Tarleton State looks to stay undefeated Saturday, when the Lions of Texas A&M-Commerce visit Tarleton Memorial Stadium in Stephenville for Lone Star Conference crossover action. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
It will be the 17th meeting between the two schools. TAMC won last year's battle 14-13, with Tarleton missing an extra point that would have sent the game to overtime. Commerce leads the series, 9-7. Before the loss in 2006 the Texans had defeated the Lions seven straight times between 1997 and 2005. TAMC dominated the first eight games in the series, winning each by an average margin of 32.9 points. Six of the last seven meetings have been decided by 10 points or less.
The Lions finished the 2006 season with a 5-5 mark, going 2-3 in the North Division of the LSC. Their efforts to rebound this season have been unsuccessful thus far, thanks mostly to a brutal early season schedule.
Commerce was tied with Pitt State in the fourth quarter in the 2007 season opener. PSU, ranked No. 7 in this week's American Football Coaches Association poll, scored two late touchdowns to knock off TAMC, 28-14. Commerce has also lost to Ouchita Baptist, which just missed breaking into this week's top 25, and to No. 12 West Texas A&M. The Lions' only win during their 1-3 start was over Texas A&M-Kingsville, 24-7.
On the flip side, Tarleton has rolled to a 3-0 start. The Texans have dominated a pair of LSC foes (only one of these wins count in the conference standings), and slipped past Division I-FCS Stephen F. Austin in overtime. Tarleton was idle last week. With a win Saturday, the Texans would join the 2002 and 2005 Tarleton teams as the only groups since 1990 to begin a season with a 4-0 mark. No team since 1990 has started off 5-0.
Commerce brings an offense to Stephenville that has struggled tremendously in the running game. The Lions are averaging only 65.5 yards per game on the ground, netting a total of only 262 yards this season. Tarleton rushed for 280 yards in just one game against East Central in the Texans' season opener.
TAMC has managed to pass for over 200 yards per game, as quarterbacks Terry Mayo and Trent Miller have each picked up an LSC South Division Offensive Player of the Week honor. Mayo has completed 45.6 -percent of his pass attempts for 432 yards, while Miller is 51.6-percent passing for 393 yards.
Tarleton counters the Lions' attack with a defense that has surrendered 114 rushing yards and 186.7 passing yards per game this fall. The Texans have allowed opponents to score only 16 points per contest.
The Tarleton offense has been balanced so far this year, averaging 222.7 yards per game on the ground and 244 through the air for a total of 466.7 yards per contest. The Texans compiled 560 yards against Southeastern Oklahoma State on Sep. 8
TAMC has given up 123.8 rushing yards and 236.2 passing yards per battle- a total of 360 per game. The Lions were torched for 508 yards by West Texas A&M last week.
Brad Keith is the sports editor at the Empire-Tribune. He can be reached at (254) 965-3124, ext. 241, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.