Eastern New Mexico nearly pulled off the upset over the no. 1 nationally ranked Texas A&M- Commerce Lions inside Greyhound Stadium Saturday night, but came up just short in a 21-11 defeat.
An interception by senior Charles Countee at the beginning of the fourth quarter set up a five-yard touchdown run by junior Paul Terry that brought the Hounds within three points following a successful two-point conversion attempt. The Hound defense then forced a quick three-and-out on the ensuing Lion possession and got the ball back into the hands of quarterback Wyatt Strand and the Eastern offense.
Eastern was unable to capitalize on the noticeable change of momentum and gained just three yards on the following drive, which forced a punt back to Commerce. The Lion's Carandal Hale scored from 32 yards out to extend the lead to 21-11 at the 9:54 mark of the final quarter and then stiffened up on the defensive side of the ball for the Hound's final two possessions of the game, escaping Portales with the victory.
The Eastern New Mexico offense totaled 206 rushing yards on the evening, but struggled on third downs throughout the contest, converting on just 1-of-16 attempts. Terry finished the game with 85 yards on 23 carries and the lone touchdown of the game for the Hounds.
After falling behind 14-0 following the conclusion of the opening quarter, Eastern New Mexico drove deep into Lion territory on the first possession of the second quarter, but got stopped on a fourth-and-two attempt from the Lion 29-yard line and turned the ball over on downs. The Hounds forced a three-and-out on the following possession and pieced together an eight play, 63-yard drive on the next possession that ended with a 31-yard field goal block for the Lions special teams.
Eastern continued to stand strong on the defensive side of the ball and set the offense up with good field position at midfield which eventually resulted in the first points of the ball game for the Hounds at the 4:14 mark of the second quarter when kicker Tyler Vargas connected on a 29-yard field goal attempt that brought the score to 14-3 moving into the halftime break.
Defensive back Tony Andrews led the way for an all-around solid defensive effort for Eastern New Mexico with five total tackles. Senior Brad Hardin also recorded five tackles and defensive lineman Hayden Hill posted two tackles for loss including the lone sack of the evening for a four-yard loss.
Neither team managed to produce a sustainable offensive attack in the third quarter, leading to the game changing interception by Countee at the beginning of the fourth quarter that provided the Hounds the opportunity to upset the defending national champions. Despite being unsuccessful in the upset bid, the Ground Strike offense was on full display for Eastern New Mexico as they maintained possession of the ball for 37:18 minutes of the game.
Strand finished the game with 48 yards on the ground on 21 carries while tailbacks Kazyan Martinand Johnny Smith added 25 and 20 yards to the rushing effort respectively.
The Hounds move to 0-3 on the season and 0-1 in LSC play and will travel to Kingsville, Texas for a match-up with Texas A&M- Kingsville next Saturday at 6 p.m.