The game pitted a pair of rookie head coaches coming off big wins to begin their careers. Todd Cooley's Statesmen (1-1) were impressive in their opening 24 -14 road win at Mississippi Valley State University, while A & M Commerce (2-0) routed Sul Ross State 51-6 in Colby Carthel's debut. The game marked the fifth meeting all-time between the two schools with the series tied at 2-2.
Delta State jumped on the scoreboard first after a crushing tackle for loss by senior defensive lineman Diego Lubin on third-and-three deep in Texas A & M Commerce territory forced a Lions punt. The Statesmen took over on the Lion 40 and junior quarterback Dennis Roberts hit wide receiver Patrick Bethley on a 40-yard strike over the middle giving DSU a 7-0 lead with 8:44 left in the first.
The Lions took the kickoff and answered with a eight-play, 76 yard drive that ended with Lion quarterback Tyrick Rollison completing a six-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Johnson with 6:16 remaining in the first.
On the next ion on the Statesmen 36. From there, Rollison hit wide receiver Tony White down the right side for a touchdown giving the Lions the lead at 14-7 with 4:55 still remaining in the first quarter.
With neither team able to move the ball on their next possessions, Delta State's Ricky Hunt took a Lion punt and raced 62 yards giving the Statesmen great field position at the Lion 15. The Statesmen drive stalled but closed the gap to 14-10 on a 36-yard field goal from freshman Vince Sciorrotta to end the quarter.
After forcing a Delta State punt, Commerce junior Ronald Fields received the ball and raced 73 yards for a Lion touchdown, expanding the lead to 21-10 with 8:48 remaining in the second.
On their next possession, the Statesmen were once again able to drive into the Lions' red zone with an impressive mixture of run and pass. The drive stalled, however, and Sciorrotta remained perfect on the day with a 27-yard field goal leaving the score 21-13 with 6:49 remaining before half.
The teams traded possessions, and with 1:26 remaining in the half, the Statesmen took over on their own their own 42 and drove to the Commerce 18 with three seconds remaining. Sciorrotta hit from 33 yards out and the Statesmen trailed 21-16 at the half.
The Statesmen opened with possession in the second half, but the Lions forced a fumble on the second play from scrimmage and Rusty Woods returned it for a
touchdown giving the Lions a 28-16 lead with 14:22 remaining in the third.
Delta state junior quarterback Travis Champion replaced Robertson who was injured on the first play of the next possession and promptly drove the Statesmen down the field on an 11-play, 73-yard drive culminating in a 16-yard scoring pass to sophomore wide out Casey Osborne to cut the lead to five at 28-23 with 11:21 in the third.
From that point, the third quarter remained a defensive struggle until Delta State took possession on its own 43 and began a scoring drive that saw Champion go seven-for-seven, completing passes to Osborne, junior Ricky Hunt, and junior Jerome Stewart before Bellaire scored on a five yard run and the Statesmen took the lead to the fourth quarter 30–28.
The fourth quarter saw the Lions take control as they opened with a half back pass from Stacy Howard to wide receiver Deric Davis that caught the Statesmen off guard and resulted in a quick 45-yard score allowing the Lions to regain the lead 35-30.
From that point, the Statesmen struggled. They saw a 15-play, four minute-drive drive to the Lion four yard stall and fail to yield points. On the Texas A & M Commerce next possession, Statesman Diego Lubin recovered a fumble on the Lions' 13 yard line, but again the Statesmen came away with no points, failing on a fourth-and-three from the Lions six yard line.
After forcing a Lions punt, the Statesmen took possession on their own seven. On the first play, Champion was intercepted by Leo Migo resulting in a Lions touchdown leaving, the score 42-30 with 6:08 remaining.
After taking possession on downs at the Statesmen 12 and being unable to move the ball, Lions kicker Saul Martinez hit a 20-yard field goal giving the Lions a 45-30 lead with 3:18 remaining.
That field goal proved meaningful, as the Statesmen took the next possession on the own 32 and drove quickly for a score.
The Lions were able to recover the ensuing onside kick and run out the clock, preserving a hard-fought 45-37 victory.
On the day, the Statesmen finished with 451 yards of total offense on a school-record 110 plays. The previous record was 98 plays against Southeast Missouri State on September 22, 1984. Champion finished the day 31-of-40 for 265 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
The Statesmen completed 45-of-68 passing for 418 yards and two touchdowns. Bethley finished with seven receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown, followed by Osborne with 68 yards and a touchdown on nine receptions. Hunt and York combined for 121 yards on 13 receptions.
Bellaire and Foy each scored touchdowns, rushing for 21 and 30 yards respectively. Freelon and Michael Davison combined for 44 yards on eight carries.
Defensively, the Statesmen were led by a pair of juniors, with cornerback Richard Nash recording 10 tackles and linebacker Rory Island with eight.
On special teams, Sciorrotta was 3-for-4 on field goals and a perfect 4-for-4 on point after attempts for a total of 13 points.
The Statesmen will face their third road opponent in as many games Saturday, as they travel to Florence, Ala. to face the University of North Alabama. Game time is set for 6 p.m. Pregame on the Statesmen Sports Network will begin at 5 p.m.