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IWU field goal sends Lions to first 0-5 start since 1926

By Cliff Gibson
On October 10, 2011

The A&M-Commerce Lions had victory in their grasp Saturday night, but instead had to settle for something much more bitter. Thomas Rebold booted a 23-yard field goal with 1:20 to play, giving Incarnate Word a 23-22 win and handing the Lions their first 0-5 start since 1926.

After falling behind 20-0, the Lions (0-5 overall, 0-3 LSC) battled back to take a 22-20 lead with 11:21 left in the game. But A&M-Commerce left a couple of points on the field, failing on two PAT attempts that could have spelled the difference between a much-needed win and a gut-wrenching defeat.

"We can't make a routine play," Head Coach Guy Morriss said. "We botched two snaps…it's the story of our life. We just can't make a play."

Incarnate Word (2-4 overall, 2-2 LSC) took advantage of mistakes by the Lions early in the contest to cruise out to a 20-0 lead with 10:46 left in the first half, scoring less than a minute into the contest when Juan Asencio blocked a punt by Cameron Frosch and returned it one yard for a touchdown. Rebold added the PAT for a 7-0 Cardinals lead.

Making his first start for the Lions, quarterback J.J. Harp was picked off on the next series, which led to a 60-yard connection between Paden Lynch and Jacob Love, making it 13-0 just six minutes into the game. Early in the second quarter, Lynch found the end zone again, passing to Colton Palmer from 10 yards out. Rebold made it 20-0 with his kick, and at that point it appeared the Lions were in for a long night.

"We're playing a lot of young players, but its time to grow up as far as I'm concerned," Morriss said. "We dropped some balls and couldn't push anybody off the ball. It's a whole team thing right now."

The Lions managed to get on the board late in the first half on a 25-yard field goal from Jacob O'Neil, and the score stood at 20-3 as the teams hit the break.

Once the teams returned for the second half, they looked totally different. The Cardinals could not move the ball while the Lions started producing and taking advantage of big opportunities. Midway through the third quarter, Dre Dunbar picked off Lynch and returned it 71 yards for a score. But, the Lions had to settle for six points after a bad exchange that turned a PAT attempt into a failed conversion.

On the last play of the third period, the Lions dialed up another big play. Marcus Graham blocked the Cardinals' punt and Aaron Wingfield scooped the ball up, returning it 32 yards for a touchdown. O'Neil hit the PAT to make it a 20-16 game entering the final frame. The next time the Lions took possession, Graham stepped up again, dashing through the IWU defense for a 41-yard touchdown to make it 22-20. Another failed exchange on the PAT left it a two-point game.

The Cardinals appeared to be cooked at that point, but Harp's third interception of the night pumped new life into the Incarnate Word offense. Starting from the Lions 46, the Cardinals drove 40 yards in nine plays to set up Rebold for the game-winner with just 80 seconds left in regulation. The Lions were able to move the ball past midfield, but ran out of time as another late-game rally fell short.

Harp passed for 250 yards, but completed just 25-of-45 passes and had three interceptions. Taylor Fore and Kevin Bevans each hauled in seven catches, with Fore leading the team with 89 yards. Graham rushed for 54 yards on nine carries to lead the Lions. Lynch led the Cardinals, passing for 178 yards and two scores along with two interceptions. Trent Rios had a game-high 66 yards rushing and Love made six grabs for 141 yards. 

Cory Whitfield led all defenders with a game-high 13 tackles, Danny Mason added nine and Dre Dunbar had six to go with his interception. Mason also intercepted a pass.

The Lions will travel to Stephenville this week to face Tarleton State at 7 p.m. Saturday. The Texans are 1-5 this season and 1-3 in LSC play. A&M-Commerce will return home Oct. 22 for its homecoming game against Angelo State.

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