Missouri Western State’s Tyler Basch was the unlikely MVP in Saturday’s Agent Barry Live United Bowl at Arkansas High’s Razorback Stadium.
The Griffon’s senior kicker booted three field goals, including a bowl and stadium record 58-yarder. MWSU pretty much dominated all phases of special teams in beating a stubborn Southern Arkansas University, 30-25.
Someone must have said, “Show Me” because that’s exactly what the Griffons did in the first half, especially on special teams. SAU had a 45-yard field goal and punt blocked, while two short SAU punts led to short scoring drives for MWSU. The Muleriders were fortunate that a 60-yard punt return by Brandin Dandridge was wiped out by a holding penalty.
“I was kicking 60-yarders with the wind in the pre-game,” said Basch. “As soon as I kicked the ball I thought it was going in. Some of my teammates said it would have been good from 65 yards. This is a great way to finish my career at Missouri Western.”
Griffon’s biggest lead was 27-3
MWSU (7-5) built a 20-0 cushion in the first half. Red-shirt freshman James Bailey scored twice on runs of 23 and 3 yards. Basch kicked a 36-yarder into a strong wind for the game’s first points. He drilled his record kick with the wind, and only two ticks on the clock before intermission.
“I’m so proud of my team, especially my seniors,” said MWSU coach Matt Williamson. “That’s an outstanding football team, pointing towards SAU’s players. They had us concerned in the second half.”
Whatever SAU coach Bill Keopple said to his players at halftime must have made an impression. It was a different Mulerider team that took the second half kickoff. Still, the host team had to settle for three points. A reverse and pass to Barrett Renner was underthrown, with the senior quarterback standing alone in the end zone.
The Griffons answered with their only touchdown drive of the second half to make it 27-3. Tight end Blake Burah climaxed a 64-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown reception from senior quarterback Dom Marino.
Lancaster’s two touchdowns rallies Muleriders
The Muleriders (8-4) refused to go away. They would score two touchdowns during the next 4:31 to make it a one-score game at 27-19. Jared Lancaster scored both six-pointers, the first running out of the Wildcat from two yards. The second was a 9-yard pass from Renner, who finished his career 30 of 45 for 328 yards. Lancaster caught 10 of those passes for 129 yards.
Basch’s third field goal with 5:58 left appeared to put the game out of reach. That wasn’t the case. SAU ‘s defense forced a punt with less than a minute remaining. Starting at their own 20, a pass interference call gave the Muleriders a first down at the 35. An incomplete pass, and scramble by Renner set up the game’s final play. It was a flea-flicker that appeared to be an incompletion, but instead it was ruled complete and the game was over.
SAU’s defense was outstanding in the second half. Sophomore linebacker DeMarcus Pegue of Texarkana finished with nine tackles to lead the Muleriders. Brock Floyd had eight tackles, while Miles led the Griffons with 13 stops.
“Special teams play was the big difference in the game,” said Pegue. “We just did play to our ability in the first half. I know they had a pretty good kicker. He’s going to do some good things when he leaves college.”
Missouri Western outrushed the Muleriders 116 to 96, while SAU dominated the passing game 328 to 211.
It was a disappointing finish for SAU, which started the season 6-0, losing four of its final six games.