Exactly 45 years and 7 days ago, The Lions of East Texas State University lofted their first National Title Trophy. The game was in Commerce and the town celebrated for days. For years, it was something for the Lion program to hang their hat on. Last night, the ups and downs that have happened since then came full circle as the Lions of Texas A&M-Commerce lofted the NCAA Division II Football Championship trophy for the first time. It was a game that lived up to it’s billing and means more than just a win for last night. Let’s get to it.
- First and foremost, I want to congratulate the West Florida Argonauts on a fine season. They are a very athletic group and very well coached. They are young, and that should scare just about everyone. Look for this group to be making national noise in the following years as they grow and mature. WF will be a power very shortly, not a Cinderella story.
- It was a game of big plays. Luis Perez making big throw after big throw, Shawn Hooks made up for lost time by having a monster game, Kristov Martinez did what he does, Reggie Kincade’s kickoff return was perhaps the most important play. You felt the momentum perhaps moving WF’s side, and then the Junior from Everman took a kickoff 99 yards to the house. Perez’s beautiful post pattern throw to Marquis Wimberly was another big play that just kept the Argos at arm’s length.
- The defense played outstanding yesterday. The 27 point were due to 3 turnovers. The fake punt was just bad timing, the Carandal Hale fumble and Luis Perez throwing a very odd interception gave the Argos very short fields to work with. The defense held up and held WF to field goals and did not allow them to get into any kind of rhythm. There was only one complete drive that the Argos put together and that was before the half. Brucks Saathoff was fantastic as was Yusef Sterling-Lowe. I said that one thing the defense would need to have success in was making Mike Beaudry’s life very hard in the pocket, and they did that, sacking him 5 times and forcing him to scramble and make throws he really was not comfortable in making. This was the most physical I had seen the defense play all season.
- Special teams were about special as you can get. When the offense sputtered in the red zone, Kristov Martinez was the insurance to get points on the board. Tristan Perry was again very effective, only punting twice but hitting a 36 yard average and pinning WF deep. The coverage units were outstanding as they have been all season. I saw some potential explosiveness in the Argo’s return game, but it was contained by great coverage. Many games are won and lost on special teams, and this one did win the day for The Lions.
- Finally, I just have to give enormous kudos to Colby Carthel and his staff. He had this group ready. There were no jitters, no nervous mistakes, this team looked like it expected to be there, and you can tell everyone was prepared to play this game. With Buck Wilson and Travon Blanchard being out, the “next man up” mentality that Colby Carthel has preached from the first day he came to Commerce showed itself when Redshirt Freshman Kelan Smith started in place of an injured Buck Wilson and various other players saw themselves playing an injured Blanchard’s defensive spot. Legendary college basketball coach Bob Knight talks about how everyone has the will to win, but what separates champions from others is the PREPARATION to win, and this coaching staff did just that. I cannot enough about how impressed I have seen a young staff continue to grow into a great set of coaches.
- Finally, the outpouring of Lion spirit was amazing to see. The Lion fans at Mercy Children’s Park were VERY LOUD and all the folks who could not watch it live were live streaming watch parties. Lion Nation was alive and well last night, and for a school that had been experiencing such an identity crisis from the time that East Texas State became Texas A&M-Commerce, it unified the two group into one that all say “WE ARE CEASELESS, WE ARE FEARLESS, WE ARE UNFETTERED, WE ARE UNSELFISH, and “WE ARE LIONS.”
And for this moment, We are Champions as well.
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