Second Half Explosion Propels No. 4 Buffs to 62-28 Victory in Home-Opener

No. 4 West Texas A&M blew open a 24-14 halftime lead for a 62-28 victory in the 2013 home-opener Saturday evening against Texas A&M-Commerce at Kimbrough Memorial Stadium. With the win, the Buffs improved to 3-0 on the year and 1-0 in the Lone Star Conference, while TAMUC fell to 2-1 and 0-1 in league play.

In front of the largest home-opening crowd since 2009 at 11,126, WT had its highest offensive output with 62 points which was the most since WT scored 75 points in a 75-13 win over Azusa Pacific on Sept. 13, 2008. WT senior quarterback Dustin Vaughan threw for a career-high 508 yards passing and four touchdowns, while running for a score.

Vaughan moved into second all-time in passing as he is just 342 yards away from catching Taylor Harris who leads the school record with 9,799 passing yards. Vaughan surpassed Keith Null (9,385) and has 9,457 yards.

â??Yeah, itâ??s awesome to get an accolade like that and be up there with those guys you look up to,â?? Vaughan said. â??We are going to focus on this year and the season ahead. All of the credit goes to our teammates and I would be worthless if they werenâ??t doing their jobs.â??

WT tallied 590 yards of offense with 82 yards rushing and the 508 from Vaughan. He was 36 of 62 with no interceptions. Junior wide receiver Anthony Johnson had a WT career-high 181 yards with a score, while senior Torrence Allen had 103 yards receiving. Senior Nathan Slaughter 52 yards receiving and a score, but really shined in the return game as he had two kick returns for 133 yards.

On the ground, WT was led by sophomore Geremy Alridge with four carries for 44 yards and a score, while senior reigning Lone Star Conference Co-Offensive Player of the Week Aaron Harris had 11 carries for 30 yards and a score. Vaughan had three carries for eight yards and a score.

TAMUC was led by quarterback Tyrik Rollison went 15 of 29 with an interception for 257 yards and three scores. Receiver Vernon Johnson had three catches for 137 yards and two scores. WT held TAMUC to just 65 yards rushing.

The first quarter was fast and furious as the teams combined for 35 points. TAMUC got off to the quick start as Rollison hooked up with V. Johnson on the first play from scrimmage for a 75-yard touchdown down the far side and a 7-0 lead 10 seconds into the contest.

WT didnâ??t sweat as it came right back with a nice 10 play, 75-yard drive using 4:14 as penalties on the Lions continued the drive for WT on a fourth down punt with an offside penalty and a personal foul on third down set the Buffs up in TAMUC territory. A nice pass from Vaughan to Allen for 15-yards gave the Buffs a first and 10 from the 20.

Harris continued where he left off last week as he scampered in from 13 yards out for a 7-7 score.

A&M-Commerce took the lead back on its next possession as Rollison hooked up with Seth Smith for 20 yards and V. Johnson once again for 51 yards putting the Lions in the red zone. Rollison then threw his second touchdown pass of the half as he connected with K-J Carter for a 15-yard strike.

WT again responded in kind as it consumed 3:12 off the first quarter clock going 75 yards highlighted by a nice pass from Vaughan to senior wide receiver Nathan Slaughter for 20 yards, followed by three consecutive passes to senior Torrence Allen for a combined 34 yards and a 19-yard pass to Slaughter for the tying score.

The Lions were forced to punt on their next possession as WT took over with 3:34 remaining in the quarter.

Harris took a Vaughan pass 15-yards on the drive and junior wide receiver Anthony Johnson had four receptions on the drive for 51 yards, including a 17-yard strike to the TAMUC 1-yard line. Vaughan scored on the keeper for a 21-14 lead.

The Buffs blocked the first of two kicks in the quarter. This one was on a punt as senior wide receiver Sidney Parker got his hand on the Cameron Frosch punt setting the Buffs up at the TAMUC 26. WT kicker Sergio Castillo kicked his seventh field goal of the season for a 24-14 lead.

