By Caleb Slinkard
The Lions didn’t play Lion football against Angelo State on Nov. 2, at least not the quality of play fans are used to seeing under Colby Carthel. Quarterback Harrison Stewart was hesitant with the ball, and his indecision resulted in 10 sacks. A&M-Commerce routinely stalled drives with penalties, and were generally frustrating to watch.
Which was unfortunate, considering all of the extra Homecoming fans. But the Lions are in a process of growing and improving, and games like this can serve as a learning experience for a young team. It was clear from pre-game comments that Carthel didn’t take the then 2-6 Rams lightly, but A&M-Commerce simply couldn’t rise to the occasion.
“Unfortunately we came out a little flat in that game offensively and fell behind early,” he sadi. “They got a lot of pressure on Harrison Stewart and really did a good job of disrupting our offensive schemes. We knew coming in it would be a tough ballgame and it certainly was.”
The Lions will travel south this week to take on Houston Baptist, a first-year football program with a 3-3 record. The Huskies have fallen to former Lone Star Conference schools Abilene Christian (69-12) and Incarnate Word (24-3). Their game against A&M-Commerce is the last of their season, and their Homecoming game.
“The best way to describe them is probably athletic,” Carthel said. “They really have some talented skill kids on both sides of the ball, and when you’re smack dab in Houston, you’re surrounded by a lot of talent. They’ve got 63 scholarships, so they’ve been able to bring in a good amount of athleticism right off the bat.”
With such a small sample size, it’s difficult to compare squads. Houston Baptist is a Division I FCS team, but it takes a while to get even DI programs going. The Huskies are averaging 25 points, 160.7 rushing yards and 156.2 passing yards per game. They’ve been stingy against the pass (162.8 yards per game) but are allowing almost 200 on the ground to their opponents.
The defense is headed by Garrett Dolan, who leads the Huskies with 58 tackles, adding two sacks and an interception. Defensive back Taylor Thompson has four picks on the year.
A&M-Commerce has been the opposite, gaining 79 rushing yards and 300 passing yards per game, while allowing 118.3 rushing yards and 280 passing yard per game. The Lions have been excellent at getting to the quarterback and stuffing the run, characteristics that will certainly help them against the Huskies. But A&M-Commerce will need a more decisive game from Stewart and must establish the run in order to be successful against HBU. Getting some big plays from wide receiver Vernon Johnson (51 receptions, 1,022 yards, 12 touchdowns) wouldn’t hurt, either.
Defensive lineman Tevin Moore (7 sacks) and Charlie Tuaau (4.5 sacks) will need to collapse the offensive line and fill in gaps to slow down the Huskies’ running attack.
The loss to the Rams certainly stole some of A&M-Commerce’s momentum. But there’s no reason they can’t get back in the win column and continue their impressive season on Nov. 9 against HBU.
Kickoff is at 3 p.m. in Houston. Tune in to 88.9 FM KETR for live-game coverage and www.lionathletics.com for live game stats. A full recap of the game will be printed in next week’s Commerce Journal.