Lions trimmed in OT, 44-38
Comeback decides tale of two halves
Leuschner scores 3 TD's as SAGU dominates early
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Momentum, according to pro golfer Rocco Mediate, is the "most unstoppable force in sports." Saturday night it was at work in historic fashion at Lumpkins Stadium.
“Old Man Mo,” as the energy is often called, was as fickle as a weather vane. After wearing purple for over a half, he two-timed the hosts and propelled an unlikely college football comeback.
Southwestern Assemblies of God University, after augmenting a dominating performance in the first half, seemingly seized complete control against Bacone College (Ok). A 28-3 lead at intermission swelled to 38-3 in a convincing display by the Lions. A defensive touchdown pushed the advantage to 35-points with 4:55 remaining in the third quarter.
The mercurial Mo inexplicably swapped jerseys when the teams changed ends of the field (going into the fourth qtr), defecting to Bacone (pronounced BAY-kohn).
The Warriors, with a strong wind at their backs and a back-up quarterback at the helm, engineered a bizarre rally to tie the game in the closing seconds, and then won in overtime, 44-38.
The resurgence was more miraculous for Bacone than it was a misadventure for Southwestern.
Still, it was unimaginable for the eyes of those who witnessed the events of the Lions’ mastery through the game’s first forty minutes.
Trying to explain the comeback
“We were the Bad News Bears until late in the game,” admitted new Bacone coach Trevor Rubly . “But our guys just kept battling. They wouldn’t quit. It’s a tribute to our players who wouldn’t give up. Nothing we had done until then had worked, so we had nothing to lose.”
And they played like it over the final twenty minutes, scoring 41 unanswered points.
The NFL record for the largest comeback is 32 points (Buffalo rallying from a 35-3 deficit to beat Miami in OT, 41-38) and the NCAA Division mark is 31 points (Maryland trailed Univ of Miami 31-0, then won on the road, 42-40). The NAIA, according to Chad Waller, Director of Sports Information and Media Services, doesn’t track such distinctions. It was surprisingly and stung nonetheless.
In each case, including Bacone’s 44-38 upset of SAGU, a reserve QB came off the bench to lead the comeback.
The Warriors (now 2-5) turned to George Montgomery, a 5-foot-10 senior who had lost the job to Michael Cook. While he may not have taken the starting role after Saturday, he certainly could run for mayor in Muskogee, Oklahoma.
He completed 10-of-20 passes for 202 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 87 and a game-winning two-yard TD run in overtime.
Props due to SAGU for bouncing back
The Lions had shown a remarkable spirit of resolve a week after a disheartening, turnover-filled loss to #10 ranked Southern Nazarene University. There was much to like about their effort on Saturday.
Senior QB Jason Rice (Katy, Tx / Faith West HS) completed 7-of-12 first half passes for 62 yards and a TD. His dart to David Howard (Dayton, Tx / Dayton HS) gave SAGU a 21-0 lead after one quarter.
The real star for the Purple Pride, however, was freshman running back Cade Leuschner (Waco, Tx / Robinson HS). The personable Leuschner (LESH-nuhr) has overcome three consecutive, major knee surgeries, injected great life into a stagnant running game by generating 3 TD’s on runs of 13, two and a sprint up the middle for 62-yards. The third score jacked the advantage to 28-3 with 8:31 to go in the half.
It would be the final points by the offense for the night. They wouldn’t tally again over the final 38:29.
The Lions scored when James Gish (Waxahachie, Tx / Waxahachie HS) split the uprights on a 28-yard field goal early in the third quarter. Nick Ekanem (Richmond, Tx / B.F. Terry HS) returned an interception to the BC 11-yard line, setting up the offense inside the red zone. Ekanem (like economy without the 'y') enjoyed his first extended playing time since he injured his knee a year ago. He was an NAIA All-American as freshman.
One play later (after the FG) Patrick Smith (Bluffton, SC / Hilton Head Christian) forced a Cook fumble that Tank Holloman (Garland, Tx / Sachse HS) recovered on the Warriors 19. The Lions, though, made their first turnover of the night on the next play, also a fumble.
It was the third time they had the ball in the red zone without producing a point. Two more came late in the game.
Veterans, Ekanem, Vinson, make sudden impact
Then the defense scored, something they have done in five of the six outings. Senior safety Joey Vinson (Patterson, La / Patterson HS) grabbed a Montgomery fumble near the sideline and raced untouched 24 yards for the 38-3 lead with 4:55 left in the third.