â??It was a good night on special teams, I thought we did a great job as the kids have bought into that and they have had a great last few days of practice,â?? interim head coach Mike Nesbitt said. â??We had some packages for these guys. I thought our secondary guys did a great job in the dime coverage.

A&M-Commerce had chance to cut into the deficit as Saul Martinez tried a 36-yard field goal later in the quarter and sophomore defensive lineman Alex Tucci blocked it to preserve the 24-14 advantage.

For the half, Vaughan had 257 yards passing as he was 23 of 36 with one touchdown and one rushing score. Allen had seven catches for 88 yards, while Johnson had six catches for 63. WT had 272 yards of total offense.

Vaughan hooked up with A. Johnson for a 53-yard strike early in the third quarter for a 31-14 lead. The Buffs had a chance later in the quarter to go up more, but a fumble in the red zone ended the threat.

TAMUC pulled within 31-21 at the end of the third quarter on a V. Johnson 11-yard touchdown pass from Rollison, but Slaughter had the answer on the ensuing kickoff going coast-to-coast for a 100-yard kickoff return for a 38-21 advantage. It was the fifth 100-yard kickoff return in school history and first since Anthony Armstrong vs. Eastern New Mexico on Nov. 8, 2003.

â??Yeah, the funny thing is my mom called me the other day and said I would return one today and I ran it and saw I was open and there was no turning back,â?? Slaughter said.

Slaughter had a 69-yard kickoff return to start the second half last week in the Buffsâ?? thrilling 34-31 comeback win over then-No. 18 Chadron State in AT&T Stadium.

Rollison fumbled early in the fourth quarter setting the Buffs up with good field position at the A&M-Commerce 41. Castillo kicked a 42-yard field goal for a 41-21 lead with 13:32 left. After a TAMUC punt, WT swelled the lead to 48-21 as Vaughan threw a 15-yard strike to sophomore Jarrian Rhone for a score.

Reigning Co-LSC Special Teams Player of the Week, Ronald Fields, took the kickoff back 85 yards to the WT 12 and quarterback Harrison Stewart threw a touchdown pass to Jordon Jenkins from 3-yards out for a 48-28 score with 10:30 left.

Another touchdown pass to Harris and a touchdown run to Alridge followed for the Buffs for the 62-28 margin.

Defensively, the Buffs were led by senior defensive back Curtis Slater who had a career-night with 12 total tackles and six solo stops, two sacks for 15 yards, 3.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and fumble recovery. Reigning Co-LSC Defensive Player of the Week T aylor McCuller had seven total tackles with a half a sack and two tackles for loss. Senior defensive back Shane Pennix had two sacks and redshirt freshman LaPear Willrich had 1.5 sacks for 13 yards and 2.5 tackles for loss for 14 yards, along with five total tackles.

TAMUC came into the nation leading the nation in sacks and tackles for loss, but it was the Buffs who put up the sacks and the tackles for loss as WT had seven sacks in the game for 44 yards and 12 tackles for loss for 58 yards. TAMUC had just one sack for two yards and two tackles for loss for seven yards.

â??I get to blitz a lot in the package we have and I was able to make a lot of plays,â?? Slater said. â??I know we will be able to pick it up as we have a couple of kinks to clean up and when we do that, we will be on our way.â??

The Buffs return to action next Saturday evening at Texas A&M-Kingsville at 7 p.m. Fans can watch the game on KAMR-TV with Andy Justus and Michael Spencer having the call, while the radio broadcast will be on KGNC 710 AM with Neil Horn and Brice Sheets having the call.

â??It was really neat to get this win and it was how I remembered as East Central was the last game I coached in Kimbrough,â?? Nesbitt said. â??We were really excited with the fans tonight and them coming out tonight and supporting this team. We canâ??t thank them enough.â??