Opportunistic Muleriders handle No. 15 Henderson State in Murphy USA Classic

From SAU Sports
Daniel Gallegos, Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications

EL DORADO – For the second-straight season, the Murphy USA Classic trophy will reside in Magnolia as the Southern Arkansas football team took care of No. 15-ranked Henderson State by a score of 50-24 on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium in El Dorado.

No. 15 Henderson State Reddies (6-2, 6-2 GAC)
Southern Arkansas Muleriders (6-2, 6-2 GAC)


  • After forcing the Reddies to punt on their first possession of the game, the Muleriders used a methodical 16-play, 75-yard opening drive to score the game’s first points. A missed extra point, however made it just 6-0 SAU. That opening drive by the Muleriders ate up nearly nine minutes of game clock and gave the ball back to the Reddies with just over three minutes left in the first quarter
  • Henderson responded quickly to that Mulerider score with a quick scoring drive following a good return on the kickoff that put the Reddies into SAU territory on the drive start. The Reddies made good on their extra point attempt and took a 7-6 lead
  • SAU’s next drive stalled in the red zone at the Henderson 18-hardline, but Bradford Grems was good on his 35-yard field goal attempt to put SAU back up at 9-7
  • Henderson’s Houston Ray matched Grems field goal on their next possession and the lead changed hands once more, 10-9 in favor of Henderson
  • With 5:32 left in the second half, SAU grabbed the lead once more as Michael Nunnery converted and scored on a 4th-and-1 from the Henderson 2. That rushing TD by Nunnery was his second of the game to that point as he accounted for the Muleriders’ opening TD
  • Another good kick return by Henderson gave  them a short field and the Reddies wasted little time in finding the endzone and in the process taking another one-point lead, 17-16
  • The back-and-forth offensive showcase continued as the Muleriders scored on their ensuing possession, retaking the lead, 23-17. On that scoring play, Barrett Renner connected with Jaylon Dews from 18-yards out
  • On the ensuing kickoff, the Muleriders, after several long returns by Henderson, elected not kick the ball deep and the change in strategy paid off as the Reddies’ return man Jacoby Lewis came up to field the shortened kickoff, but Lewis muffed the return as the Mulerider recovered the ball at the Henderson 30-yardline with 1:42 left before halftime
  • SAU quickly turned that initial turnover into points as Renner hooked up with Darion Ardoin from 17-yards out to put SAU 30-17. The Muleriders forced another takeaway on an interception by Elgin Moore, but were unable to add any more points before the break


  • After winning the toss and deferring to the second half, the Muleriders had aspirations on extending their lead early in the third quarter, but a pair penalties and sack on third down were the undoing of that opening possession
  • A slight momentum shift occurred four plays later as the Reddies scored another quick touchdown and made it back to a one-score game, 30-24
  • Seemingly unfazed by the unproductive first drive of the second half, the Muleriders offense went on another long and methodical drive of 75 yards on 12 plays over the next 5:59 of the game. That drive was capped off with a Nunnery touchdown from a yard out; his third of the game
  • On Henderson’s ensuing possession, the Muleriders turned the game completely in their favor by forcing their third takeaway of the game. This turnover was a sack-fumble forced by Davondrick Lison and it set up a quick scoring drive that made it a three-possession game. That short drive was capped by a six-yard run by Keiandre Purifoy; his fourth of the season
  • The Reddies attempted to get back into the game on their next possession and got the ball just outside of the redzone in Mulerider territory, but SAU’s fourth takeaway prevented any Reddie points from coming on the board as Q’Niko Thomas intercepted Andrew Black in the endzone and returned it 33 yards to the SAU-33.
  • SAU’s final points of the game came early in the fourth quarter as Malachi Pointer blocked a punt attempt by Henderson and Stacy Lawrence recovered it for a scoop-and-score from 25-yards out. That score gave the Muleriders 50 points in the game for the second time this season and the first time against Henderson since 2003 when SAU beat Henderson 53-14


  • Up by 12 points (two possessions) with just over six minutes left in the game, SAU’s Davondrick Lison forced a fumble, which was recovered by Jaquel Owens on a sack of Reddie quarterback Andrew Black to account for the Muleriders’ third takeaway of the game.
  • The Muleriders then needed just three plays to find the endzone to go up by three scores, 43-24


  • The win for SAU over Henderson is the first for the Muleriders since 2005. Henderson had won the last nine meetings over the Muleriders
  • SAU is now 2-4 all-time in the Murphy USA Classic with their two wins coming in consecutive years (2015 vs. Ouachita and 2016 vs. Henderson State). Prior to that, SAU was 0-4 in the neutral site game held in El Dorado
  • For the first game this season, SAU did not turn the ball over. Additionally, their four takeaways tied a season-high
  • The Muleriders also had over 500 yards of total offense for the fourth-consecutive game and are now averaging 456.0 yards per game
  • Nunnery saw his string of over 100-yard rushing games end at three, but the junior tailback did score a single-game career-high three touchdowns. Nunnery also set a new season-high in touchdowns as he now has seven; previous most was six TDs set a year ago
  • Jaylon Dews and Darrion Ardoin each caught their first TD passes of the year. SAU now has nine different receivers who have caught a TD pass

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