Football Lions fall in debut, 29-21
First game jitters prove costly
LINDSBORG, Kansas -- The Southwestern Assemblies of God University football team outgained the nation’s eleventh-ranked offense behind the play of quarterbacks Jason Rice (Katy, Tx / Faith West HS) and Reid Golson (Grandview, Tx / Grandview HS). In the end it was miscues, mostly by the offense, that led to a 29-21 setback at the hands of Bethany College on Saturday night.
The Swedes took advantage of two critical first quarter turnovers that were instantly cashed into nine points by their defense. In a game that most observers felt would be filled with offense, it was jitters and missed opportunities that determined the outcome.
“I was very pleased with our effort,” said SAGU head coach Jesse Godding afterwards. “In fact, there was nothing lacking in our effort or desire. It was a great game to build from.”
“It was a very winnable game,” he continued. “We just made too many mental and physical mistakes. We had hoped to get out of the gate better than we did. But our guys fought and competed for all four quarters. It was a great effort.”
Rebuilding with only three returning starters on both sides of the ball, SAGU is green and talented. That youth was evident at times; on special teams, some high center snaps and and and both the offense and defense dropping passes.
Still, Southwestern stifled the Bethany offense, which returned most all of a unit that averaged over 450 yards per game, to only 288 and a pair of touchdowns. The Lions held Junior Allen in check all night. The Swedes' All-America running back, who led the NAIA with nearly 1,500 yards last fall, ran 29 times for 128 yards.
The Lions yielded only one play of twenty yards or longer, a feat considering three starters; safeties Nick Ekanem and Joey Vinson, and defensive end Ike Caston, were out with injuries.
“Big Jon (Jonathan Hulett, DT, Corrigan, Tx / Corrigan HS) worked hard the entire game,” Godding pointed out. “He was one of the main reasons why Allen had to labor for everything he got. His improved endurance was apparent.” Zack Jackson (Wray, Co / Wray HS), who was moved from the offensive line to help the D-line with depth, also drew the coach’s praise.
The defense made several huge plays. After the Swedes had a first quarter, first and goal at the SAGU 5, they made a goal line stand. Hulett dropped Allen for a two yard loss and the secondary intercepted a pass on fourth down.
Linebacker Donte Embry (Paris, Tx / Paris HS) hit Allen in the backfield in the third quarter, forcing the flyer from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla to cough up the ball. Cornerback Frank Agbemaple (Euless, Tx / Trinity HS) scooped up the offering and cashed it into a 13-yard touchdown.
Heading into the fourth quarter the Lions were within 23-21, but were also facing a stiff wind. Their best opportunity to take the lead came early in the final period. At the BC 29, Rice’s first down screen pass to Sean Haynes (Katy, Tx / Katy HS) was deflected and intercepted by Julius Russell.
It was the third time the offense had gotten inside the Bethany 30 only to come away empty handed. Earlier they had a first down at the Swedes 17 following an interception and 12 yard runback by Quentin Holloman (Garland, Tx / Sachse HS). They settled for a 39-yard field goal attempt by James Gish (Waxahachie, Tx / Waxahachie HS). Like an earlier try, it was blocked.
The Lions offense scored two first half TD’s. Trailing 2-0 after a center snap sailed over Rice’s head for a safety, SAGU got untracked! On a 3rd-and-10, Golson hit David Howard (Dayton, Tx / Dayton HS) for a 30 yard score with 3:59 left in the first quarter. The senior wide receiver caught an out pattern near the sideline, broke a tackle and strode the distance.
Southwestern then marched 76 yards in the second period for another tally. In a spectacular play, Golson capped the drive by scoring on a one yard run. He started by running to his right, then reversing his field, dancing and darting to his left.
The sophomore transfer from Howard Payne elected not to pass to a signaling Cade Leuschner (Waco, Tx / Robinson HS) and, instead, powered across the goal line on a fourth down play. The Lions trailed 16-14 (7:49) to close the first half scoring.
Earlier the Swedes capitalized on a "pick six," returning an interception 25 yards out for a TD.
SAGU’s final chances to knot the score in the fourth were unfruitful.
They were forced to punt on fourth and one from their 35 with 5:48 to play. Their final bid came as Rice took over at the Lions 32 with 1:24 remaining. He hit Howard for 13, then ran a delayed QB draw to the Swedes 41. The drive ended on a dropped pass and a blindside sack by BC’s Steven Williams.
The Purple Pride were led in rushing by Golson (18 carries for 81 yards), Rice (12-50) and Haynes (11-44). The passing attack struggled in the windy conditions, totaling 118 yards. The Swedes’ senior QB, Darby House, connected on only 13 of 29 throws.
The Lions return to the field for their home opener next Saturday night when they host Howard Payne University at 6:00pm. The Yellow Jackets dropped their debut on Saturday to Trinity University, 24-7.
SAGU SPORTS Live will broadcast the game in HD over the internet.