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Aggies Drop Home Opener to Sixth Ranked Lions

Brock Kappelmann - October 3, 2016 7:14 am

Goodwell, Okla.—Happy to be playing on their home field for the first time this season, the Aggies knew they’d be in for a battle on Saturday as they faced the No. 6 DII team in the country, Texas A&M-Commerce. After a frustrating first half that saw the Lions take a 35-0 lead, the Aggies’ second half efforts held the Lions scoreless, but were not enough to pull off the victory. A&M-C took the 35-13 win to remain undefeated on the season.

A perfect fall football day brought a great crowd to campus early to enjoy Saturday’s pre-game tailgating festivities. The tented tailgate area was full of fans and fun activities that kicked off at 10:30 a.m. and went strong right up until game time. Inside No Man’s Land Stadium, the Aggies were led on to Carl Wooten Field by a team of motorcycles followed by the Aggie cheer team, flag runners and a newly appointed Spirit Rider. The amped-up atmosphere set the stage for an equally energetic 60-minutes of football.

After the Aggies’ opening kickoff, the Lions sent five passes totaling 75 yards into the end zone for the first score of the day, taking two minutes off the clock. Running back Rod Moore opened with a 10-yard rush for the Aggies, and Shane Truelove followed up with a 22-yard pass to Steven White, Jr., good for another Aggie first down. Truelove and Moore took the ball all the way to the TAMUC 06-yard line in the next four plays, but on a 1st-and-goal play, Truelove’s pass was intercepted disrupting the drive that could have tied the game. The Lions then went 80 yards in eight plays for another touchdown to take a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

Moore opened up with an eight-yard rush on the Aggies’ next series, and a reception by Brandon Trotter added another 15 yards for the first down. Two consecutive QB rushes were pushed back for a loss of five yards, and Moore’s impending eight-yard run brought up 4th-and-7 bringing Jacob Test in for the first punt of the game. A&M-C quarterback Luis Perez went on to throw six consecutive passes totaling 25 yards when a holding penalty on the offense set the Lions back ten yards, leaving a 2nd-and-19 situation. Perez kept the ball for a four-yard gain and followed with another complete pass for 54 yards for the first down; the quarter closed with the Lions holding possession at the OPSU 04. In the first fifteen minutes of play Perez had already accumulated 210 yards in passing, connecting on 15 of 16 attempts. The Aggies were held to 62 yards passing and 22 yards rushing in the first quarter.

Two quick passes by Perez led the Lions in for their third straight scoring drive of the game to start the second quarter. Devyn Williams took the ensuing kickoff twenty yards on the return from the end zone; but the Aggies wouldn’t get beyond their own 22-yard line as two rushes for loss and a four-yard pass left them short of a first down, forcing another punt by Test. Panhandle’s defense tightened up on the next drive and put the pressure on Perez, who threw three incomplete passes in a row bringing the Lions’ punt unit out for the first time in the game. Truelove found receiver Devyn Williams for a 27-yard completion on the opening play and Moore grounded out an Aggie first down on two rushes for 11 yards. A tackle for loss followed by a dropped pass put Panhandle at 3rd-and-17 on the TAMUC 46; Moore then came down with an 11-yard reception, and on 4th-and-6 the Aggies opted to go for the conversion, but the Lions saw it coming and got a QB sack for a loss of ten yards. A&M-C went on to score twice more in the second quarter and held the Aggies to only eleven yards of total offense in their final two drives of the half.  The Lions left the field ahead 35-0 and with close to 400 yards of total offense in the first half of the game (386 yards). Panhandle held 139 total yards of offense after two quarters and had only converted on 1-of-5 third down attempts thus far.

An illegal block penalty by the Lions on the kickoff gave the Aggies the ball on the TAMUC 37 to start the second half. Moore got off to another good start with a 12 yard run on Panhandle’s first play, and with the help of two completions to Devyn Williams of five and four yards each, and a nine-yard keeper by Truelove, Moore put the Aggies on the board with a touchdown rush on 1st-and-goal. The Aggie defense did a great job on the next series and kept the Lions quiet in a five-yard drive for negative yardage (-1). The Commerce defense responded in kind forcing a false start and notching another sack on Truelove for a loss of nine to bring up another punt for Panhandle.

