Lions lose ball, late lead, in 25-17 setback
Costly turnovers thwart would-be win
SAGU to host Texas Lutheran on Saturday
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- The one that got away. It was like an angler with a 'prize catch' hooked, then losing it when the trophy wiggles free just before it can be landed.
The moment Saturday’s college football game between Southwestern Assemblies of God University and Austin College appeared to be won by the host, twice in the closing minutes the host Lions couldn’t grab the ball or the victory.
A heartbreaking 25-17 setback to the previously winless ‘Roos was a tough pill to swallow in light of a series of gut-wrenching miscues in the eleventh hour.
SAGU had come from behind to lay claim to their first lead, 17-16, on a 23-yard Reid Golson (Grandview, Tx / Howard Payne Univ, Grandview HS) to Nic Morphew (Grandview, Tx / Grandview HS) post-pattern pass. James Gish (Waxahachie, Tx / Waxahachie HS) added the point after kick and SAGU was on top.
The score came just moments after Nick Ekanem (Richmond, Tx / B.F. Terry HS) had intercepted a deflected pass at the Roos’ 40 yard line.
Southwestern’s defense, pushed by a larger Austin College ground game for 264 yards, 'bowed up' for huge stands in the second half. D.J. Johnson (Detroit, Mi / Parkview HS, Springfield, Mo) made a stop in the backfield on a third-and-short running play to force a Roos field goal. It sailed wide. The lead was intact.
Following a short punt that put the visitors at their own 48, the Roos drove to the Lions 31. On fourth and one, a wide pitch to Sean Sweeney (34 carries, 180 yards), looked to be the perfect call against a stacked defense.
Linebacker Rockie Davis (Santa Fe, Tx / Santa Fe HS) fended off a blocker and dove to nail a leaping Sweeney in the air. He was hauled down just shy of the marker. At the moment, it looked to be the defining play of the game.
SAGU took over on downs with only 4:57 left in the game. The lead was still intact and nearly secure. So was Cinderella’s slipper.
Needing to control the ball, the clock and the lead, the offense let it slip away before they could get started. The next play saw a bobbled snap and a botched exchange between Golson and Cade Leuschner (Waco, Tx / Robinson HS) that resulted in renewed hope for Austin College.
On third and nine from the SAGU 29, freshman quarterback Austin Rainer found P.J. Fuller open on a slant in the end zone. His spiral was tight and in Fuller’s clutches with 3:32 showing on the Lumpkins’ clock.
Still, the Lions would have two possessions in those closing moments.
The first ended when a sack and missed connection on a fourth down pass gave AC the ball back at the Lions 13. The defense stiffened, forcing a short field goal with 1:15 to go. The Pride would need a touchdown and a two-point conversion to tie.
Could Golson pull a rabbit out of his hat - like the one against Howard Payne University in 2011?
Starting at their 27, the Lions marched through the Roos prevent defense with sharp throws and sharp thinking by Golson and his receiving corps.
Sixty yards later and with nine seconds left, the Lions could still snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
The first pass into tight coverage over the middle was batted away. Five ticks and seven yards from glory, Golson rolled to his right and, on the run, fired for his tight end, Caleb Shelly (Cold Spring, Tx / Lamar Univ, Cold Spring HS). The pass was short, hitting the turf just out of reach of the diving Shelly.
SAGU was that close all night. Each time the garnet and gold guests dodged the bullet just when they seemed all-but-beaten.
Trailing 16-10 in the third period, the Purple Pride went 43 yards in seven plays to the Roos nine yard line. On first and goal, Golson had Shelly wide open in the end zone. His pass, however, was tipped by freshman linebacker Brooks Ward and intercepted by a lunging DeAndre Holmes.
Austin College got off to a 10-0 lead thanks to a 58-yard burst up the right sideline by Sweeney. After settling for a field goal, the Roos got the ball back on an interception at the Lions 26. Golson’s target over the middle was tripped, making it an easy pick.
The Lions responded with an impressive, methodical seven-play, 71 yard drive. A broken play, 11-yard run by Sean Haynes (Katy, Tx / Univ of Houston, Katy Taylor HS) set up his own three-yard scoring plunge with 3:03 left in the first quarter.
The teams traded long drives that settled for field goal, including a 12-play, 59-yard march for SAGU. Having reached the six yard line, they were forced to call on Gish, who booted a 23-yard kick to draw to within 13-10 at intermission.
Statistics of note
Southwestern had a 20-17 edge in first downs, though Austin College outgained them by a 346-295 margin in total offense. The Roos had given up 493 yards per game in their 0-2 start.
The death knell was four Lions turnovers. Austin College had just one. Another drive staller was 10 SAGU penalties for 110 yards.
Golson finished with 79 yards rushing and 186 passing. He completed 11 of 24 throws with three interceptions. Sacked three times, he was coaxed to scramble much of the night.
Trevor McKinley (Arlington, Tx / Seguin HS) added 44 yards rushing and three receptions for 69 yards.
The defense was led by safety Brad Heathcock (Frisco, Tx / Wakeland HS). He turned in his second straight double-digit effort in tackles, making 11 stops.
Dalton Snyder (Ennis, Tx / Ennis HS), moved to outside linebacker, responded with nine tackles.
Another freshman ‘Backer, Jeremiah Maat (Slidell, La / Slidell HS), had seven tackles, while Davis and Johnson were credited with six apiece.
Deonte Morrison (Garland, Tx / Lakeview Centennial HS) and Kendal Evers (Danbury, Tx / Danbury HS) each racked up five tackles.
September 22 home game: SAGU vs TLU
SAGU (1-2) will play their third home game next Saturday when Texas Lutheran University visits. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00pm (CST). The Bulldogs are 1-1. The TLU campus is located in Seguin, Texas.
The game will be carried live, in HD, by SAGU Sports Live. The pre-game show airs at 5:45pm.