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Regional Champion and Eighth-Ranked Lions Host Harding in National Semifinal

 

Regional champion and eighth-ranked Lions host Harding in National Semifinal.

COMMERCE – The No. 8 Texas A&M University-Commerce Lions’ football team aims to keep a fantastic run alive, hosting the NCAA Division II Football Championship Semifinal against the Harding University Bisons on Saturday in front of a nationally televised audience.

WHO: Harding University at Texas A&M University-Commerce
WHERE: Commerce | Ernest Hawkins Field at Memorial Stadium
WHEN: 2:30 p.m. CST on Saturday, December 9
RECORDS: A&M-Commerce is 12-1 overall. Harding is 11-3.
RANKINGS: A&M-Commerce is ranked No. 8 in the AFCA Coaches’ Poll and the D2Football.com Media Poll. Harding is unranked in either poll but is receiving votes in the AFCA poll.
SEEDINGS: A&M-Commerce is the second seed of the remaining four teams after winning Super Region Four with road wins over No. 12 Winona State, No. 7 Central Washington, and No. 1 Minnesota State. Harding is the third seed of the remaining four teams after winning Super Region Three with road wins over No. 6 Indianapolis, No. 9 Ashland, and No. 10 Ferris State.

VISIT PLAYOFF CENTRAL
TICKETS: HERE
LIVE AUDIO: Lion Sports Network — KETR 88.9 FM, Commerce (http://www.ketr.org)
LIVE VIDEO: WatchESPN
LIVE STATS: HERE

LIONS WIN ON THE ROAD, HOST SEMIFINALS
• The Lions took down the No. 1 ranked Minnesota State Mavericks, 31-21, on the road to clinch the regional championship for the first time in school history.
• It is the first time the Lions have played four games in a single postseason.
• The win gave the Lions seven road wins, the most in a season in program history.

STILL PUSHING #ToTheTop
• The Lions ended the regular season at No. 8 in the nation in both the AFCA and D2Football.com polls.
• A&M-Commerce has been ranked in 38 straight AFCA polls, dating back to the 2015 preseason poll.
• It is A&M-Commerce’s 44th all-time appearance in the AFCA poll since its inception in 2000.
• The Lions have played five nationally-ranked teams this season, all inside the top 12.
• A&M-Commerce is the fourth nationally-ranked team the Bisons have faced, all in the top 10 and all in the playoffs.

CARTHEL 5TH IN SCHOOL HISTORY IN WINS
• Head coach Colby Carthel now ranks fifth in A&M-Commerce history in coaching wins with 46 wins.
• However, he will be in fifth for a while, as his 46 wins are still 18 behind J.V. Sikes’ 63 wins in fourth place.

1 Ernest Hawkins 1964-85 132-92-6
2 Eddie Vowell 1986-98 74-71-1
3 Bob Berry 1935-41, 46-50 72-34-8
4 J.V. Sikes 1954-63 63-34-4
5 Colby Carthel 2013-pres. 46-15
6 M.A. Smith 1951-53 30-2-1

AGAINST THE BISONS
• A&M-Commerce is 3-1 all-time against Harding.
• The Bisons won the last matchup in 2013 in the Live United Texarkana Bowl, 44-3.
• That game was the Lions’ first postseason appearance since 1995. The Lions defeated Harding in 1995 (40-0 in Searcy), 1996 (43-28 in Commerce), and 2001 (14-11 in Commerce).
• The Lions are 18-27-1 all-time against teams from the state of Arkansas.

TOUGH ROAD TO THE SEMIS
• The Lions have won three straight road games to advance to the National Semifinal.
• A&M-Commerce went down the most terrible road since the NCAA Division II playoff field expanded to five rounds in 2004.
• The Lions have defeated three opponents with a combined record of 34-1.
– Winona State (10-1)
– Central Washington (11-0)
– Minnesota State (13-0)
• Only two other teams have beaten three teams with 33 combined wins in a single playoff – Grand Valley State in 2015 (33-1) and Harding this season (33-2).

