COMMERCE, Texas – McMurry University faced Texas A&M-University-Commerce on the football field for the first time since 1971 and fell by a 65-43 margin at Memorial Stadium. The War Hawks (1-6) and Lions (5-2) made up for the lapse with an offense festival.
In addition to combining for 118 points, the two teams rolled 1,062 total yards of offense (552 for McM and 510 for TAMUC)
The two teams put on a scoring clinic in the opening quarter, combining for 52 points (TAMUC held a 31-21 lead). While McMurry utilized its passing in the period, it was special teams where the Lions purred with 201 kickoff return yards, resulting in three scoring drives of less than 15 yards (14, 1 and minus-3), as well as series’ of 75 and 80 yards.
After the Lions scored on the opening possession, McMurry immediately answered with a nine-play, 67-yard drive. Quarterback Gabe Rodriguez ran the ball in from 12 yards out to knot matters at 7-7.
A&M-Commerce followed that with two unanswered scores to pull ahead, 21-7, with 5:38 left in the opening period.
Beginning matters on their own 10 yard line, Rodriguez hit junior wide receiver Greg Livingston on the right flats and the speedster raced 90 yards for the touchdown to make it 21-14 after the extra point.
Two more scores by the host Lions over the next three minutes increased their advantage to 31-14.
The track meet-like first quarter had its final tally when McM’s Rodriguez lofted a 12-yard TD strike to Jeret Smith to cap an eight-play, 58-yard drive and cut it to 31-21.
The second period was down-right sedate compared to the first stanza, as TAMUC added a field goal and the War Hawks a touchdown. The score for McM was a seven-yard TD aerial from Rodriguez-to-Livingston – their second connection of the night – to make the halftime score 34-28.
Livingston’s TD grab also tied him for the all-time McMurry lead in career receptions (with 161).
At the 13:34 juncture of the third quarter, Livingston took over sole possession as the program’s receiving king (surpassing Rory Peacock, 1997-2000), with a 35-yard catch.
The War Hawk defense set up a go-ahead score by McMurry at the 10:17 in the third period. A 56-yard fumble return by 5’11, 260-pound defensive lineman Joshua Fisher placed the ball at the Lion’s one. From there, a dive by Chris Simpson (61 yards on 19 carries) made the score 34-34.
The point after touchdown kick attempt by Ian McCarthy was deflected. However, the ball carried into the end zone, where TAMUC caught it in the air and tried to advance it, only to fumble while still in behind the goal line. McM offensive lineman Derek Baldeschwiler fell on the fall for what was a two-point conversion and a 36-34 War Hawk lead.
After TAMUC added a field goal to re-take the lead (37-36), McMurry answered with a six play, 61 yard drive with 1:42 left in the third. A 19-yard TD toss to Smith from Rodriguez made it 43-37 in favor of the War Hawks.
But the fourth and final period belonged entirely to Commerce with four unanswered tallies that made it the 65-43 final score.
Rodriguez was 38-of-53 passing, good for 412 yards and four touchdowns via the pass. However, the freshman was also intercepted a career-high four times and was also sacked four times.
For his part, Livingston finished his record-setting night with 10 receptions for 193 yards and the two TDs. Livingston ended the night with 165 career catches.
Clinton McCoy had six catches for 91 yards. Smith finished with five grabs for 50 yards and two TDs.
Paxton Grayer led the ground game with 81 yards on nine carries.
Defensively, Jonathan Blair had a game-leading 10 tackles. Teammate Tyreace House added nine stops.