Ouachita holds on for season opening win on Wednesday night

Ouachita Sports
Kyle Parris, Sports Information Director

ARKADELPHIA – Junior defensive lineman Ernest Reed came up with a huge fourth-quarter sack and forced fumble with time expiring to give the Ouachita Tigers a thrilling 31-28 win over the Northwestern Oklahoma State Rangers. The Tigers put up 455 yards of offense, including 255 rushing yards. Shun’cee Thomas led the ground attack with 124 yards and two touchdowns.

The Tigers came out running on the game’s opening drive but the drive stalled after a fumble deep in Ranger’s territory. Northwestern Oklahoma answered with an 84-yard drive that resulted in the game’s first touchdown.

A 30-yard kickoff return by Allie Freeman set up the Tigers’ next drive. Austin Warford and Shun’cee Thomas carried the load on the drive. Thomas scored his first touchdown of the game on a 7-yard carry over left tackle. The game was tied at 7-7 with 2:16 left in the first quarter.

The Tigers opened the second quarter with another long drive. The Tigers covered 67 yards on 11 plays, culminating in a 4-yard run up the middle by Barry Bennett. After a three and out by Northwestern Oklahoma, Ouachita opened their third drive with a 39-yard pass play to Logan Morris. That set up the dirve’s final play, a 1-yard run up the gut by Thomas. The Tigers led 21-7 with 6:13 to play in the first half.

Northwestern Oklahoma scored on their next drive with a 22-yard pass play from Isaiah Weed to Gavin Garner. With 19 seconds left in the half, Ouachita’s Cole Antley connected on a 30-yard field goal. At the half, Ouachita led 24-14.

The Rangers opened the second half with a drive that got them inside the Ouachita 20. On a second and ten play, Ouachita’s Zach Miller intercepted an errant pass from Weed on the Tigers’ 5 yard line. Ouachita drove the ball into NWOSU territory but were forced to punt. On the punt, the Rangers’ Doc Harvey fumbled the ball and it was recovered by the Tigers’ Brockton Brown at the NWOSU 10 yard line.

A missed field goal put the ball into Northwestern Oklahoma State’s hands and the third quarter ended with the Rangers driving into Ouachita territory. NWOSU’s Jacob Peyton scored on a 5-yard run up the middle, cutting Ouachita’s lead to three. With 12:50 to play, Ouachita led 24-21.

The Tigers opened up their passing game on the ensuing drive. Warford connected with Freeman for 43 yards on a deep out pass and then followed it with a 29-yard strike to Jerry Moorehead to the Rangers’ 3 yard line. Drew Harris scored on the run off a direct snap and Ouachita extended the lead back to 10, 31-21.

NWOSU’s Weed drove the Rangers back down the field and led them on a nine play, 65-yard drive. Northwestern Oklahoma’s Da’Shawn Gordon caught a nine-yard pass from Weed for the score and with 3:06 to play in the game, Ouachita’s lead was cut to three, 31-28.

The Tigers picked up a first down on the ensuing drive but were stalled and with 31 seconds remaining they were forced to punt the ball back to the Rangers. After converting two first downs, the Rangers were stopped thanks to big sack and forced fumble by Reed. The clock expired before the ball could be recovered and the Tigers walked away with a 31-28 victory.

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