No. 10 Midwestern claims LSC Playoff championship with 37-33 win over A&M-Commerce

It wasn't the first time No. 10-ranked Midwestern State showed the guts to rally from a late deficit Saturday night in the Lone Star Conference Playoff Championship at A&M-Commerce Memorial Stadium.

It was the second, third or fourth time either.

The opportunistic Mustangs cashed two turnovers for touchdowns to earn a hard-fought 37-33 win over No. 11 Texas A&M-Commerce.

The win most likely means MSU will be at home for its first NCAA Division II playoff game. The Mustangs learn their postseason fate when the NCAA Division II Football committee releases the playoff Sunday afternoon during a Web stream on NCAA.com at 4 p.m.

Junior linebacker Adam Hill stripped Texas A&M-Commerce running back Richard Cooper on the Lions' 45-yard line with A&M-C holding a 33-24 lead. Senior safety Marqui Christian fought through the scrum at the bottom of the pile to claim the ball and a golden opportunity for the Mustangs.

On the next play, senior receiver Arsenio Phillips hauled in a 45-yard touchdown on an fade route from Hagen Hutchinson to pull the Mustangs to within 33-31.

Just moments later, Harold Wills sniffed out a swing pass on A&M-Commerce's next play from scrimmaged for an interception and ambled in from four yards out to give the Mustangs a 37-33 lead.

With the win, the Mustangs improved to 10-1 on the season. It's the fourth time MSU has won 10 games in season previously achieving the feat in 1949, 2006 and 2011.

MSU's late heroics put a damper on Texas A&M-Commerce's pass-and-throw combination of Harrison Stewart-to-Derrick Macon as the duo fueled a 20-0 run spanning in the end of the first half and into the third quarter with connections of 20, 28 and 46 yards as the Lions built a 30-17 lead.

Harrison finished with 262 yards and four touchdowns, but his two fourth quarter interceptions spelled doom for the Lions, while Macon logged seven receptions for 134 yards and three touchdowns.

Midwestern State appeared to build momentum in the first half as freshman running back Vincent Johnson culminated an 11-play, 70-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown run with 3:52 remaining in the first quarter.

Senior Herb Whitehorse continued the Mustangs' special teams magic by blocking a punt and returning it 23 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.

MSU has now scored a special teams and/or a defensive touchdown in each of its last three games and six times this season. The Mustangs also accounted for a special teams and defensive score in a win over Angelo State earlier this season.

Sophomore quarterback Hagen Hutchinson completed 22-of-39 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown, while junior running back Dante Taylor carried the ball 20 times for 56 yards.

Just as importantly, the Mustangs did not commit a turnover after giving up six in a 27-14 loss last month to the Lions in Commerce.

A&M-Commerce closes the regular season at 8-3.