JACK LEACH | Reporter
Family Day brought Lindenwood families from across the world to the football game in Hunter Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 15, but the Lions failed to deliver their fans a win.
The Lions were beaten by the University of Central Oklahoma 52-42, in a shootout that consisted of combined offensive statistics of over 850 yards of total offense and 11 touchdowns between the two teams.
It all began with Lindenwood’s first drive of the game. Quarterback Cade Brister picked apart the Bronchos’ secondary with first-down completions to three different players for gains of five, nine, and 14. After a defensive holding penalty that moved the Lions past the UCO 30 yard line, Brister hit wide receiver Payton Rose for an early 7-0 score.
The Bronchos responded right away. After a Tyrone Howell 50-yard reception and a Lions pass interference penalty in UCO territory, kicker Alex Quevedo managed to convert a 23-yard field goal to score the Bronchos’ first points of the game.
The Lions second drive was similar to that of their first. After a pair of Tyler Hogan 8-yard catches, and a Nash Sutherlin rush of 18 yards, Sutherlin capped off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge to put the Lions up 14-3 late in the first quarter.
Before the end of the first, the Bronchos put up their first touchdown of the night. After two plays of over 20 yards each from quarterback Keats Calhoon and Howell, UCO’s Dustin Basks hauled in a 22-yard pass making the score 14-10.
After three straight three-and-outs, the next score of the game came midway through the second quarter. The Bronchos looked again to the Howell/Basks wide receiver pair, who were responsible for over 70 yards on the drive alone. A 40-yard bomb to Basks soon set up Howell, a freshman, for an 8-yard touchdown grab to capture UCO’s first lead of the game at 17-14.
The first turnover of the game came three drives after UCO’s second touchdown. With two minutes remaining, Lindenwood had plans to take the lead before the end of the half. However, after a Brister pass was overthrown, the Bronchos returned the interception to the Lions’ 11 yard line. A play later, Calhoon found Basks in the back of the endzone for his second receiving score of the night.
The following kickoff was received by running back Cam Sanders who returned the kick 92 yards for a Lindenwood touchdown to cut the Bronchos’ lead to 24-21 at the end of the first half.
At halftime, the running back duo of Sutherlin and Sanders combined for 200 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns.
“We’ve got a nice committee of running backs, and I’m real proud of how they’ve been playing together,” head coach Jed Stugart said. “They’re both unselfish, and always push each other in practice.”
Quarterback Chandler Garrett got the second-half start for UCO after Calhoon was injured minutes before the second quarter concluded. His first three drives comprised of only one completed pass, and an interception to defensive back Grady Daniels. Daniels’ pick set up a seven-play Lindenwood drive which was capped off with a double pass touchdown; Brister threw to wide receiver Najee Jackson, who then threw to Jarrett Johnson for a 28-yard score to take a 28-24 lead.
Jackson, who was Lindenwood’s starting quarterback last year, transitioned to a wide receiver this offseason.
“He’s had an incredible attitude,” Stugart said. “He saw that we had a chance to get more of our athletes on the field. He bought in, and it says a lot about him.”
With five minutes remaining in the third, the Bronchos responded once again. After a Basks kickoff return to the Lindenwood 23 yard line, running back Clay McKenzie juked his way into the endzone for a six-yard touchdown to take a 31-28 lead.
The back-and-forth scoring contest continued shortly after. After a 4th down conversion and completions of 18 and 13 yards to Erik Henneman and Sutherlin, Brister found himself in the endzone after a scramble of 22 yards in the beginning of the fourth.
Less than a minute later, UCO looked to Howell once again, and he delivered. The receiver broke a tackle, and took the ball 62 yards for the score. The Bronchos now led 38-35.
A Lions punt gave UCO the ball back with nine minutes left. After two short runs, the Bronchos hit wide receiver Ronald Monroe for a 37-yard touchdown. Monroe’s only catch of the game put UCO up by two scores.
The nail-in-the-coffin moment for the Lions occurred with one minute left in the game. With the score at 45-35, Lindenwood was working with a successful drive after two first-down receptions by Hogan into Broncho territory. Shortly after, a backward pass to Sutherlin was broken up, and was recovered by UCO defensive back Daniel Baughman, who returned it 58 yards to bring the Bronchos’ lead to 52-35.
Lindenwood put together one final score to close out the contest. After traveling 77 yards, Brister hooked up with Jackson for a 27-yard touchdown reception as time expired.
According to Stugart, the final drive showed what type of fight this team possesses.
“These guys fight, claw, and scratch,” Stugart said. “The fight’s not the issue, our guys are physical. We got to back to the drawing board, and fix these mistakes; it all comes down to the little things.”
Next Saturday, Sep. 22, Lindenwood travels to Emporia, Kansas to take on the Hornets of Emporia State University. Kickoff at Francis G. Welch Stadium is at 2 p.m.