• 18 teams have won three games to advance to the National Semifinals in the 13 years since the field expanded to five rounds.
• Before this season, six teams advanced to the semifinals with no home games in the first three rounds.
• In 2017, three of the four teams in the semifinals have pushed with three road wins – A&M-Commerce, Harding, and West Florida.
• Of the 18 teams to advance to the semifinals with three wins, only the 2016 Shepherd team hosted their semifinal matchup. That Shepherd team was also undefeated until the semifinal loss to North Alabama.
• Of the 18 three-win semifinalists, two have advanced to the National Championship Game, with the winner of today’s game guaranteed to be the third. A West Florida win at Indiana (Pa.) would be a fourth. The previous two were Northwest Missouri State in 2005 and Wayne State (Mich.) in 2011.

SENIORS BREAK SCHOOL RECORD
• With the win at Tarleton, the senior class broke the school record for wins in a four-year period. The previous record stood since the Tangerine Bowl runs of the early 1950s.
• That record extended with the win at Minnesota State to 40 games won in a four-year span.

Years  Record
2014-17 40-10
1951-54 36-5-2
2013-16 35-14
1957-60 34-7
1972-75 32-13-1
1936-39 31-8
1990-93 31-16-1

PEREZ’ OUTSTANDING SEASON AND CAREER LEAD TO HARLON HILL FINALIST
• The Harlon Hill Trophy announced Lion quarterback Luis Perez as a finalist.
• The AFCA named him a second-team All-American on Wednesday. D2CCA previously named him as the Super Region Four Offensive Player of the Year and First-Team All-Region quarterback.
• He has won the Lone Star Conference J.W. Rollins Award as Offensive Player of the Year. He also earned First-Team All-Lone Star Conference honors for the second consecutive season.
• A Lion quarterback has earned first-team all-LSC honors a total of 17 times since the league’s formation in 1931.
• He became the Lions’ fourth quarterback to repeat as a first-team all-LSC selection, joining Bobby Bounds (1990-91), LSC Hall of Honor member Wade Wilson (1979-80), and R.A. Hitt (1933-34), who was the second-ever all-LSC quarterback.
• Perez’ passing-average has vaulted him to the top of the Division II ranks. He is one of nine passers in Division II averaging over 300 yards passing per game.

Rk Team Cl. Gms A-C-I TD Yds Avg
1 Luis Perez, A&M-Commerce  Sr. 13 532-374-10 42 4,388 337.5
2 Connor Jessop, Shepherd Sr. 11 394-249-9 40 3,532 321.1
3 Tanner Garry, Slippery Rock Sr. 11 437-268-9 32 3,522 320.2
4 Amir Hall, Bowie St. Jr. 11 381-249-4 41 3,519 319.9
5 Grant Russell, Ohio Dominican Sr. 10 305-221-3 30 3,182 318.2
6 Nick Rooney, Adams St. Jr. 10 441-271-10 29 3,153 315.3
7 Brook Bolles, Central Mo. Jr. 12 430-242-12 23 3,766 313.8
8 Y. Gavalas, LIU Post Sr. 10 363-257-8 37 3,087 308.7
9 Javia Hall, Western N.M. Sr. 10 458-255-12 24 3,006 300.6
10 Barrett Renner, Southern Arkansas Sr. 11 397-265-10 35 3,204 291.7

• He did not play high school football, and was a competitive bowler, with 12 perfect 300 games to his name.
• He now has 15 games of 300-plus passing yards in his career, including ten straight games.
• He went 267 passing attempts without an interception over the course of 6-plus games.
• 449:46 of game time elapsed between Perez interceptions.

