Southpaw Combines With Winds for SNU Win
Lions Lose 3rd Quarter Lead, Game to SNU, 35-21
BETHANY, Oklahoma -- The 1943 Broadway musical, "Oklahoma," was a smash hit. The chorus line is a classic: "Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain!" You'll have to forgive the Southwestern Assemblies of God University football team for not wanting to sing along.
Led by a record-setting quarterback and advantageous third quarter winds, Southern Nazarene University (4-2) rallied for a come-from-behind, 35-21, win over Southwestern (1-3) on Saturday.
Southwestern led 13-7 in the third quarter when momentum suddenly changed colors. With 12-to-20 mph winds at their backs, the Crimson Storm scored three quick touchdowns to take control of the game.
"We did not convert on third down, had a few costly penalties which put us in a hole," SAGU head coach Jesse Godding said of the factors that led to the game's turning point. "Then they used the wind to their advantage. That was the difference."
Lefty's Law of the Land
Brady Wardlaw, the junior southpaw and the conference leader in total offense, took it from there. Once he got on track, he took over. The former All-State QB for the Okeene HS Whippets, who led them to back-to-back state championships in 2006-07, is familiar with winning and the winds of the Oklahoma plains.
While not sporting an imposing frame, Wardlaw is a playmaker. Held in check during the first half, it only took one scoring drive for SNU to take the lead, and Wardlaw was the law. He threw four touchdowns on the day, including a career-best 506 yards by completing 32 of 54 passes.
To their credit, the Lions intercepted him three times, two by All-America cornerback Nick Ekanem (Richmond, Tx / B.F. Terry HS) and sacked him four times. They forced two fumbles as well, but only turned one of the five turnovers into points. Eventually it would cost them. Containing Wardlaw for four quarters was too much to ask of a defense. Nazarene entered the game averaging 45 points per game.
After completing a 3rd and 13 pass for 19 yards, Wardlaw and the Storm had several fortuitous plays go their way. The Lions turned a pass to Josh Woods into a two-yard loss, but were flagged 15-yards for a facemask violation. After a 13-yard toss to Jarod Martin (11 catches for 215 yds) moved the ball to the SAGU 42, came the backbreaker.
The next play started with motion at the line of scrimmage. Some SAGU players thought the play was dead, but no whistle was blown. Wardlaw dropped back in the pocket to pass and lofted a deep, high spiral towards the end zone. Garrett Barnes leapt between Ekanem and Joey Vinson (Patterson, La / Patterson HS) to make the catch inside the ten yard line and strode across the goal. Ian Sanders' point after kick gave Southern Naz a 14-13 lead with 9:48 left in the quarter. They would never give it back.
"Nick and I thought it was a dead play, a false start penalty on the offense," Vinson said. "And we were caught flat-footed. We recovered, but it was too late. The guy (Barnes) caught it between us at the four." Turns out there was a penalty flag on the play; offsides against SAGU.
The Lions drove to the Storm's 40 yard line, their second straight drive that crossed midfield after getting to the SNU 28 earlier in the period. Failure to finish the drives would haunt the Lions. After an exchange of punts, SAGU started misfiring. A false start penalty and a sack forced QB and punter Jeremy Fowler (Caddo Mills, Tx / Caddo Mills HS) to kick into gusting winds. His 27 yard boot gave the Storm possession at the Lions 46.
Faced with a fourth and one at the SAGU 37, Wardlaw went deep. He connected with an open Chisum Johnson, who was brought down by Ekanem after a 35 yard gain. They scored two plays later (both with the Lions called for offsides) on a one yard plunge by Derick Perkins. It was 21-13 with 2:41 remaining in the third.
The kickoff return dug the hole deeper, as Kolby Burns (Dallas, Tx / Christway Academy) was stopped on the Lions' 8. After Fowler was sacked for a loss of seven, the sophomore drilled a 26-yard strike to Anthony Morris, Jr. (Houston, Tx / Alief Hastings HS) to get out of the shadow of his own goal post. Ixnay on the play due to a holding penalty cited on the offense. Fowler wound up punting into the teeth of the prevailing winds. They prevailed, limiting his kick to 23 yards.
