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No. 11 Lions Face No. 10 Mustangs in LSC Playoff Final

Both teams face eachother as the no. 11 and no. 10 teams in the nation for the second time in three weeks.
Both teams face eachother as the no. 11 and no. 10 teams in the nation for the second time in three weeks.

After a wild 36-35 win over Angelo State in game one of the Lone Star Conference Playoffs, the Texas A&M University-Commerce football team now looks to finish the job on Saturday against Midwestern State in Commerce.

The no. 11 Lions’ (8-2, 6-0 LSC) hopes looked dim last weekend after an early second half Rams touchdown put A&M-Commerce behind by 18 points. However, on the ensuing kickoff, Richard Cooper was back deep for his first kickoff return of the season. Cooper made the most of his chance to shine by returning the kick 88-yards for a score, the first kick return touchdown of his career.

The score seemed to bolster both the Lions offense and their defense, as A&M-Commerce began to put points on the board, while Angelo State quarterback Kyle Washington was beginning to be stifled by Lion defenders. A&M-Commerce finally went ahead on a 25-yard touchdown pass to Lance Evans on fourth down with 7:21 left to play.

That was plenty of time for the Rams, as they began to drive down the field. The drive stalled in the red zone, and it came down to a fourth and 1 at the two yard line. Washington attempted a quarterback sneak, but could not make it across the line. With the ball back in their hands, the Lions sealed the victory with a 50-yard run by Cooper, which allowed A&M-Commerce to run the clock to zero.

Head Coach Colby Carthel admired the way his team played in the second half to grab the win.

“I told them that no one remembers how you start the game, but how you finish it,” Carthel said. “We were able to go out there and make the plays we needed to win the game.”

                 With the wild finish behind them, the Lions will face what stacks up on paper as an even more difficult team to beat, as the Midwestern State Mustangs travel to Commerce for the final game of the LSC Playoffs.

The no. 10 Mustangs (9-1, 5-1 LSC) have been A&M-Commerce’s closest opponent in the conference so far this season. In their first meeting earlier this season, the Lions defense forced six turnovers en route to a 27-14 victory on a wet and windy day in Commerce.

Coming into the game, the Mustangs were undefeated, and have not lost a game since then. This includes a come from behind win last weekend against Eastern New Mexico, where the Mustangs did not hold the lead at any point in the game until an eight play, 54 yard drive produced a touchdown with 1:20 left in the game, securing a 26-21 victory.

This weekend’s matchup has serious NCAA Playoff implications, with the Lions and Mustangs occupying the third and fourth spot in the regional rankings, with the top seven teams advancing to postseason play. Interestingly enough, both teams were also nationally ranked no. 10 and no. 11 in the first meeting of the season.

Midwestern State has seen action in the postseason semi regularly, reaching the NCAA Playoff five different times since 2004, with the most resent instance occurring in 2012. A&M-Commerce is looking for its first trip to the big dance since 1995.

Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Commerce. According to lonestarconference.org, “The Lions and Mustangs match-up in Commerce, Texas, will be broadcast as the DII Football Showcase on the American Sports Network. The American Sports Network will announce possible regional and national broadcasts the week of the game. Fans will also be able to watch the game live, free of charge, on NCAA.com and the NCAA Sports Mobile App.”