SINGLE SEASON PASSING TOUCHDOWN LEADERS
1. 42 Luis Perez 2017
2. 32 Luis Perez 2016
3. 31 Tyrik Rollison 2014
4. 30 Harrison Stewart 2015
5. 22 James Gray 1952
  • Perez also became the school’s single-season passing yardage leader.
    • He ranks second in all NCAA Divisions in passing yards this season through 13 games, behind only Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph (4,553). The only other quarterback with 4,000 yards this season is Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield (4,340).
SINGLE SEASON PASSING YARDAGE LEADERS
1. 4,388 Luis Perez 2017 
2. 3,764 Tyrik Rollison 2014
3. 3,326 Luis Perez 2016
4. 3,173 Harrison Stewart 2015
5. 2,861 Buster Faulkner 2004
  • Perez is also the Lion career leader in three major passing categories.
CAREER PASSING YARDAGE LEADERS
1. 7,714 Luis Perez 2016-pres. 
2. 5,955 Bob Bounds 1987-91
3. 5,800 Kyle Mackey 1980-83
4. 5,635 Terry Skinner 1973-77
5. 5,362 Tyrik Rollison 2013-14
CAREER PASSING COMPLETION LEADERS
1. 618 Luis Perez (618-921-15) 2016-pres. 
2. 375 Bob Bounds (375-706-36) 1987-91
3. 372 Kyle Mackey (372-751-44) 1980-83
4. 367 Terry Skinner (367-813-45) 1973-77
5. 353 Adam Farkes (353-700-30) 2009-10
CAREER PASSING TOUCHDOWN LEADERS
1. 74 Luis Perez 2016-pres. 
2. 51 James Gray 1951-53
3. 48 Harrison Stewart 2013-15
4. 43 Jim Dietz 1967-70
43 Tyrik Rollison 2013-14
  • He ranks first in Division II and ninth in all of the NCAA in career passing yards per game.
Rk Team Div Cl. Gms A-C-I Yds TD Yds/Gm
1 Luke Falk , Washington St. FBS Sr. 43 2,055-1,404-39 14,486 119 336.9
2 Mason Rudolph , Oklahoma St. FBS Sr. 41 1,415-894-26 13,267 90 323.6
3 Devlin Hodges , Samford FCS Jr. 33 1,346-922-25 10,301 79 312.2
4 Josh Rosen , UCLA FBS Jr. 30 1,169-711-26 9,302 59 310.1
5 Riley Ferguson , Memphis FBS Sr. 25 884-558-19 7,669 68 306.8
6 Gage Gubrud, Eastern Wash. FCS Jr. 28 1,005-654-27 8,568 74 306.0
7 Chase Burton , Franklin D-III Sr. 38 1,255-842-20 11,579 121 304.7
8 Baker Mayfield , Oklahoma FBS Sr. 47 1,462-1,003-29 14,320 129 304.7
9 Luis Perez, A&M-Commerce D-II Sr. 26 921-618-15 7,714 74 296.7
10 Ryan Sample , Benedictine (IL) D-III Sr. 30 1,133-647-34 8,806 82 293.5

KICKIN’ IT WITH KRISTOV
• Kicker Kristov Martinez was named the Lone Star Conference’s first team All-Conference kicker. He was also named second-team All-Super Region Four by the D2CCA.
• He hit his 50th career field goal at Minnesota State to become the school leader in that category. The 50th field goal was a career-long 48-yarder.
• He hit field goals of 38 yards in each of the two overtime periods of the 34-31 win at Central Washington
• He became the all-time leading scorer with an LSC Player of the Week effort in the regular season finale at Tarleton.
• He scored 15 points in that game and scored 10 points or more in seven games this season. The four field goals at Tarleton tied a school single-game record.
• He has scored 117 points this season. The late Saul Martinez scored 134 points in 2014 to set the school single-season record.
•Martinez was also an LSC All-Academic selection for the second consecutive season. He is majoring in management.

CAREER SCORING LEADERS
1. 318 Kristov Martinez (168 PAT, 50 FG) 2015-pres. 
2. 281 Billy Watkins (134 PAT, 49 FG) 1990-93
3. 224 David Dell (104 PAT, 40 FG) 1995-98
4. 222 Aundra Thompson (37 TD) 1972-75
5. 219 Saul Martinez (126 PAT, 31 FG) 2013-14
CAREER PATs MADE LEADERS
1. 168 Kristov Martinez (168-175) 2015-pres. 
2. 134 Billy Watkins (134-143) 1990-93
3. 126 Saul Martinez (126-130) 2013-14
4. 121 Leonard Allen (121-134) 1973-76
5. 105 Kevin Garman (105-113) 1981-84
CAREER FIELD GOALS MADE LEADERS
1. 50 Kristov Martinez (50-67) 2015-pres. 
2. 49 Billy Watkins (49-84) 1990-93
3. 40 David Dell (40-61) 1995-98
4. 31 Saul Martinez (31-38) 2013-14
5. 29 Ha’a Bento (29-44) 2004-05
29 Leonard Allen (29-52) 1973-76

FIREWORKS AFTER A SCORE
• The Lions have excelled on kickoffs, both when kicking the ball away, and when receiving.
• The Lions rank 1st nationally in kickoff return defense, allowing 11.63 yards per return. That average dropped after the Minnesota State game.
• A&M-Commerce is 6th in the nation in kickoff return average at 26.84 yards per return.

