For the 11th year in a row, the West Texas A&M football team ended its season with a winning record following a thrilling 51-45 victory over Texas A&M-Kingsville in the final game of the Lone Star Conference Football playoff Saturday afternoon at Kimbrough Memorial Stadium.
“It was an exciting game,” WT head coach Mike Nesbitt said. “It was great to see the seniors walk out of Kimbrough with a win. There was a stretch there during the season where some guys could have turn tail and run and they never did. They kept buying into what we were doing. There was some stretches tonight where did didn’t play as good as we could have, but the most important thing was the sixth win and four in a row to build on for spring practice.”
In a game that saw just about everything, the Buffs (6-4) and Javelinas (2-9) combined for 96 points, 547 combined rushing yards and 1,064 total yards. TAMUK’s Greg Pitre led the way with 226 yards on the ground on 27 carries, while WT senior Geremy Alridge-Mitchell had 32 carries for 213 yards and three scores. Pitre also had four catches for 52 yards and two receiving touchdowns. Alridge-Mitchell had a team-high six catches for 53 yards. WT ended its season with four-straight wins.
With the 213 yards, Alridge-Mitchell finishes his career playing in 50 games with 22 starts, while carrying the ball 644 carries for 3,381 yards rushing finishing fifth all-time in rushing just seven yards behind Eugene “Mercury” Morris (1966-68) for fourth and 47 rushing touchdowns. He finished with 77 receptions for 549 yards and three receiving touchdowns. His 308 points ranks him third all-time, while he finished with 51 total touchdowns ranking second all-time behind DeWayne Miles’ 55 (1997-00).
Alridge-Mitchell finished the season with 1,296 yards on 260 carries with 16 rushing touchdowns. His 1,296 yards ranks sixth all-time in school-history for a season behind his 1,342 yards from 2014. He finished the season with 1,772 all-purpose yards and 4,878 all-purpose yards for his career.
Anthony Autry caught a game-high seven balls for 145 yards for the Javelinas and quarterback Myles Carr threw for 272 yards and four touchdowns on 19 of 30 passing. Senior Xavier Amey had a team-high 79 yards and a score for the Buffs as quarterback Ethan Brinkley went 22 of 31 for 245 yards and a score.
WT senior Jarrian Rhone took the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 Buff lead with 14:45 left in the first quarter. It was the first kickoff return for a touchdown since Alridge-Mitchell returned a kick 93 yards against Shorter (Ga.) last season at the Lone Star Conference Football Festival (Sept. 18, 2014).
Pitre rumbled 58 yards up the middle on first play from scrimmage for the Javelinas down to the WT seven. Carr found Pitre at the two for a 3rd and goal and was stuffed by the Buffs forcing a fourth down, but Carr found Joe Te’o for a touchdown tying the game at seven.
Following a Buff punt, Shawn Vasquez ran up the middle for 55 yards, but was caught from behind by redshirt freshman Lee Anthony Dawson who made up a ton of ground and stripped Vasquez at the goal line forcing a touchback for the Buffs.
WT turned the miscue into a great drive helped out by a few TAMUK penalties and Alridge-Mitchell on the ground as the Buffs marched to the TAMUK one. Alridge-Mitchell scored from one yard out for his 14th rushing touchdown of the season. He moved into third all-time in scoring with 296 points surpassing Keithon Flemming (2009-2009). It was Alridge-Mitchell’s 45 career rushing touchdowns.
TAMUK’s Nick Pelrean returned the kick 65 yards to the WT 35 following the first kick by the Buffs going out of play for a five yard penalty. Pitre rumbled to the outside for 31 yards to the WT four. Te’o then scored from one yard out, but was flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty for taking off his helmet which was assessed on the kickoff.
WT senior Word Hudson made a great catch for a 39-yard reception on a 3rd and 6 for the Buffs at their own 26. Brinkley then found Amey for a 12-yard reception to the TAMUK 23. Junior Devon Paye continued his strong play with a 23-yard touchdown run for a 21-14 WT lead with 30 seconds left in the first quarter.
On the first play from scrimmage for the Javelinas in the second quarter, Vasquez fumbled for the second time in the game as sophomore Daelin Young stripped him as redshirt freshman Lee Anthony Dawson recovered. From there, it was the Alridge-Mitchell and Paye show as Alridge-Mitchell scored from two yards out on the ground for a 28-14 lead with 12:20 left in the first half.
