For the fifth straight season, the Texas A&M University-Commerce football team has qualified for the NCAA Division II Football Championship, and the No. 21 Lions will face a rematch with the No. 3 Tarleton State University Texans in the regional quarterfinal round to start the playoffs.
WHO: Texas A&M University-Commerce at Tarleton State University
WHERE: Stephenville | Memorial Stadium
WHEN: 1 p.m. on Saturday, November 23
RECORDS: A&M-Commerce is 9-2 overall and went 7-1 in the Lone Star Conference. Tarleton is 11-0 overall and went 8-0 in the LSC.
RANKINGS: A&M-Commerce is ranked No. 21 in the AFCA Coaches’ Poll and No. 20 in the D2Football.com Media Poll. Tarleton is ranked No. 3 in the AFCA Coaches’ Poll and No. 5 in the D2Football.com Media Poll.
ALL-TIME vs. THE TEXANS
• The Lions are 15-14 all-time in the trophy game, with a 8-7 record in Stephenville.
• This is the third time the Lions and Texans have met in a non-regular season game.
• A&M-Commerce won a Lone Star Conference playoff semifinal in 2014 by a 56-49 score in Commerce. Tyrik Rollison threw for 365 yards and three touchdowns, Joe Bergeron had three rushing touchdowns and 139 yard on 20 carries, Ricky Collins had five catches for 160 yards and two scores, and Leo Migo had 14 tackles, including a goal line stand with no time on the clock to seal the win.
• Last season, Tarleton held on a for a 34-28 win in the regional semifinal in Stephenville. Kane Wilson threw for 388 yards and Garrett Blubaugh had 21 tackles in the game.
SENIORS SUCCEED OVER CAREER SPAN
• The 2019 senior class claimed the school record for wins by a class with win No. 44 in game No. 52.
• The UTPB game gave this year’s class 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.
• Four-year playoff participants for the Lions are Neema Behbahani, Jalon Edwards-Cooper, Pierre Leonard, Brian Taylor, Mark Westbrook, and Preston Wheeler.
• Peyton Searcy and Darent White were also on the dress list for those four years, but missed a postseason due to injury.
• These seniors are playing in their 10th playoff game and have seven playoff wins (7-2).
• The Lone Star Conference record for Division II playoff games won and played in a four-year span was set by Texas A&M-Kingsville from 1992-95. That Javelina team played in 12 games and went 8-4.
• Mathematically, this year’s Lions are guaranteed the highest playoff winning percentage in a four-year span by any LSC team.
BAILIFF BEGINS ON RIGHT FOOT
• 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|
|First Playoff Game||at Tarleton||Nov. 23|
• Bailiff was the head coach at Texas State University from 2004-06 and at Rice University from 2007-17. The Lions’ 2019 season is Bailiff’s 15th season as a collegiate head coach.
• As a collegiate head coach, Bailiff has led a team to the NCAA Division I National Semifinals and is making his sixth total postseason appearance with a 5-2 postseason record.
• The 2005 Texas State Bobcats were Division I National Semifinalists, and Bailiff led the Rice Owls to four bowls with a 3-1 record in those games.
• Bailiff has led teams to 10-win seasons in three seasons (one at Texas State, two at Rice). Under his watch, the Owls had the most wins in school history over a two (18), three (25), and four (30) year periods. Rice’s 18-9 mark from 2013-14 was the second-best of any FBS program in Texas.
• Bailiff’s nine wins in his first season with the Lions are the most by a first-season head coach since Milburn A. “Catfish” Smith in 1951 – a man whose name we couldn’t avoid putting in the game notes again.
• Based on our research, Bailiff has become the fourth-ever coach to qualify for the Division II playoffs, Division I-AA or FCS playoffs, and win a Division I-A or FBS bowl game.
LION COACHES IN THEIR FIRST SEASON
|1951||M.A. “Catfish” Smith||9-2||5-0|
|1946||Bob Berry 2nd Stint||5-2-2||3-1-1|
|1942||Dennis Vinzant Only Season||4-3-1||2-0-1|
|1935||Bob Berry 1st Stint||6-2-1||3-1|
WE’RE STILL GOING STREAKING!
• By qualifying for their fifth straight NCAA Division II Playoff berth in 2019, the Lions have the third-longest active playoff streak in the nation.
• Only Northwest Missouri State (16 straight) and Ferris State (six 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 Javelinas’ 1996-98 appearances were vacated by action of the NCAA Committee on Infractions.
• The Lions have also advanced to the regional semifinal round for three consecutive seasons. 2018 national runner-up Ferris State has reached the regional semifinal four times in a row.
LIONS CONTINUE RANKINGS RUN
• The Lions held their grip in the top 25, rising to No. 21 nationally in the 2019 American Football Coaches Association Division II Coaches’ Poll released Monday.
