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Costly Mistakes Sting Lions in First Loss

It isn’t a good recipe for victory when you combine heavy rain, turnovers, an out of rhythm offense. But that’s what happened to No. 1 Texas A&M University-Commerce as they watched an early lead slip away, resulting in a stunning 23-13 loss to CSU-Pueblo at Memorial Stadium Saturday night.


The Lions (3-1) losing their first game in a calendar year, when MSU Texas defeated A&M-Commerce 47-42 on Oct. 7, 2017. The loss ends a Division II-best 13-game win streak, and is the first home loss for the defending national champs since Oct. 8, 2016 also to MSU Texas.


The ThunderWolves (3-1) are back in the winning column after dropping last week's game. This is the first win by a team from the RMAC against the Lions in the three games they played, which have all been played in Commerce. It was the Thunderwolves first ever matchup against A&M-Commerce.


Commerce jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter highlighted by a 72-yard punt return by Dominique Ramsey. However, a new look offense saw their struggles. A&M-Commerce head coach Colby Carthel stuck with Preston Wheeler as the starter against the ThunderWolves (4-0). Unlike previous outings, Carthel made the decision to alternate backup Kane Wilson after Wheeler proved ineffective in the early going. Wilson obtained more snaps under center and almost twice the pass attempts as Wheeler in the game. Neither player could secure a rhythm on offense to garnish staying in at QB for the rest of the game so it appears whoever “the guy” is for Carthel at QB, is still uncertain.


Lions allowed 13 points off of turnovers Saturday night and could never gain any momentum because of it.


A key turning point of momentum in the game was just before the first half when the Lions came in on offense with four minutes to play and Wilson threw an INT on the first play of the drive on a pass attempt to Ryan Stokes. The mistake turned into an 11 play 59 yard drive by the Thunderwolves and capped off by a 20 yard field goal with 34 seconds left to trim the Lion lead to just four before halftime.


“Just too many mistakes tonight. It was a wet monsoon, it rained the whole time. It comes down to defense, special teams, and turnovers,” said Carthel as he broke down the game. “We played well defensively for most of the night, but special teams we turned the ball over three times and then turned it over a total of five or six on the night. You can’t make those kinds of mistakes and expect to win. Colorado State-Pueblo’s got a really good football team, well coached, and they made some good adjustments and called some good shots at the end to put the game out of reach. We’ll rebound and hopefully learn from this and be back next week.”


CSU-Pueblo dominated in their rushing attack by accumulating 217 yards to the Lions just 41 yards on the ground. Pueblo is ranked No. 5 with an average of 297.7 rush yards per game. Prior to the game Saturday and their recent loss to Colorado School of Mines, they were ranked #1 with a 390.5 yard rushing average. These numbers speak volumes for the Lions defense by putting a big dent in the Thunderwolves strong rushing attack.


Wilson received the most snaps he’s had under center all season yesterday and went 7-for-15 passing for 108 yards with one interception. His biggest play came on his first series of the game, which was a 42 yard pass to Stokes that resulted in a field goal by Kristov Martinez.


Next Matchup: Lions stay in Commerce for their next game as they face Lock Haven at 6pm CDT on Ernest Hawkins Field at Memorial Stadium.