ARLINGTON, Texas — In a matchup that was circled on the calendars of both teams since it was announced, the Midwestern State Mustangs downed the Texas A&M University-Commerce football team, 31-30 at Choctaw Stadium on Saturday evening.
The Mustangs trailed all game, but took the lead in the last minute of the game on a five-yard touchdown pass by Dillon Sterling-Cole to Sam Hodges. All three touchdown passes for Sterling-Cole came in the second half.
In the final drive of the night, A&M-Commerce received the ball near midfield thanks to a MSU penalty in the ensuing kickoff return, but the last-second hail mary attempt was broken up in the end zone.
The Lions played their first neutral site game since 2014 and are now 1-1 on the season overall and start 0-1 in Lone Star Conference play. The Mustangs are now 2-0 on the season and 1-0 in LSC play. 6,712 fans were in the stands for the first game of this two-year series in Arlington.
A&M-Commerce jumped out to a 23-0 lead in the first half. Kevin Leedee (Cy Ridge) started the scoring with a three-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. It was the first touchdown of the young season for the Lions and first for Leedee in a Lions uniform, a transfer from Tulane.
The Lions extended their lead to 13-0 in the first quarter on another touchdown catch. This time, it was Chance Cooper (Leander – Rouse) from Jaiave Magalei (Tacoma, Wash.). Cooper led all Lions receivers with 97 receiving yards on 10 catches. Kenedy Snell (Waxahachie) caught one pass for 52 yards.
In the second quarter, a 34-yard kick from Jake Viquez (Rockwall) made it 17-0. Antonio Leali’ie’e (Copperas Cove) caught an eight-yard pass from Magalei and ran it in to give the Lions a 23-0 lead. The Lions missed the extra-point attempt following that touchdown.
Leali’ie’e finished just three yards shy of a 100-yard rushing game, he also had an eight-yard catch.
The Mustangs picked up their first points of the game at the 5:30 mark in the second quarter. Dylon Davis intercepted Magalei’s pass and ran it in for the touchdown. Ritse Vaes converted a 42-yard field goal to make it 23-10, which was the score at halftime.
Magalei had three touchdown passes in the first half on 99 yards. The Lions used three quarterbacks throughout the game. In the game, Magalei had 197 yards on 13 for 28 passing, Eric Rodriguez (Missouri City – Fort Bend Travis) had four completions for 18 yards. Brock Nellor, who made his college debut (Mt. Vernon) had two rushes for eight yards.
In the first drive of the second half, the Lions worked their way down the field and Eric Rodriguez (Missouri City – Fort Bend Travis) sneaked it in from the one-yard line to open up a 30-10 lead for the Lions.
A&M-Commerce had three turnovers in the game, the Mustangs capitalized on the extra opportunities to score 10 points off turnovers.
The Mustangs’ Dillon Sterling-Cole hit Kylan Harrison for a six-yard coach to cut the deficit to 30-17 on the next drive after the touchdown from Rodriguez.
After the defense held A&M-Commerce to back-to-back punts and recovered from a fumble on punt return, forced by Jemal Williams (Inglewood, Calif.) and recovered by Xavier Morris (Converse – Judson), the Mustangs offense came within six on a two-yard touchdown reception by Ja’Marzeyea Arvie.
The Mustangs held the Lions to a punt on a drive that lasted over three minutes in the fourth quarter.
Morris led the team with eight tackles, Michael Noble (Orange, Calif.) had seven tackles as did Dominion Ezinwa (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.). D’Angelo Ellis (Cy Ridge) caught an interception and returned it for seven yards.
A&M-Commerce hosts No. 1 West Florida in the first “true” home game of 2021 next Saturday, September 18 with kickoff scheduled for 6 p.m. That game is the rematch of the 2017 NCAA Division II National Championship game. Ticket information can be found at LionAthletics.Com/Tickets.