Lions win, 27-17; score 24 unanswered points
Leuschner bounces back with winning TD
Taylor returns INT 100-yds for touchdown
BROWNWOOD, Texas -- Saturday night’s college football game between Southwestern Assemblies of God University and Howard Payne University could be best described as a tapestry.
The Lions 27-17 road victory, if viewed from the opposite side, was woven loosely and was void of design and color.
The host Yellow Jackets jumped to a 10-0 lead that could have been more had they cashed in on their chances. They ran for 236 yards while averaging 6.2 per carry.
But this tapestry was made on a vertical loom. The finished product was interlaced by a defense of stretchy, unbreakable materials and brilliant hues of purple and gold.
When framed, the come-from-behind triumph witnessed the Lions standing vertical and the Jackets horizontal. Anyway it was viewed; it was beautiful to SAGU fans.
Southwestern trailed 17-3 in the second quarter then reeled off 24 unanswered points to even the team’s record at 1-1.
“Once we got to 17,” Head Coach Jesse Godding said of tying the score in the third quarter, “I felt we could do enough offensively to win. Our defense was bending, but not breaking.”
The Lions, who were sporting new road white jerseys, came sluggishly out of the gate; offensively, defensively and special teams, according to Godding. Maybe it was the 3+ hour bus trip earlier in the day.
“But we survived the first quarter,” Godding pointed out. “Howard Payne could have ended our chances for the night had they been able to convert their opportunities.”
The game turned in the third quarter. Trailing 17-10, the Howard Payne took over at the Lions 39 following a fumble by Styles Winston (Garland, Tx / Lakeview Centennial HS).
Six running plays later the Jackets were facing a third and goal at the SAGU four when the winds of fortune changed directions. Astin Murray ran a naked bootleg and lifted a high pass near the sideline.
Redshirt-freshman cornerback Shakeem Taylor (Mesquite, Tx / Poteet HS) leapt to intercept the pass. He then eluded Murray and raced down the hash marks 100 yards to glory.
“He stayed home,” said Cade Leuschner (Waco, Tx / Robinson HS) of Taylor’s positioning. “And he can jump out of the gym.”
Taylor’s pick-six silenced the fans and the Howard Payne bench while knotting the score at 17-all.
“It was tied, but all of the momentum was wearing purple,” said Leuschner.
“That was biggest play of the game. It was great to see Shakeem make the play because our team never gave up.”
After Mitchell Bailey missed a 29-yard field goal (wide left), the Lions went for the jugular.
A 27-yard Reid Golson (Grandview, Tx / Howard Payne Univ, Grandview HS) bubble-screen pass to Trevor McKinley (Arlington, Tx / Seguin HS) went to the 19 yard line.
Sean Haynes (Katy, Tx / Univ of Houston, Katy HS) darted eight yards and a pass interference penalty against the Jackets advanced the ball to the three yard line.
The next play called was identical to the Lions’ first and goal selection against Bethany College; a direct snap to Leuschner. He powered the ball through the line behind Mitchell Grimes (McKinney, Tx / McKinney North HS) for what turned out to be the game-winning score.
The 52-yard march saw SAGU seize the lead, 24-17, with 10:49 left in the game.
A week earlier Leuschner (LUSH-nuhr) was ruled to have fumbled before crossing the goal in SAGU’s 13-12 loss to the #18 ranked Swedes.
“That play stuck with me all week,” admitted the sophomore running back. “I cost our team and I knew it. I was down for three days.”
Leuschner wanted another chance and was prepared for it. “I focused on responding better in the clutch,” he said after the game. “When the call came in for the same play, I thought, ‘Let’s respond.’”
With both arms wrapped firmly around the pigskin, he looked like a pit bull on a chuck roast, as A. Whitney Brown once said.
Enforcing the lead was a defense that resembled concrete, soft and porous at the start, then turning hard and ungivinging at the end.
After Taylor’s interception, they coaxed two more turnovers in the fourth. Nick Ekanem (Richmond, Tx / B.F. Terry HS) swiped a pass at the SAGU 25 and Deonte Morrison (Garland, Tx / Lakeview Centennial HS) forced a fumble near midfield.