On the next play, Wardlaw was on cue, going for the jugular. He teamed up with his favorite target on Saturday, Martin, who had reservations for six. The TD drive lasted one play and six seconds, extending the Crimson advantage to 28-13 with just over a minute to go in the third. The touchdowns occurred in less than nine minutes. No wonder they have lightning bolts on their helmets.
Coach-Speak: Game's Pivotal Moments
Godding said the 21 third quarter points were the clear turning point. "We made to many mental and physical errors," he commented. "We righted the ship in the 4th quarter but was too little, too late."
The Lions had an open date last weekend after beating Trinity, 38-24, the week before."We played better as a team in the loss than we did in the win versus Trinity. We got better over the bye week and competed with a team that has been ranked in the top 25."
The fourth quarter came, bringing the wind as an ally, evidenced by Fowler's next punt, a boomer that sailed 49 yards. Ekanem picked off a Wardlaw pass, giving the Lions the ball at their own 31. Two plays later Morris coughed up the ball after a short pass reception. It set up a gift-wrapped score. After Jared Hudgins (Midland, Tx / Midland Christian) sacked Wardlaw, the QB connected on successive tosses to Martin, the latter going for 28 yards and a score. It was 35-13 with 11:10 showing on the game clock.
Fowler, who was starting in place of the injured Jason Rice (Katy, Tx / Texas State Univ / Katy Faith West) then engineered a 13 play, 68 yard scoring march. He threw to five different receivers, capping the drive with a 5-yard pitch in the back of the end zone to Morris. He then zipped a 2-point conversion pass to Nathaniel Pruitt (Ft. Worth, Tx / Western Hills HS) for SAGU's final points with 6:11 left.
A sack by Steve Borden (Waxahachie, Tx / Waxahachie HS) led SNU to punt, setting up another long drive by SAGU. The Purple Pride went 72 yards in eleven plays, but the drive stalled at the Storm 5-yard line. Three plays spurred the trip towards pay dirt; a 39 yard gain by Eddie Bailey, Jr. (Milwaukee, Wisc / John Jay HS) on a flair pass out of the backfield, a 13-yd hook-up with Darion Waits (Waxahachie, Tx / Ennis HS) and 14 yards to tight end Dylan Moore (Denton, Tx / Denton Guyer HS), who was forced out of bounds at the five.
First Half Recap
SAGU opened the scoring when Bailey powered in from two yards out, wrapping up a 12-play, 75-yard assault of the SNU defense, early in the second quarter.
After stopping Wardlaw on his first five possessions, he promptly answered with a 62-yard move to the end zone. It took only three plays. Martin was the catalyst, breaking free on a catch and run for 42 yards to start a drive that lasted only 46 seconds. Two plays later Wardlaw found Terrance Smith for a 19-yard score and a 7-6 lead for the hosts.
Both teams began to move the ball as offenses adjusted to the defensive schemes of the opposition.
Two consecutive times the Storm rolled into SAGU territory only to be stopped by the defense. Ekanem (pronounced ee-KON-um) swiped his first of two interceptions to thwart one scoring bid. Then after a pass to Woods crossed midfield, playmaking LB Jacob Kirksey (Fort Smith, Ark / Southside HS) stripped the ball and Ekanem recovered at the Lions' 49.
With little time to work with, Fowler led his team on a scoring jaunt. After two short passes to Moore left just 34 seconds, he threaded a needle to Pruitt, picking up 28 yards to the Crimson one. Bailey was stacked up for no gain, forcing Godding to send out the usually reliable placekicker, James Gish (Waxahachie, Tx / Waxahachie HS) as the scoreboard showed just five ticks remained. Gish, who had already missed an extra point, was wide right from 18 yards.
Southwestern and Gish got a reprieve when a yellow marker was tossed due to an SNU offsides violation. With another play, Godding passed on the obligatory chip shot and sent the offense out to run an all or nothing play.
The linemen paid him for his trust, and Bailey burst into pointland as the horn sounded. Gish kicked the PAT and the Lions had the lead at 13-7. The road team were seen outfitting "Old Mo" (a.k.a. Momentum) with a white and gold jersey. But, as they would discover in the third stanza, he can be as fickle as the blowing winds.