Neptune Joseph forced a fumble on the Lions’ first pass of a drive that started at the 6:01 mark in the third quarter; the fumble was recovered near midfield by the Aggies’ Byron Edwards and taken within Lion territory on the next four plays. On third down Truelove took his third sack of the day for a loss of six yards putting Panhandle in punt position on 4th –and-11; a delay of game pushed the punt back and the Lions took over on their own 40-yard line. Moving 34 yards to the Aggies’ 26, it looked like the Lions were setting up another end zone appearance; but a Perez attempt was brought down by Panhandle’s Darryn Cain, who returned the interception 18 yards from the OPSU 14 to the 32-yard line. As the third quarter ticked down, Devyn Williams took a hand-off from Truelove for an Aggie first down and Moore added another two yards after an incomplete pass to start the fourth quarter on 3rd-and-8 at the OPSU 44. Another failed third down conversion sent Test in for the punt, and the 40-yard kick was fair caught at the TAMUC 16.

The Aggies forced another punt on the next Lion drive, and the Commerce defense did the same allowing only eight yards to the Aggies on a three-and-out possession in the next series. Cain came down with another big interception on a 2nd-and-8 play by the Lions, who brought in a new quarterback in their second drive of the quarter. Cain returned the pick 44 yards across midfield to the TAMUC 46 where the Aggies sent freshman QB D.J. Scott in to take over with seven minutes left to play. Cedric Agyeman also came in for the Aggies at running back and helped convert the first down on 4th-and-3 with a six-yard run. Scott threw his second completion of the series to Brandon Trotter who took the 39-yard pass into the end zone for the second Aggie TD; kicker Sterling Claphan‘s extra point attempt went wide-left and the score stood at 35-13 for the remainder of the game. The Aggies were unable to capitalize on a third interception on the next Lion drive; Marcus McCants collected the pass from A&M-C’s Gabriel Rodriguez, but a sack on Scott on a 4th-and-8 play dashed all hopes for an Aggie comeback. The Lions let the remaining time tick off and added a third Lone Star Conference victory to the books.

Panhandle held the Lions to 175 yards of total offense and zero points after halftime, while the Aggies managed to score twice on just 123 yards of offense in the second half of the game. For the game the Lions racked up season-high of 561 yards on offense, while Panhandle had their lowest offensive performance thus far with only 262 total yards. The real detriment to the Aggie offense was their inability to convert in third down situations; they were successful on just 4-of-17 third down attempts against the Lions (11-of-17 on third down).

Truelove went 19-of-27 on pass attempts and totaled 161 yards in the air with one interception. Scott completed 2-of-5 and threw the only TD pass for Panhandle. Five sacks and seven pass break-ups by the Lions thwarted the Aggies’ success in the pass game. For the Lions, Perez was productive going 34-of-48 for 396 yards and three passing TDs; Jared Cate came through on his first and only pass attempt with one touchdown for 28 yards. Devyn Williams and Brandon Trotter each totaled 55 yards receiving for the Aggies, and senior Andrew Hernandez and Rod Moore totaled 27 and 26 yards on four passes each. Moore held the team-high in rushing yards with 60 yards on 18 carries; A&M-C’s Ovie Urevbu led the game in rushing with 64 yards on four carries. Receiver Lance Evans took in two touchdowns in seven completions totaling a game-high of 110 yards receiving. Williams carried the game-high in All-Purpose yards with 149 total yards for the Aggies, 10 rushing, 55 passing and 84 yards on kickoff returns. Defensively the Aggies were led by Byron Edwards and Darryn Cain. Edwards totaled ten tackles (8 solo), one forced fumble and two pass break-ups, and Cain had a big day with seven tackles (4 solo), one pass break-up and two interceptions for 62 yards. Senior John Pitts was also a leading contributor for the Aggies on defense; Pitts was credited with one sack, five tackles (4 solo) and one tackle for loss.

Coach Gaskamp was impressed with their opponent commenting after the game, “A&M-C is a very good football team. They are extremely athletic on both sides of the ball; their personnel reminds me a lot of the very good Abilene Christian teams from the late 2000s. I think they have the talent to compete for a national championship this year.” He spoke of the Aggies’ performance saying, “We gave up some really big pass plays to start the game and the red zone turnover in the first quarter really hurt us. We never quite got on track in the first half, but that had a lot to do with how well they played.” Pleased with the team’s mindset after halftime he added, “I was glad to see our guys respond with better play in the second half, but it was too little too late. The most telling stat was on third downs (4-17 us – 7-11 them); we have got to be better in situational football to win games in the LSC.”

The head coach was also very happy with the turnout for their first home game, “I was excited to see the great game day atmosphere. Thanks to all the fans that came out and supported us in our first home game of the season. I look forward to seeing an even bigger turnout for our next game on Homecoming Oct. 15.” Gaskamp and the Aggies will look ahead as they being preparations for their next LSC matchup as they travel to Angelo State this week; the game is set for a 6 p.m. start in San Angelo, Texas on Saturday, Oct. 8.

Justine Gaskamp

 

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