MAGNOLIA -- Southern Arkansas University wasted little time turning an anticipated showdown with No. 25 Southeastern Oklahoma State into a rout Saturday afternoon.
The Muleriders (6-2, 6-2 Great American Conference) jumped out to a 21-point, first-quarter lead and never let up in crushing the Savage Storm 49-19 in front of a homecoming crowd of 6,249 at Wilkins Stadium.
Quarterback Barrett Renner was 20-of-31 passing for 306 yards and 3 touchdowns for SAU, which pulled into a four-way tie for first place in the GAC along with SE Oklahoma State, Arkansas Tech University and Ouachita Baptist University.
The Muleriders finished with 572 yards of total offense and held the Savage Storm to just 284, well below their season average of 423.
"Our guys came out ready to play, it was no doubt about that," SAU Coach Bill Keopple said. "We lit it up in the first half, but [Southeastern Oklahoma State] is a good football team. They were fighting to get themselves back into it in the second half. But we were able to seal the deal there late in the game."
SAU churned out 266 yards on the ground, led by Michael Nunnery's 112 yards and 3 touchdowns on 24 carries. Wide receiver Karonces Higgins had 6 catches for 89 yards and 1 touchdown. Fullback Garrett Turnbull had two catches, but both went for touchdowns.
Quarterback Austin Skinner completed 23 of 48 passes for 242 yards and 2 touchdowns but threw 2 interceptions for SE Oklahoma State (6-2, 6-2), which had won its first six games to move into the American Football Coaches Association top 25 but also lost 21-20 last week at Henderson State University.
The Muleriders scored touchdowns on their first four possessions and didn't allow the Savage Storm to cross midfield until late in the second quarter. Running back Keiandre Purifoy's 26-yard touchdown run gave SAU a 7-0 lead with 10:20 left in the first quarter.
Renner, who became the Muleriders' all-time leader with 84 career touchdown passes, found Turnball for a 52-yard score to cap a short 3-play, 69-yard drive less than two minutes later.
SAU tacked on its third score of the quarter on Nunnery's 4-yard touchdown run at the 4:09 mark, and his 2-yard plunge with 12:03 left in the second quarter gave the Muleriders a 28-0 lead.
SE Oklahoma State snapped its scoreless drought on Skinner's 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Codey McElroy with 2:53 remaining in the half and kicker Joel Carlos added a 41-yard field goal just before halftime to pull the Savage Storm to within 28-9.
"I thought we took it to them from the get-go," Keopple said. "We're still a team that can't stand prosperity. We'll do a thing here or there that you just can't believe we did. But that's college football players. Hopefully as we grow, we'll get over those things."
SAU took away what little momentum the Savage Storm had generated before the end of the first half with a nine-play, 75-yard drive to start the third quarter. Nunnery capped the march with his third score, this one from 1 yard, to put the Muleriders up 35-9.
The Savage Storm and rallied again.
Carlos had another 41-yard field goal on SE Oklahoma State's next drive, and Skinner threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to McElroy with 12:02 left in the fourth quarter to cut its deficit to 35-19. The Savage Storm had a chance to get closer after recovering the ensuing onside kick, but Skinner's fourth-down pass from the Muleriders' 19 was knocked away near the goal line.
SAU responded by driving 81 yards in nine plays, with Renner finding Higgins in stride for a 50-yard touchdown pass. Renner later added an 11-yard scoring strike to Turnball to cap the scoring.
"We're in control of our own destiny, and it's a matter of taking it one game at a time," Keopple said. "We're going to enjoy this one [Saturday] and look to the next one."
EAST CENTRAL 24, HENDERSON STATE 16
Henderson State University (4-4, 4-4 GAC) could not overcome a 24-3 halftime deficit in its loss to East Central (2-6, 2-6) at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium in Arkadelphia.
East Central junior quarterback Rayjohn Austin-Ramsey threw three consecutive touchdown passes of 34, 5 and 14 yards to give the Tigers a 21-0 lead with 13:29 left in the second quarter.
The second score came after Henderson State lost a fumble at the East Central 48, and the third came after Reddies senior quarterback Evan Lassiter threw an interception after reaching the East Central 24.
The teams traded field goals during the second quarter, and Henderson State scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter on a 5-yard pass from Lassiter to junior wide receiver Ben Johnson and a 2-yard pass from redshirt junior quarterback Andrew Black to junior fullback Jerry Rodriguez with 3:08 left in the game.
On the next drive, East Central ran the ball eight times and picked up three first downs to run out the clock.
East Central freshman running back Ontario Douglas led the game with 72 yards on 23 carries, and he was given the ball on 7 of those final 8 plays.
East Central snapped a five-game losing streak with its second victory over Henderson State since the GAC formed in 2011.
HARDING 42, SW OKLAHOMA STATE 0
Harding University (5-3, 5-3 GAC) scored two defensive touchdowns and recorded two safeties in its victory over Southwestern Oklahoma State (2-6, 2-6) at First Security Stadium in Searcy.
It was Harding's second consecutive shutout victory, and the Bisons are now one game behind the four-way tie for first place in the conference after starting the season with three consecutive losses.
Harding forced safeties on SW Oklahoma State's first two offensive drives of the game. The first came when junior defensive lineman T.J. Winslow sacked SW Oklahoma State's Casey Freeman in the end zone, and the second came when the Bulldogs took a 4-yard loss while attempting to punt from their 4.