Bacone began to show the resistance that would ignite their astonishing rally. On a fourth and one play from midfield, they stuffed back-up QB Reid Golson (Grandview, Tx / Howard Payne Univ) for no gain. They would’ve cashed that stop into a touchdown hadn’t officials ruled that Montgomery fumbled prior to the goal line on a run from the 10. Ekanem forced the loose ball that Richard Adewola (Richmond, Tx / B.F. Terry HS) pounced on for a touchback.
SAGU then followed with a pair of three-and-outs while Bacone produced two TD’s, one on a 13-yard toss to Stanley Johnson. The second, a 10-yard pass to Sheriff Thomas, came after Montgomery scrambled, then connected with Johnson for 50 yards on a third down play.
Golson led a 51-yard drive, mostly on a 14-yard strike to Howard and his own 33-yard scamper down the right sideline. The drive ended at the BC 29 when the Tribe stopped another fourth down play. Inspired, Bacone went the distance in two plays; the first was a 29-yard dash by Montgomery. On the ensuing play he connected on a deep, 42-yard strike over the middle to Anthony Ezell . SAGU still led, 38-24, with 9:06 remaining.
Six feet from glory
The game’s pivotal drive saw the Lions advance to the cusp of a clinching score. Golson, who led the Lions during their final six possessions, spurred them on a march to the Warriors 2-yard line.
A 43-yard kickoff return by Marcus Lester (Austin, Tx / Reagan HS) set-up the Jungle Kings on the BC 42.
Golson connected with Howard on a crossing route for 21 yards. After a running play lost nine, the elusive Golson pierced the Skullcracker* defense for 20-yards and a first and goal at the 10.
Two plays later they were six-feet from glory. The following two plays sealed the deal. A third and goal run from the two by Sean Haynes (Katy, Tx / Taylor HS) lost seven.
On fourth down Gish attempted a 26-yard field goal. Then pendulum and “Mo” clearly swung.
A high center snap was tipped up by the holder and the loose, bounding ball was snatched away by BC’s Chase Rettig, a freshman from Mesquite’s (Tx) Poteet High School. He jetted 80 yards to score and the Warriors were within 38-31 with 4:23 on the clock.
Had the kick been successful, the Lions would have led by 17, 41-24. Bacone would've needed three scores in just over four minutes. Instead, the resulting turnover created a 10-point swing on the scoreboard.
SAGU then sought to run time off the clock to protect the lead. A Leuschner power burst picked up eight before Golson gained two on a third and one at the 29. Haynes ran wide but lost seven. On second and 17, Leuschner rambled for 16 with a screen pass. Golson’s third-and-one crack at the 40 was stopped for a loss, forcing a Lions punt. It went only 20 yards.
BC then drove 57 yards in eight plays, including a fourth and five pass-play to the SAGU 18. The final four yards went on a Montgomery-to-Ezell pass with 0:21 showing on the game clock, capping a 28-point fourth quarter.
The Lions got the ball first in overtime. With the wind at their backs, they drove from the Bacone 25 to the five. They used a pass on first down to Haynes (lost a yard), then four running plays.
Another high snap caused Gish to miss a 24-yard field goal attempt.
With a chance to win, BC sandwiched two Jamario Thomas runs of six and 11 yards with a pair by Montgomery for six and two to finish off an unreal comeback.
Swapping great halves
The statistics bear out the tale of two halves. SAGU outgained Bacone in the first half, 257-117. Leuschner’s 84 was the reason they ruled the ground, 143-28.
After recess the Warriors racked up 304 yards to Southwestern’s 132. The Warriors tightened up their run defense after halftime, surrendering 59 yards on 28 carries.
Bacone won in spite of making six turnovers to the Lions’ two.
What the offense couldn’t do was capitalize on the Warriors’ miscues. That may’ve convinced Mo that he really looks sharp in purple gear.
On deck for Southwestern: Langston Lions
SAGU, 3-3 overall and 0-2 in the Central States Football League, return to action on Saturday, October 15, with a road game against Langston University (Ok) (4-2 / 1-0). The game, LU’s homecoming, has a 2:00pm start time. A crowd of over 20,000 is expected at W.E. Anderson Stadium.
Southwestern’s homecoming is the following Saturday, Oct. 22, when they play host to Oklahoma Panhandle State University (0-5) at 2:00pm.
*The logo on their helmet is called the skullcracker by Bacone College