (15 straight) and Ferris State (five straight) have longer active playoff streaks than A&M-Commerce.
• In Lone Star Conference history, only A&M-Kingsville (1992-98, 7 straight) has a streak of more than four appearances.
• The Lions have also advanced to the regional semifinal round for three consecutive seasons. National runner-up Ferris State has reached the regional semifinal four times in a row.

• The Lions held their grip in the top 25 at No. 24 nationally in the 2019 American Football Coaches Association Division II Coaches’ Poll released Monday.
• A&M-Commerce has been ranked in 61 consecutive AFCA polls, dating back to the 2015 preseason poll.
• This is A&M-Commerce’s 67th all-time appearance in the AFCA poll since its inception in 2000.
• In the polls recognized by Division II as the top rating system, the Lions have been recognized as a nationally ranked team 116 times since joining Division II in 1981.

• Quarterback Miklo Smalls has established himself as one of the most accurate efficient passers in the LSC and Division II.
• Smalls has won the LSC Offensive Player of the Week award twice.
• At Tarleton, he had season highs with 29 completions, 39 attempts, and 288 yards.
• Against Midwestern State, Smalls completed 70.3 percent of his passes in the game with five touchdown passes and 186 yards through the air. He also had 24 rushing yards.
• He completed passes to nine different receivers, and all five touchdowns were caught by different receivers.
• He also won Lone Star Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors for his game against Eastern New Mexico, completing 13-of-15 passes for 243 yards with four touchdowns and one interception.
• His passing efficiency rating of 297.413 in that game is the second-best single-game performance by a quarterback in Division II this season.
•His 86.7 completion percentage in the game is seventh-best in the nation this year of passers with 15 or more attempts in a game.
•His 71.6 percent (141-of-197) completion percentage for the season ranks fifth in Division II.
• Smalls ranks ninth in the nation in passing efficiency at 169.0 when rounded.
• He also ranks in the top 25 nationally in completions per game, passing touchdowns, passing yards per game, and yards per pass attempt.

• Junior defensive back and return specialist Dominique Ramsey has been one of the most electric players in all of Division II whenever he touches the ball.
• He is a double major student-athlete in mathematics and electrical engineering.
• He won his second LSC Special Teams Player of the Week honor for the Western New Mexico game, thanks to a 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
• He now leads the nation in kickoff return average at 37.5 yards per return.
• He also ranks second in the LSC and fifth in the nation in punt return average at 15.7 yards per return.
• In the Midwestern State game, he recorded 150 all-purpose yards, including a highlight reel 65-yard kickoff return to open the game and set the Lions’ first score up on a short field. He also dazzled on two scintillating punt returns. The Lions scored within five plays after each of his kick and punt returns.
• All told, Ramsey had 65 kick return yards, 48 punt return yards, 14 interception yards, 15 rushing yards, and 8 receiving yards.
• He had two interceptions in the game, including a key snag in the end zone near the end of the first half to snuff out an MSU scoring threat which would have narrowed the deficit in a key spot. He also had an interception to help seal the game in the fourth quarter. He also made five key tackles in open space on the perimeter to limit MSU yards after the line of scrimmage.
• At Tarleton, he had a 55-yard kickoff return on the way to 112 return yards with 95 kickoff return yards and 17 punt return yards. He also had eight tackles.
• Earlier this season, his 55-yard punt return for a touchdown in the ENMU game earned him Lone Star Conference Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
• He now has six career returns for touchdowns:

Date Type Opponent Yards
10/26/19 KO WESTERN N.M. 91
9/21/19 Punt EASTERN N.M. 55
11/17/18 Punt at Minnesota Duluth 79
11/10/18 INT ANGELO ST. 99
10/27/18 INT WEST TEXAS A&M 84
9/22/18 Punt COLORADO ST.-PUEBLO 72

• The Lions have been exceptional in responding to the rare loss in the last few seasons.
• The last time A&M-Commerce lost consecutive games was 2016, with a loss in the LSC playoff championship game followed by a loss at Ferris State in the first round of the NCAA playoffs.
• The last time A&M-Commerce lost consecutive regular season games was in 2013, with losses to No. 4 West Texas A&M and No. 23 Midwestern State in weeks 3 and 4.
• In the last eight games after a loss, the Lions have picked up a win, dating back to the 2016 season opener after ending the 2015 season at Ferris State.

• Senior linebacker Neema Behbahani has been one of the most consistent players on defense in his four years with the Lions, and he is the team’s leader in total tackles over the course of his career.
• The Plano Senior high product is the team’s career leader in total tackles, solo tackles, assisted tackles, and tackles for loss.

