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Lions rammed into 45-14 homecoming defeat

By Cliff Gibson
On October 24, 2011


In front of the largest home crowd of the season – including alumni, new Hall of Fame inductees, and members of the homecoming court – the A&M-Commerce Lions sputtered and stalled until well after halftime. By the time the Lions got on track, half of the spectators had left, and Angelo State had put five touchdowns on the board before eventually cruising to a 45-14 victory over the winless Lions at Memorial Stadium.

            A&M-Commerce (0-7 overall, 0-5 LSC) managed to gain just 52 total yards in the first half, while the Rams (4-4 overall, 1-4 LSC) built a 21-0 lead at the break that helped end a  four game losing streak. The 0-7 start by the Lions is the worst since the 1926 team finished their season with the same record. No team in program history has ever started a season with eight straight losses.

            Angelo State was without starting quarterback Blake Hamblin, who had passed for more than 1,400 yards this season, but backup quarterback Jake Strickler filled in nicely, completing 17-of-22 passes for 209 yards and a career-high four touchdown passes.

Strickler's four touchdown passes went to four different receivers and he completed passes to nine different receivers throughout the contest. ASU running back Tristan Carter rushed for 124 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.

J.J. Harp led the Lion offense – albeit with some misleading numbers – passing for 238 yards and an interception while completing 29-of-40 passes. Most of Harp's yardage came during garbage time, when ASU already had the game well in hand. Harp passed for just 64 yards and an interception in the first half.

Senior receiver Taylor Fore hauled in six passes for 44 yards, giving him 112 receptions for his career and moving him into fifth on the career receptions list at A&M-Commerce. Fore is just five catches from passing Dudley Slice for fourth on the all-time list.

            Cory Whitfield recorded his fourth-straight game with double-digit tackles, finishing with a game-high 12, while Joel Wren and Matt Claggett each had nine tackles for the Lions. Brynn Roy added six tackles and a sack.

            The Rams started the scoring with a 72-yard drive that ended in Carter's 10-yard run. Jarred Martin booted the PAT for a 7-0 lead that stood after one period. In the second quarter, Strickler tossed the first of his four touchdown passes as he hooked up with Joey Knight on a 5-yard score. Strickler connected with Quinn Reels late in the half for a 4-yard touchdown to give the Rams a 21-0 lead at the break.

             While the Rams moved the ball with ease, the Lions were atrocious on offense during the first half, failing to gain a first down in the opening period and ending second quarter possessions with two turnovers and another punt. The Lions' inability to run the ball was a factor once again, with minus-12 yards at the half and minus-16 yards entering the fourth quarter. A&M-Commerce finished the game with just five yards on 26 rushing attempts.

            Angelo State didn't skip a beat after halftime, driving 76 yards downfield with the second half kickoff and scoring on Strickler's 4-yard pass to Carter for a 28-0 lead. But instead of answering back, the Lions had the door slammed shut, punting to Angelo State on the ensuing possession only to have it returned by Paul Mason for a 70-yard touchdown that made it 35-0.

            The Lions got on the scoreboard late in the third, as Marcus Graham punched it in from a yard out. Jacob O'Neil kicked to make it 35-7. But Strickler wasn't done, throwing his fourth and final TD pass early in the final stanza. Martin kicked the extra point and also a field goal later in the fourth to up the score to 45-7. Jamar Mosely scored for the Lions with a few seconds remaining on a 5-yard run.

            The loss was the fourth straight on homecoming for the Lions, and ninth consecutive loss overall, dating back to 2010 when the Lions lost their last two games of the year.

            A&M-Commerce will face a tough challenge Saturday Oct. 29, as the Lions travel to Shotwell Stadium to take on the ninth-ranked Abilene Christian Wildcats. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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