MAGNOLIA — Trailing 10-3 at halftime, the Southern Arkansas football team exploded for 28 points in the second half as they surged past Ouachita Baptist by a score of 31-23 on Saturday afternoon at Wilkins Stadium.
In that first half, the Muleriders’ (5-3, 5-3 GAC) offense struggled to get much going against a stingy Tiger (6-2, 6-2 GAC) defense as they made a field goal on their opening drive, but then managed just 20 yards of offense on their next three possessions, punting on those drives. At the end of the first half, the Muleriders had amassed just 87 yards of total offense on 22 plays.
Despite the offensive struggles in the first half, the Muleriders went into the break trailing by just seven points, 10-3, as their defense bounced back in a major way after surrendering an opening possession touchdown. On the three drives that followed the opening score, the Mulerider defense forced an interception, a punt, and a turnover on downs. On OBU’s final drive of the first half, the Tigers marched down the field for their first red zone trip of the game. Facing 1st and Goal from their own 5-yardline, the Mulerider defense stood tall as they gave up one yard to the Tigers and forced them to attempt a field goal as time expired in the half.
The second half was a much different game as the Muleriders began to move the ball against the Tigers’ defense. On their first possession of that half, the Muleriders knotted the game at 10-all as quarterback Tyler Sykora found Chris Terry for a 50-yard touchdown strike.
On the ensuing possession, Ouachita drove back deep into Mulerider territory, but were forced to settle for another field goal attempt to regain the lead 13-10. An interception by Sykora in SAU territory on the following possession set the Tigers up with great field position as they started their drive at the SAU 32-yard line. The Tigers would get as deep as the SAU 3-yardline before the Mulerider defense denied them the endzone once more. With 2:48 left in the first quarter, OBU would make good on another chip-shot field goal to go up by six points, 16-10.
Six plays and 75 yards later, SAU took their first lead of the game as Sykora and Terry hooked up again, this time from 24-yards out. Following the made extra point, SAU had a 17-16 lead.
Now in the fourth quarter, Sykora tossed his third TD pass of the game as he found Paul Walker-Hall wide open on a naked bootleg pass to extend the Mulerider lead out to eight points, 24-16. The Muleriders would get the ball right back on the ensuing possession as Quan Warren picked of OBU quarterback Benson Jordan at the OBU 36-yardline.
Following Warren’s fourth pick of the season, the Mulerider offense needed just four plays to cash in a touchdown as Sykora and Terry connected in the endzone for the third time in the game. This scoring connection put the Muleriders up 31-16.
Now with 7:15 left in the game, OBU went on a 1:29 touchdown scoring drive to bring them back to within eight points, 31-23. The Tigers would not touch the ball the rest of the game as the Muleriders successfully ran off the final 5:37 of the game clock to secure their fifth win of the season.
The win also secures the Muleriders at least a .500 season for the second consecutive year, a feat not done since 2002 and 2003.
SAU will now prepare to hit the road and take on unbeaten and nationally-ranked No. 4 Henderson State on Nov. 9.