C.H.A.M.P.S. Heart Of Texas Bowl

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Angelo State Claims Third Place

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Three weeks after an abysmal performance on the road against Eastern New Mexico, the Angelo State University football team closed out the 2015 campaign with a 63-20 blowout over the Greyhounds on Saturday in the Lone Star Conference Championship third-place game.

In the final game at Greyhound Stadium in Blackwater Draw, New Mexico, Rams senior quarterback Kyle Washington threw for 406 yards and four touchdowns, rushed for 51 yards and two TDs, and even caught a TD as ASU avenged last month’s setback in a big way.

ASU set a new school record with nine TDs and scored the second-most points in the past 51 years.

The Rams (7-4) amassed 630 yards of total offense while holding the Greyhounds to 394.

It was a much different story than the first time the teams played this season, when Eastern ran roughshod over the ASU defense with 585 yards on the ground.

“We played inspired football,” ASU head coach Will Wagner said. “Our kids came out and we wanted to make sure that we sent our seniors out on a winning note, and we did that. It was fun to be a part of.

“They were great tacklers this time around, and our offense was making plays all over the field. Our kids played at a high level and I was proud of our leadership.”

The Rams didn’t play like a team that would have rather been playing in the LSC Championship title game Saturday after a heartbreaking 36-35 setback against No. 12 Texas A&M-Commerce in last week’s semifinals.

“We could have come out and felt sorry for ourselves for the way it ended against Commerce, but our seniors were determined to have a good week of practice,” Wagner said. “We’re very fortunate to have those guys and everything they’ve done for the program, and I hope that the kids have learned from them.”

One of those 14 seniors, former Ozona High School standout Zane Hernandez, caught two passes for 14 yards, including the first TD of his career.

ASU managed to gain only 118 yards rushing in the first meeting, but the Rams raised that total to 205 in the rematch.

Washington, the only QB in ASU history to throw for more than 3,000 yards in a season, has done that in back-to-back years. He finished his career as ASU’s record holder in just about every major category.

Eddie Smith III was the Rams’ leading rusher Saturday with 73 yards and one TD on just six attempts. Ryan Byrd had 10 carries for 57 yards and a score.

Anthony Pierson caught four passes for a game-high 148 yards and one TD for the Rams. Talon Smith snagged six passes for 98 yards and two TDs, and Donovan Thompson had four receptions for 75 yards.

Thompson, just a sophomore, broke former Rams receiver Chris Brazzel’s school mark for yards in a season. The previous record was 1,091. Thompson finished with 1,136.

The Houston Westfield graduate needed 10 receptions Saturday to break V’Keon Lacey’s school record of 74 in a season, but Thompson had to settle for being No. 2 on the list with 69.

Kamal Cass was the Greyhounds’ rushing leader with 17 carries for 68 yards and one TD. Vaughn Johnson had nine attempts for 67 and Celento Hairston and Ryan Greene chipped in 44 and 41, respectively.

Eastern quarterback Jeremy Buurma was 9 of 16 passing for 116 yards and one TD with one interception.

The Rams led 21-7 after the first quarter and increased their advantage to 49-7 at halftime.

ASU enjoyed a 63-7 cushion heading into the fourth quarter before Eastern added a couple of cosmetic scores down the stretch.

The Rams now lead the all-time series with the Greyhounds 24-16-1, and they finished with an 8-9-1 mark at Greyhound Stadium, which will be replaced by a new facility in 2016.

Heading into Saturday’s game, the Rams had the top-ranked offense among NCAA Division II schools with 553.4 yards per game.

ASU came within 54 yards of matching the highest total offensive output of the year. The Rams had 684 yards against Tarleton State two weeks ago.

“We were excelling in all phases,” Wagner said. “Our kids were having fun on the sidelines, and that’s what it should be about. We’re playing this game for the fun of it, and we’re not playing in front of 100,000 people.

“We’re out there in front of a very small crowd, and we’re playing because we love it. Our kids showed that today with their effort and their passion.”

ASU finished with back-to-back winning records for the first time since 2000-01. Last year the Rams finished 9-3 and won their first NCAA D-II playoff game since 1997.

Wagner says this year’s 7-4 record will pay dividends during recruiting in the spring more than a 6-5 mark would have done.

“We’re excited,” Wagner said. “Now we’ve got to get back to work and recruit and get some players in here to keep building this thing.”

The Rams were the preseason pick to win the LSC title. Things didn’t work out that way, but they still had a memorable season.

“It’s obviously not where we were expected to be back in August, but I was proud of how our kids performed through the season and overcame some adversity that was put in front of us,” Wagner said.

In Saturday’s LSC Championship title game, Midwestern State upset Commerce 37-33.

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