Coach Godding: In Summary
"Fowler had a good day, overall," Godding reviewed. "There were a couple of mental errors but he played well overall." In regards to the Lions defense, which was ranked #2 in the conference coming into the game, he said: "Despite the passing yardage we continue to play defense at a better level each week. Our run defense is solid and that will help tremendously in the coming weeks."
He also added that Rice, who started the first three games, will be reevaluated this Wednesday. As for Fowler or Rice, that could be a game-time decision.
Southern Nazarene racked up 527 yards on 75 plays from scrimmage. Southwestern was just as impressive with 446 yards on a whopping 96 offensive plays. Both units moved the chains 25 times after first downs. SAGU had a solid edge, 36:29 to 21:56 in time of possession. Penalties hindered both teams as officials flagged each 11 times; SNU for 71 yards, with SAGU assessed 81 yards in mark offs.
As Coach Godding alluded to earlier, drive-stopping third down plays were the Achilles heel of the Lions. They converted just 6-of-20 third down plays into first downs, compared to SNU's 5-of-13.
Defensively, the Lions limited the Storm to an average gain per rush of 1.0 yard on 21 carries.
"Our front guys did a great job," said senior Ryan McCray (Daytona Beach, Fla / Mainland HS), who registered one of the four sacks of Wardlaw. The others were Jonathan Hulett (Corrigan, Tx / Corrigan HS), Darrell Barge (Springfield, Mo / Parkview HS) and Darrius Wilburn (Mesquite, Tx / Howard Payne Univ / Mesquite HS).
Their inability to move the ball at all on the ground forced the Storm to alter their attack after intermission. According to the free safety, Vinson, SAGU's tight zone defense in the first half was countered in the third quarter with "...quicker passes underneath, setting up their deep stuff," he said. Vinson broke up two passes, one of which was a sure interception he couldn't hang on to.
Defensively, Ekanem had nine tackles, seven of which were solo, two picks, broke up a pass and recovered a fumble. Hudgins was in on eight stops according to SNU statisticians. Trevor McKinley (Arlington, Tx / Juan Seguin HS) made six tackles and Alex Moore (Breckenridge, Tx / Breckenridge HS) five. McKinley had one of the Lions three picks of Wardlaw.
Bailey led all rushers with 74 yards on 15 totes. Fowler was good on 44 of 71 passes, with no interceptions. He totaled 388 yards and a TD. In just over seven quarters he has completed 60 of 95 (63%) for 580 yards, 3 TD's and one INT.
Morris caught nine balls for 65 yards and a score, while Bailey snared eight for 103. Pruitt and Moore each latched onto six receptions for 99 and 40 yards respectively. Waits contributed 5 for 40, while Uriah Lester (Austin, Tx / Reagan HS) registered four balls for 25. Jimmy Powers (Phoenix, Az / Washington HS) and Burns were credited with two and one gaining five and 11 yds.
Oklahoma, Part II in an October Series
Next Saturday, October 9, the SAGU Lions will be in Muskogee, Oklahoma to face an improved Bacone College team. The Warriors are 1-4 overall, tied with SAGU in the Central States Football League with an 0-1 league mark. They dropped a 14-13 decision to Langston University on Saturday.
The game is slated for a 6:00pm kickoff.
Muskogee (pronounced muhs-KOH-gee) is 250 miles from Waxahachie. It is located on Highway 69, 162 miles NE of Sherman, Tx, or 122 miles NE of Oklahoma City.
Southwestern will play at Langston on October 16, before visiting Oklahoma Panhandle State University (Goodwell, Ok) on Oct. 23. It will be the fourth straight game played north of the Red River for the Lions.
Final Three Games at Home
The returns home for a finale trio of games, starting with Northwestern Oklahoma State University on October 30 at 2pm. They will wrap up the regular season with dates against Haskell on November 6 before a season finale against Texas College on Nov. 13. The final five games begin at 2 o'clock CST.
Check back later on Monday for photos uploaded from Bethany, as well as during the week for other articles and updates.