Courtesy: Ouachita Baptist Athletics
Lucas Reed threw a 13-yard touchdown pass with 33 seconds remaining to clinch a 45-42 win for the Ouachita Tigers (8-2) over the Southern Arkansas Muleriders (6-4).
Two defensive penalties helped the Tigers on their final offensive possession and carried them down the field where Reed completed the game-winning touchdown. Keandre Evans swatted down a last-second heave to clinch the Tiger victory.
The win keeps Ouachita in a tie for first place in the Great American Conference. A victory over Henderson next week would clinch a conference title for the Tigers.
Both teams had big offensive production in the game. Ouachita gained 573 total yards in the game, rushing for 287 and throwing for 286.
Kris Oliver led the Tiger rushing attack with 119 yards. Drew Harris helped the team on the ground with 95 yards and a touchdown.
Lucas Reed and Austin Warford shared duties at quarterback as Warford, the usual starter, was in-and-out of the game with an early ankle injury. Warford completed 10 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns while Reed completed 6 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns. Allie Freeman led all receivers with 121 yards and three touchdown receptions.
This game was the first in a few weeks where the team finished with a negative turnover margin. The Tigers threw an early interception and did not force a turnover on defense. Elijah Jones led all defenders with 11 tackles while Luke Holt and Keandre Evans accumulated nine tackles each.
Ouachita started the game with possession and drove the football into the red zone, but starting quarterback Austin Warford went down with an ankle injury early on in the drive. Ouachita’s drive ended when second-string quarterback Lucas Reed threw an interception in the end zone. Southern Arkansas took possession of the ball and marched down the field, scoring after only five plays.
The rest of the first quarter was rather uneventful, but the second quarter began with a missed field goal from SAU. Ouachita took possession of the ball and moved the ball 69 yards down the field on a run-dominant drive. Ouachita kicker Cole Antley then put the first points on the board for the Tigers as he capped off the drive with a 29-yard field goal.
Ouachita forced SAU to punt on its next drive and took the lead three plays later when Drew Harris ran for an 81-yard touchdown with just over six minutes remaining.
After trading possessions, SAU went on a four-play, 78-yard touchdown drive which was dominated by the pass game. The Muleriders began the drive with a 64-yard drive to put the team in the red zone and then finished it with an 11-yard touchdown pass to give the team a 14-10 lead.
Ouachita’s Drew Harris returned the ensuing kickoff 46 yards to give Ouachita excellent starting field position for its next drive, and the Tigers took advantage of the field position two plays later when Warford found Allie Freeman for a 43-yard touchdown pass. The score gave the Tigers a 17-14 lead heading into halftime.
The Muleriders came out with a vengeance early in the second half. SAU scored first after driving 72 yards in nine plays. The Muleriders then forced Ouachita to punt and went on a seven-play, 80-yard drive which was capped off by a 13-yard touchdown throw. The two touchdowns gave SAU a 28-17 lead with 5:41 remaining in the third quarter.
Ouachita responded to SAU on its next drive, going 75 yards in 11 plays. The drive was balanced between run and pass and was capped off by a trick play where Lucas Reed handed the ball off to Drew Harris, and Harris proceeded to turn around and throw the ball back to Reed for a touchdown in the corner of the end zone. The score cut SAU’s lead to 31-28 heading into the fourth quarter.
Ouachita opened the fourth quarter in the midst of an 11-play, 65-yard drive which ran five minutes off of the game clock. The run-heavy drive was concluded by a 12-yard pass from Warford to Jerry Morehead.
The two teams traded punts on their next two drives, but SAU was able to break through and reclaim the lead with a 13-yard touchdown pass. Ouachita quickly responded, however, with a 50-second drive capped off by a fourth-down touchdown pass from Lucas Reed to Allie Freeman.
The excitement continued on SAU’s ensuing possession as they drove 64 yards in 11 plays to score a 9-yard touchdown and take a 42-38 lead with only 50 seconds remaining on the clock.
Ouachita had to act quickly if it wanted to win the game, and the team did just that. Shun’cee Thomas returned the kick-off to the SAU 38 yard line to begin the drive, and then subsequent penalties on SAU put the Tigers on the 13-yard line. It was there that Lucas Reed slung a pass to Allie Freeman across the middle of the field and Freeman dove into the left corner of the end zone to give the Tigers a 45-42 lead.
Keandre Evans swatted an SAU heave to the ground as time expired to clinch victory for the Tigers.
Ouachita will look to clinch the GAC title next week as they face Henderson State in the Battle of the Ravine. The game will be played at Cliff Harris Stadium and will start at 1 p.m.