WILSON TAKES IT TO THE HOUSE
• Buck Wilson was named the first team all-LSC kick return man. He returned a first-quarter kickoff for a 100-yard touchdown against West Texas A&M, earning LSC Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
• Wilson is the fourth Lion on record with a 100-yard touchdown. He is the 25th player in LSC history with a 100-yard kickoff return. He is the seventh player in Division II this season with a 100-yard kickoff return.

Bob Sloan vs. Midwestern State, 1950
Marvin Brown vs. Midwestern State, 1951
Gary Berry vs. Sam Houston State, 1958
Buck Wilson at West Texas A&M, 2017

• Wilson averages 31.7 yards per kickoff return on 11 returns.
• If he met the return quantity qualification, Wilson would rank fourth in the nation in kick return yardage.
• Wilson also returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown on his first career punt return at Minnesota State.

MACHORRO NAMED ALL-AMERICAN, O-LINEMAN OF THE YEAR
• Tackle Jared Machorro was named a first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches’ Association on Wednesday. It is his second consecutive season as an AFCA All-American after earning second-team honors in 2016.
• It is his fifth career All-America honor.
• He was also named D2CCA First Team All-Region and the Lone Star Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year.
• The senior was named first team all-LSC after leading the offensive line to a dominant season that saw the Lions qualify for the NCAA Division II playoffs for the third consecutive season.
• It is the second consecutive season he has earned first team all-LSC honors.
• Instituted in 1985, Machorro is the sixth Lion to win ‘Offensive Lineman of the Year’ honors, and the first A&M-Commerce player to do in a single-division LSC.
• He also ranks 11th in the LSC in average punt yardage at 35.5 yards per punt.
• That’s just awesome.
• Actual punter Tristan Perry ranks fourth in the conference with a 39.6-yard punting average. He was named all-LSC honorable mention.

HOBBS EARNS TOP HONORS
• Tight end (or A in the Lions’ system), Vincent Hobbs has had key touchdown receptions in each of the Lions’ playoff victories this season.
• He was named first team all-Lone Star Conference when the league honors were released.
• He is the first Lion tight end to be named first team all-conference since Corey Goodall in 2006.
• The shortlist of Lion tight ends named the first team all-conference include Gary Compton (1988 & 1990), Javier Cardenas (1983 & 1984), Dudley Slice (1972), and Tom Black (1967).

VERSATILE STERLING-LOWE
• Cornerback Yusef Sterling-Lowe was named a second-team All-American by the AFCA after earning first team all-Lone Star Conference honors for a highly successful season in both run and pass defense.
• He was named the LSC Defensive Player of the Week with two interceptions at A&M-Kingsville.
• He had 27 regular season tackles as a cornerback with a season-best eight stops against Eastern New Mexico.
•At Winona, he had a key pass breakup.
• At CWU, he had four tackles with a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.

FIRE AND ICE
• Today’s game features two offenses on the opposite spectrum of styles of play, while both are exceptional in their right.
• The Lions own the nation’s top passing offense, throwing the ball to the account of 355.2 yards per game.
• The Bisons have the nation’s No. 2 rushing offense, carrying the ball for 347.7 yards per game. The only team ahead of Harding in rushing offense is A&M-Commerce’s LSC rival Eastern New Mexico, who leads the nation at 352.7 yards per game on the ground.

ALL-LEAGUE HONORS FOR TOP STOPPER
• Middle linebacker Brucks Saathoff earned first team all-Lone Star Conference honors after he led the Lions in the regular season with 59 stops including three tackles for loss and two sacks. He forced a fumble, had a pass breakup, and five quarterback hurries.
• He had a season-high 12 tackles in the win at West Texas A&M, winning LSC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
• After earning all-Conference honors, Saathoff was the defensive leader for the Lions at Winona State with a critical goalline interception, as well as eight tackles and a tackle for loss.
• He had 11 tackles with a sack to lead the Lion defense at Central Washington.

LIONS ALL-TIME IN THE POSTSEASON

Jan 1, 1953