• Junior kicker Jake Viquez extended his career-long in field goals with a 44-yarder at CSU-Pueblo.
• For the season, he is 7-of-9 on field goal attempts and 33-of-34 on PAT attempts.
• His 7.7 kicking points per game ranks second the LSC.
• He has also been fantastic on kickoffs, as the Lions rank in the top 10 in the nation in kickoff return defense.

• The Lions’ record streak of made PATs ended in the first quarter vs. Western New Mexico, when an attempt hit the right upright.
• Quarterback Preston Wheeler was the holder for all of the PATs in the streak.
• Including the career of Lion Legend Kristov Martinez, the Lions made an NCAA Division II-record 129 consecutive PATs, dating back to the Eastern New Mexico game in 2017.
• This record only counts kicked PATs with successful snaps and holds. No two-point attempts – including failed snaps – are counted in this record.
• The previous record lasted 36 years, when Liberty made 123 PATs from 1976 through September 1983.

• Senior linebacker Terrell Collins leads the Lions with 44 total tackles this year.
• His 6.3 tackles per game has moved him into the ranking of top tacklers in the Lone Star Conference.
• He ranks 16th in the LSC in tackles per game.

• Junior punter Andrew Gomez ranks second in the LSC and 25th in the nation in punt average at 41.3 yards per boot.
• The Lion coverage has been excellent as well, as TAMUC leads the LSC and ranks 22nd in the nation in net punting at 37.27 yards per punt.
• The Lions also lead the league in punt return defense at 6.57 yards per return.

• Redshirt junior running back Antonio Leali’ie’e has made the most of his opportunity to contribute after rising through the lineup due to injuries to other backs.
• He ranks fifth in the LSC in rushing at 77.7 yards per game, and he ranks third in the league in yards per carry at 7.1 yards per tote.
• He has gone over 100 yards rushing in three of the last four games.
• Against Western New Mexico, he had two rushing touchdowns on 17 carries for 133 yards.
• Lealiiee has scored at least one touchdown in each of the last five games.
• Running backs coach Jack Welch was Leali’ie’e’s high school coach at Copperas Cove.

• The Lion rushing attack got rolling again after a sub-par performance at Tarleton, as A&M-Commerce had five rushing touchdowns vs. Western New Mexico.
• TAMUC had not had five or more rushing touchdowns in a single game since the 2014 season. That year, the Lions scored seven rushing touchdowns against East Texas Baptist and McMurry, and five rushing touchdowns against A&M-Kingsville.

• Two Lions on today’s roster are returning to their hometown for the game.
• Redshirt sophomore quarterback Gunnar Palacios and  junior linebacker Dayne Douglass both played their high school football at Canyon High School for the Eagles.
• Palacios was all-state and was named as “one of the best, and best-named signal-callers around” by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football entering the duo’s senior year.
• The duo helped lead the Eagles to the regional semifinals in 2015.

• According to NCAA calculations of strength of schedule, the Lions are facing the sixth-strongest schedule in Division II this season.
• The Lions’ cumulative opposition’s record is 44-29 for a percentage of .603.
• The next-closest cumulative strength of schedule in the LSC and Super Region Four is Eastern New Mexico’s .570.
• 1957 – East Texas rolls past Texas A&I in Commerce, 42-12.
• 1963 – The Lions head to the Big Bend and eke out a 7-0 win over Sul Ross State.
• 1968 – ETSU takes a 24-14 home victory over Howard Payne’s Yellowjackets.
• 1974 – The Lions are edged at home by Southwest Texas State, 20-14.
• 1985 – ETSU is narrowly defeated at home by Texas A&I, 22-19.
• 1991 – The Lions roll to a 37-3 home win over Abilene Christian.
• 1996 – A&M-Commerce shuts out Abilene Christian on the road, 17-0.
• 2002 – The Lions suffer a 47-6 loss at Abilene Christian.
• 2013 – Trailing by two scores heading into the fourth quarter, A&M-Commerce rallied to take the lead with just over seven minutes remaining, but a late Angelo State touchdown spoiled Homecoming as the Lions fell to the Rams 25-20 at Memorial Stadium. The loss overshadowed a stellar performance by junior wide receiver Vernon Johnson, who reeled in eight catches for 165 yards and three touchdown passes, including scoring strikes of 54 and 65 yards on the afternoon to surpass 1,000 yards receiving on the year


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