A 38-yard pass from Golson to Nic Morphew (Grandview, Tx / Grandview HS) set up a 41-yard field goal by James Gish (Waxahachie, Tx / Waxahachie HS) to ice the game with 1:10 remaining.
In all, the defense squeezed six turnovers from the home team, all but taking the sting out of the Jackets attack. Team Buzz’s chief antagonists were Taylor and Ekanem (EE-kahn-um) the SAGU cornerback tandem.
They both stole a pair of passes on the same night. Taylor now has four in two games, all inside the SAGU 20.
Another tandem, Rockie Davis (Santa Fe, Tx / Santa Fe HS) and Dalton Snyder (Ennis, Tx / Ennis HS), turned in a sterling effort.
Davis had all eight of his tackles in the second half. Snyder broke up a pass, and made four stops, none bigger than midway through the third quarter.
The Jax had a third and one at the Lions 10, tied at 17. Adrian Lighteard (18 carries, 132 yds, 2 TD) was hauled down for a two yard loss by Snyder. It loomed larger when Bailey missed from 29-yds out on the ensuing play.
Brad Heathcock (Frisco, Tx / Wakeland HS), the hybrid safety, went GPS on the Yellow Jackets. He was everywhere, racking up a team high 11 stops, nine unassisted, and forced a fumble.
“Getting to within 17-10 at the half was key for us,” Coach Godding said. “We seemed to wake up in the second quarter.”
Jeremy McDonald (San Antonio, Tx / Cornerstone Christian) was coffee-personified. He returned a kickoff 35 yards to get the offense percolating.
The Lions used eight plays, five of them passes, including two to McDonald (for 19 yds); grinding the beans to the HPU 10 before Gish kicked a 27-yard field goal.
What followed was a 61-yard march that was capped when Golson rolled out and connected with Dylan Moore (Denton, Tx / Denton Guyer HS) from 13-yards out just before intermission.
Moore missed last season and was activated this past week. During the 2010 season he snared 27 balls for an average of 10.3 per. He also had a pair of TD receptions.
The key plays in the drive were a 16-yard run by McKinley and a 17-yard strike to Austin Martinez (Grandview, Tx / Grandview HS) that advanced the ball to the HPU 24.
Almost forgotten was a Haynes fumble that was recovered by lineman Rogelio Adame (Keller, Tx / Keller Central HS) at the Jackets’ nine. A play later was Moore’s TD grab.
Southwestern junior QB, Golson, was like Aaron Cross in the Bourne series, an “outcome agent.” He was the Lions’ catalyst all night.
Unflappable, he completed 16-of-24 passes for 233 yards and a score. He added 17 yards while scrambling. His elusive style on the gridiron is akin to a ball of mercury on a pinball table.
“Reid made some tremendous plays with his feet to put the ball in the hands of receivers,” credited Godding. “His completion percentage was very good and even the interception he through went through the hands of the receiver.”
The coach also had praise for McDonald’s contributions and Gish’s six-for-six start to the season as a place-kicker. The junior from Waxahachie remains atop the NAIA's leader board for kicking. His career long is a 51-yarder in 2011.
McDonald, a sophomore, had seven receptions for 126 yards and is the team's leader in kickoff returns.
“Jeremy is playing well, and Gish was clutch at the end with his kick. He hit it well.”
“Defensively,” he quipped, “we continue to create turnovers (10 in two games). I’m not sure there is a defensive back playing better anywhere in the country than Shakeem Taylor.”
Godding also made mention of Davis’ performance and that of two other freshman linebackers; Jeremiah Maat (Slidell, La / Slidell HS) and Billy Manning (Mansfield, Tx / Legacy HS).
Maat now has forced a fumble in two straight games.
Coming Next Two Weeks: SAGU home games
SAGU returns home for the next two games; Saturday, September 15, against Austin College (0-2), and Sept. 22 when Texas Lutheran University (1-1) visits Lumpkins Stadium.
Both games will be aired in HD by SAGU Sports Live. The Austin College contest is set for a 7:00pm kickoff.
The Kangaroos fell to East Texas Baptist University, 17-7, on Saturday. The 'Roos have led at the half of both their games, including 16-3 in their opener.