• A&M-Commerce has been ranked in 64 consecutive AFCA polls, dating back to the 2015 preseason poll.
• This is A&M-Commerce’s 70th 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 119 times since joining Division II in 1981.
NO SMALLS FEAT
• Quarterback Miklo Smalls has established himself as one of the most accurate and efficient passers in the LSC and Division II.
• Smalls has won the LSC Offensive Player of the Week award four times, including last week’s performance at Angelo State.
• Against the Rams, Smalls was the key factor for the Lion offense in the 17-3 win, Smalls accounted for both Lion touchdowns. His 17-yard touchdown carry in the first quarter gave the Lions a 7-3 lead they would not relinquish, and his 2-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Guice in the fourth quarter sealed the win. He completed 63.6 percent of his passes for 142 yards.
• He won LSC POTW honors against West Texas A&M, when he completed 18-of-28 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown, and also ran for a touchdown. He was responsible for both touchdowns in the fourth quarter, which broke a 20-all tie.
• 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 69.3 percent (194-of-280) completion percentage for the season ranks sixth in Division II.
• Smalls ranks 14th in the nation in passing efficiency at 161.7.
• He also ranks in the top 25 nationally in completions per game and passing touchdowns, and the top 30 in passing yards per game, and yards per pass attempt.
LIONS ALL-TIME IN THE POSTSEASON
|Jan 1, 1953||vs. Tennessee Tech||W 33-0||Tangerine Bowl||Orlando|
|Jan 1, 1954||vs. Arkansas State||T 7-7||Tangerine Bowl||Orlando|
|Jan 1, 1958||vs. Mississippi Southern||W 10-9||Tangerine Bowl||Orlando|
|Dec 31, 1958||vs. Missouri Valley||W 26-7||Tangerine Bowl||Orlando|
|Nov 25, 1972||CENTRAL ST. (Okla.)||W 54-0||NAIA Semifinal||Commerce|
|Dec 9, 1972||CARSON-NEWMAN||W 21-18||NAIA Champion Bowl||Commerce|
|Nov 30, 1974||vs. Bethune-Cookman||T 7-7||Central Florida Classic||Orlando|
|Dec 6, 1980||at Central Arkansas||W 27-21||NAIA Quarterfinal||Conway, Ark.|
|Dec 13, 1980||ELON||L 6-14||NAIA Semifinal||Commerce|
|Nov 17, 1990||at Grand Valley State||W 20-14||DII First Rd||Allendale, Mich.|
|Nov 24, 1990||at Pittsburg State||L 28-60||DII Quarterfinal||Pittsburg, Kan.|
|Nov 23, 1991||GRAND VALLEY STATE||W 36-15||DII First Rd||Commerce|
|Nov 30, 1991||at Pittsburg State||L 28-38||DII Quarterfinal||Pittsburg, Kan.|
|Nov 18, 1995||at Portland State||L 35-56||DII First Rd||Portland, Ore.|
|Dec 13, 2013||vs. Harding||L 3-44||Live United Bowl||Texarkana, Ark.|
|Dec 6, 2014||vs. East Central||W 72-21||Heart of Texas Bowl||Copperas Cove|
|Nov 21, 2015||at Ferris State||L 30-48||DII Regional Qtr||Big Rapids, Mich.|
|Nov 19, 2016||COLORADO MESA||W 34-23||DII Regional Qtr||Commerce|
|Nov 26, 2016||at Grand Valley State||L 32-55||DII Regional Semi||Allendale, Mich.|
|Nov 18, 2017||at Winona State||W 20-6||DII Regional Qtr||Winona, Minn.|
|Nov 25, 2017||at Central Washington||W 34-31 (2OT)||DII Regional Semi||Ellensburg, Wash.|
|Dec 2, 2017||at Minnesota State||W 31-21||DII Regional Final||Mankato, Minn.|
|Dec 9, 2017||HARDING||W 31-17||DII Semifinal||Commerce|
|Dec 16, 2017||vs. West Florida||W 37-27||DII National Champs||Kansas City, Kan.|
|Nov 7, 2018||at Minnesota-Duluth||W 33-17||DII Regional Qtr||Duluth, Minn.|
|Nov. 14, 2018||at Tarleton||L 28-34||DII Regional Semi||Stephenville|
|Nov. 23, 2019||at Tarleton||—-||DII Regional Qtr||Stephenville|
RAMSEY IS ELECTRIC
• 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 ranks second in the nation in kickoff return average at 37.5 yards per return. He has not had a kickoff return opportunity since the WNMU game, and has officially fallen out of the NCAA statistical rankings, which require 1.2 returns per game.
• He also ranks second in the LSC and ninth in the nation in punt return average at 14.7 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.
NEEMA LEADS THE WAY
• 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.
