MONTICELLO, Ark. – A fourth down gamble by Southern Arkansas University backfired Saturday at the University of Arkansas-Monticello. It now appears the Muleriders will be playing in Texarkana next month, instead of participating in the NCAA Division II playoffs.
Josh Marini’s 34-yard field goal on the final play of the game gave the University of Arkansas-Monticello a shocking 20-17 victory. The Boll Weevils scored twice in the final 64 seconds of the game to overcome a 17-10 deficit. Needing a win to qualify for the national playoffs, SAU (8-3) led 14-0 at halftime.
SAU was facing a fourth-and-1 situation at the Boll Weevils’ 5 in the fourth quarter. A field goal could have given the Muleriders a 20-10 lead. However, the fourth down gamble to convert the first down came up inches short on a quarterback sneak.
The Muleriders built their early lead on touchdown passes from senior Barrett Renner to Karonce Higgins and Dalton Wright. Renner, a 4-year starter, has rewritten the SAU record book with his passing. Higgins has also set several school records this season in receiving.
Southern Arkansas will bring several Texarkana-area players home if it does play in the 2018 Live United Bowl at Arkansas High’s Razorback Stadium.
Ten Texarkana-area players on SAU roster
There are 10 players on that list, including DeMarcus Pegue and Mahleik Darty of Liberty-Eylau; and Arkansas High graduate Kendrix McCann. Defensive backs Jimmie Houston of New Boston, and Ashdown’s La’Montrick Turner have been key performers for SAU. Queen City’s Cole Davis; Prescott’s Davence Davis; and Magnolia’s Kobe McDonald, Adam Watson and Kile Pletcher have also contributed.
Veteran Bill Keopple is SAU’s head coach. Previously he won back-to-back state championships as Arkansas High’s head coach.
Southern Arkansas started the 2018 season with six straight wins. The Muleriders slumped late, losing three of their final five GAC games. The conference championship was on the line last week when SAU lost to Ouachita Baptist in Arkadelphia.
A possible opponent for the Muleriders could be 2017 Live United Bowl champion Pittsburg State. Missouri S&T, defending national champion Texas A&M University-Commerce, and Midwestern State of Wichita Falls, Texas, are other possibilities.