The Buffs tried an onside kick, but were offside and then kicked to the TAMUK one following the penalty and Pelrean retuned the kick 59 yards to the WT 41. On a 3rdand five from the WT 26, Carr found Anthony Autry at the WT one for a first and goal. Carr found Torrey Thomas for a touchdown and a 28-21 WT lead with 8:54 left in the first half.
Following a fumble by the Buffs, TAMUK took over at the WT 28. The Buff “D” forced a third and long, but the Javelinas found Pitre for 21 yards and first and goal from the seven. Pitre scored on a 6-yard pass from Carr for a 28-28 score with 6:48 left in the first half.
The Buffs came right back with a methodical drive down field and used a double reverse for a score as it was his first rushing touchdown of his career for a 35-28 lead with 4:19 left in the first half.
Pitre scampered 33 yards to the TAMUK 39 with less than a minute left. Carr connected with Autry for 23 yards to the WT 38. Carr found Pitre for another touchdown with 49 seconds left in the half and a 35-35 score. It was Pitre’s second receiving touchdown of the game and the fourth thrown by Carr in the half.
Rhone caught a 20 yard pass getting into TAMUK territory. Alridge-Mitchell caught a pass out of the backfield for five yards to the TAMUK 43. WT attempted a 35-yard field which was missed, but TAMUK ran into WT junior kicker Conner Hollabaugh giving the Buffs a first down and a retry on the kick. Hollabaugh made the 30-yarder this time for a 38-35 lead with five seconds left in the half.
TAMUK kneeled on the ball following the field goal as the half expired. The game saw a combined 662 yards of offense in the first half as WT had 318 yards on 46 plays, while TAMUK had 346 yards on 35 plays. WT rushed the ball 25 times for 152 and TAMUK had 18 rushes for 193. Brinkley was 16 of 21 for 166 yards, while Carr was 12 of 17 for 153 yards and four scores.
The four touchdown passes was the most by an opponent since Jose Mohler had four against Central Washington on Oct. 29, 2011. Pitre had 129 yards on 11 carries and 52 yards receiving on four catches with two scores. Alridge-Mitchell had 107 yards on the ground and two scores as he moved into the top 10 in a single season in rushing yards with 1,190 ranking ninth through the first half. He needs eight yards for eighth and 12 for seventh in the second half.
TAMUK moved down the field, but were stopped with a big sack from senior Iosia Iosia and junior LaPear Willrich forcing the Javelinas into a 35-yard field goal attempt. Kicker Julio De La Garza missed the kick wide right.
The Buffs also missed a field goal on their possession as the scoring slowed considerably through the first half of the third quarter. Dawson broke up a pass in the end zone intended for Autry on a 3rd and 4 from the WT 29. TAMUK went for it heading into the wind as Carr found Chris Cooper over the middle for the first down.
The Javelinas punched it in on a 3rd and goal from the four as Carr scrambled for the score for the first TAMUK lead of the game for a 42-38 lead with 2:13 left in the third quarter.
Following a short kick into the wind, WT took over at the TAMUK 49. Brinkley hooked up with Amey for a 30-yard touchdown pass with one minute left in the quarter as the Buffs regained the lead at 45-42.
TAMUK had a 4th and 1 from the TAMUK 45 as the Javelinas tried to draw the Buffs offside with 11:27 left. Carr converted the fourth down. A long pass to Autry put TAMUK at the 13 with a first and 10. TAMUK kicked a 22-yard field goal tying the game at 45.
WT used a nine play, 75-yard drive consuming 4:16 off the clock as Alridge-Mitchell scored from three yards out for his third rushing touchdown of the game. Hollabaugh missed the extra-point for his first missed PAT of the season for a 51-45 lead with 4:34 left. Alridge-Mitchell surpassed 200 yards for the second time this season as he had 29 carries for 201 yards to that point.
TAMUK wouldn’t go away quietly as Carr found Autry for a 13-yard reception to the TAMUK 47 and a fresh set of downs. The Javelinas had a 3rd and 6 from the WT 49 with just over three minutes left. Carr was sacked by Iosia for a six yard loss to the TAMUK 45 for a 4th and 12. Carr threw an illegal forward pass which was intercepted by junior Devontae Merriweather. WT took the loss of down instead of the INT for the ball at the TAMUK 40 with just over two minutes left.
On a 3rd and seven for the Buffs from the 38, WT called a timeout with 1:17 left. Alridge-Mitchell rushed for a first down at the TAMUK 28 sealing the win.