JAKE IS THIS YEAR’S MR. AUTOMATIC
• Junior kicker Jake Viquez extended his career-long in field goals twice in last week’s game with makes of 47 and 48 yards vs. UT Permian Basin.
• His 48-yarder is the longest made kick in the LSC this season.
• He then earned LSC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his performance vs. Angelo State.
• His 40-yard field goal in the fourth quarter gave the Lions a touchdown lead, and he made both PAT attempts. In a game where field position was crucial, his kickoffs and punts gave the Rams an average starting position of their own 19-yardline in the first and second quarters, and their own 15-yardline in the fourth quarter. He had touchbacks on three of his four kickoffs and pinned the Rams inside their own 20 on two of his six punts.
• For the season, he is 11-of-14 on field goal attempts and 44-of-46 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 10th in the nation in kickoff return defense.
THE “T” IN T.C. STANDS FOR TACKLES
• Senior linebacker Terrell Collins leads the Lions with 66 total tackles this year.
• His 6.6 tackles per game has moved him into the ranking of top tacklers in the Lone Star Conference.
• He ranks 11th in the LSC in tackles per game.
RUN ANTONIO RUN!
• 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 73.6 yards per game, and he ranks third in the league in yards per carry at 6.8 yards per tote.
• He has gone over 100 yards rushing in three of his last six games.
• Against Western New Mexico, he had two rushing touchdowns on 17 carries for 133 yards.
• Lealiiee has scored at least one touchdown in six of his last seven games.
• Running backs coach Jack Welch was Leali’ie’e’s high school coach at Copperas Cove.
JEMAL STEPS UP
• Junior running back Jemal Williams started the season as a linebacker and has moved over to offense after a string of injuries plagued the Lions.
• The Minot State transfer had his first career century game against UT Permian Basin, carrying the ball for career highs of 18 carries for 103 yards and two touchdowns.
• He had 109 total yards, eclipsing his previous best of 103 total yards, which was set against WT.
• He recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown at WT and was also the leading rusher for the Lions at Angelo State.
TO BE THE BEST, BEAT THE BEST
• According to NCAA calculations of strength of schedule, the Lions are facing the strongest schedule in Division II this season.
• The Lions’ cumulative opposition’s record is71-39 for a percentage of .645.
• The next-closest playoff team is West Florida from Super Region II at .604.
• The next-closest cumulative strength of schedule in Super Region Four is Augustana at .595.
SHILLOW EARNS ACADEMIC HONORS
• Redshirt junior safety Alex Shillow was named a CoSIDA Academic All-District selection last week.
• First-team Academic All-District® honorees advance to the Academic All-America® ballot. First-, second- and third-team (if necessary) Academic All-America® honorees will be announced in early December.
• Shillow is the only Academic All-District selection from the Lone Star Conference in 2019.
• Shillow has excelled in every aspect of his collegiate career. He is the national chair of the NCAA Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and president of the A&M-Commerce SAAC, which has won last the last three Lone Star Conference SAAC Cups. He was a 2019 nominee for the American Football Coaches’ Association’s Good Works Team and recipient of the NACDA John McLendon Minority Postgraduate Scholarship.
• He has been named to the President’s List four times, Dean’s List two times, and LSC Commissioner’s Honor Roll six times, and was D2ADA Academic Achievement Award winner twice. He earned his bachelor’s degree in sports management in August.
• On the field, the 2017 National Champion has 151 career tackles with four interceptions, 13 pass breakups, three fumble recoveries, a forced fumble, a blocked kick returned for a two-point conversion, and 4.5 tackles for loss. He has 35 tackles, two fumble recoveries, and three pass breakups in the 2019 season. The Lions have gone 33-6 in Shillow’s three seasons in the blue and gold.
On This Day in Texas A&M-Commerce/East Texas St. Football (5-1) :
• 1957 – The Lions clinch their 13th overall Lone Star Conference championship and a berth in the Tangerine Bowl with a 37-7 win over Sul Ross State in Alpine.
• 1963 – ET closes the season with a 14-8 home win over Stephen F. Austin.
• 1968 – The Lions pick up a 28-20 win over Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches in the season finale.
• 1974 – East Texas hammers Tarleton in Stephenville, 45-7, to close the regular season. This win earned the Lions a berth in the Central Florida Classic postseason game the next week.
• 1985 – The final game in the Ernest Hawkins era is a 30-9 home loss to Abilene Christian. This gave the Lion and LSC Legend a final record of 132-92-6 overall and 90-64-4 in the LSC in 22 seasons.
• 1991 – The No. 19 Lions host No. 9 Grand Valley State in the opening round of the NCAA Division II playoffs and earn a 36-15 win. This gave the Lions a 6-0 home record for the season and gave them a win over Grand Valley in the first round for the second straight year.