On the next drive, SW Oklahoma State drove to the Harding 2 when junior linebacker Sam Blankenship forced a fumble when he tackled Bulldogs running back Karltrell Henderson. Junior defensive back Dra Smith gathered the fumble and returned it 96 yards to give Harding an 11-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Bisons outgained the Bulldogs 277-224 in total offense, and Harding junior quarterback Terrence Dingle led the game with 2 rushing touchdowns along with 13 carries and 55 yards.
SW Oklahoma State nearly scored during the fourth quarter, reaching the Harding 1 before junior defensive back Brandon Brice returned an interception 99 yards for the game's final score.
ARKANSAS TECH 66, NW OKLAHOMA STATE 10
Arkansas Tech University (6-2, 6-2 GAC) scored 38 consecutive points to blow out Northwestern Oklahoma State (3-5, 3-5) at Thone Stadium in Russellville.
It was the Wonder Boys' largest margin of victory since Tech beat University of the Ozarks 60-0 in 1960. The largest margin Tech ever had was a 118-0 victory over Southern Arkansas in 1922.
Tech led 7-3 after the first quarter, when senior quarterback Ty Reasnor completed a 53-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Tevin McKenzie.
The Wonder Boys scored four touchdowns by halftime, including a 38-yard fumble return by junior defensive end Harrison Lester, to lead 35-10 at the break.
NW Oklahoma State fumbled again during its first drive of the second half, and Tech scored eight plays later on a 9-yard run by freshman Trey Smith.
The Tech running game had 50 carries for 309 yards and 5 touchdowns, led by junior running back Bryan Allen's 93 yards on 15 carries with a touchdown.
NW Oklahoma State quarterback Isaiah Weed scored his team's only touchdown on a 21-yard pass to Horatio Smith during the second quarter, but he was sacked four times by five different Tech defenders.
OUACHITA BAPTIST 52, OKLAHOMA BAPTIST 14
Ouachita Baptist University (6-2, 6-2 GAC) scored 17 consecutive points to start the game and held its lead for a victory over Oklahoma Baptist (0-8, 0-8) at Cliff Harris Stadium in Arkadelphia.
Junior wide receiver Drew Harris rushed for touchdowns of 22 and 3 yards during the first quarter, and junior kicker Cole Antley made a 33-yard field goal at the start of the second to build the insurmountable lead against Oklahoma Baptist, which has not won a game since a 36-34 victory over East Central on Sept. 24, 2016.
The victory clinched OBU's 10th consecutive winning season, and the Tigers are now in a four-way tie for first place in the Great American Conference with three games remaining.
The OBU defense forced four turnovers, and sophomore defensive back Keandre Evans returned an interception 78 yards for the game's final score.
OBU outgained Oklahoma Baptist 632-415 in total yards, and redshirt junior running back Kris Oliver rushed for a season-high 121 yards on 12 carries with a 3-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Oklahoma Baptist scored on a touchdown pass in each half by redshirt freshman quarterback Preston Haire, who was 17-of-33 passing for 200 yards and 2 interceptions.
ARKANSAS-MONTICELLO 35, SOUTHERN NAZARENE 23
The University of Arkansas at Monticello (5-3, 5-3 GAC) has won three consecutive games after its victory over Southern Nazarene (3-4, 3-4) at Willis Convoy Leslie Cotton Bowl Stadium in Monticello.
UAM scored three consecutive touchdowns to take control of a game that was tied 14-14 in the second quarter.
UAM junior quarterback Cole Sears threw touchdowns of 26 and 14 yards to start the game, but he was matched by two, 2-yard Southern Nazarene rushing touchdowns by Jacob Spady and Daniel Ramos, who scored with 10:08 left in the first half.
Junior running back Imani Riley scored the go-ahead touchdown for UAM on a 3-yard rushing touchdown with 6:05 left in the second quarter. Riley led the game with 107 yards on 15 carries.
Sears was 8 of 14 for 127 yards and 3 touchdowns, including a 21-yard pass to senior wide receiver Jamal Chevis that made the halftime score 28-14.
By the time Southern Nazarene scored its final touchdown on a 11-yard pass from Spady to Reid Roelofs with 11:24 left in the game, the game was already in hand.
That made the score 35-21, and a team safety by UAM was taken with five seconds left in the game.
LYON 21, TEXAS WESLEYAN 14
Lyon College (3-5, 1-4 CSFL) snapped a three-game losing streak with its victory over Texas Wesleyan (0-8, 0-5) at Pioneer Stadium in Batesville.
The Scots scored 21 consecutive points after trailing 7-0 after the first quarter, and the team won the game despite being outgained 233-212 in total offense yards.
The teams exchanged punts before Texas Wesleyan scored first on a 1-yard run by redshirt junior running back Jermarcus Jones.
Then, Lyon freshman kicker Ignacio Gomez kicked field goals of 46 and 35 yards to make the halftime score 7-6. Gomez's previous career long had been from 41 yards.
The Scots built a 21-7 lead as senior quarterback Cody Jones threw a 18-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Jonathan Hendrix just before the end of the third quarter, and then freshman running back Titus Nelson rushed for a 3-yard score with 9:10 remaining in the game.
Lyon's Jones led the game by going 9-of-23 passing for 152 yards, Nelson had a team-high 91 yards on 22 carries, and freshman receiver Jacquez Parker had a game-high 86 yards on 4 catches.
Texas Wesleyan lost 47 yards in negative plays, including two sacks by junior safety Stephen Benedik and sophomore defensive lineman Peyton Noland.
Lyon will next play at Southwestern Assemblies of God University on Oct. 28.
Sports on 10/22/2017
Print Headline: Muleriders make it 4 at top of GAC