By CALEB SLINKARD
Junior transfer quarterback Tyrik Rollison powered Texas A&M University-Commerce to a 51-6 blowout of NCAA Division III opponent Sul Ross State in the 2013 season football opener and the debut of head coach Colby Carthel.
“Overall it was a good game,” Rollison said. “Playing at A&M-Commerce is a big step. I’m surrounded by a lot of good players, and I couldn’t ask for more. I’m just happy to be out on the field.”
The Lions moved the ball well on their first drive, thanks to precise strikes through the air from Rollison. The Lobos stood strong on their 1-yard line, forcing the Lions to attempt an 18-yard field goal. The snap was bobbled, and the Lions were turned away without scoring.
A&M-Commerce soon regained the momentum, however, when Sul Ross recorded a negative 4-yard punt. Another strong Lobo stand forced the Lions to attempt a second field goal, this time Saul Martinez booted a 30-yarder that gave A&M-Commerce the 3-0 lead.
Near the end of the first quarter, Rollison found sophomore Hayden Marsh for a 21-yard touchdown pass to give the Lions the 10-0 lead.
Junior linebacker Davarus Shores added seven more points for A&M-Commerce when he recovered a fumble in the end zone midway through the second quarter on a muffed punt attempt.
True freshman quarterback Derrick Bernard got the Lobos on the board with a 4-yard pass to junior Cordrick Mobley, but the Lions blocked the PAT to maintain a 17-6 margin.
Rollison threw a pick to linebacker Zach Roberson early in the third quarter, but after the Lions stopped the Lobos on a fourth down in A&M-Commerce territory, he began rolling again with a 33-yard pass to wide receiver Stacy Howard. After A&M-Commerce converted a fourth-down conversion, Rollison connected with senior running back Aaron Wingfield on a 10-yard pitch-and-catch to give the Lions a 24-6 lead.
Rollison connected with Howard again in the third with a 26-yard touchdown strike to pad the Lion lead. The transfer put the Lions up 38-6 on their next drive with a 37 yard bullet to Taylor Peasha.
A 29-yard interception return for a touchdown by defensive back C.J. Johnson added yet another seven points to the victory. Running back Ki-Janaven Garrett scored from four yards out for the Lions first rushing touchdown of the season.
Rollison finished with 364 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. Charlie Tuaau, who had signed a letter of intent to play football with Oregon State this season, led the Lions from the defensive line with two sacks and kept up almost constant pressure on the Sul Ross offensive front.
“I love the vibe, I love the fans,” Tuaau said. “I already have goose bumps [thinking about playing in Cowboys Stadium next week].”
The Lions will travel to the former Cowboys Stadium to take on Delta State at 5 p.m. on Friday.