Bisons, Romo Westbrook Pound Out Win in Magnolia


Bisons, Romo Westbrook Pound Out Win in Magnolia

Harding Bisons junior fullback, Romo Westbrook, with the carry.


MAGNOLIA, Ark. – Harding junior fullback Romo Westbrook rushed for 171 yards on 21 carries and an early touchdown to lead the Bisons to a 28-14 victory over Southern Arkansas in front of a national audience on Thursday at Wilkins Stadium.

The victory, which aired live on CBS Sports Network, was the eighth straight for Harding over Southern Arkansas overall and the sixth straight in Magnolia. The Bisons have won three straight and improved to 3-1 overall and in the Great American Conference. Harding returns to Searcy on Oct. 12 to meet Arkansas-Monticello.

With the score tied at 14-14 at halftime, Harding took advantage of a Jordan Cantrell interception, marched 37 yards on five plays, and took the lead for good on Ahmad Scott‘s 15-yard touchdown run with 1:19 left in the third quarter. John Gay‘s extra point was wide left, and the Bisons led 20-14.

A 10-play, 80-yard drive in the fourth quarter sealed the game for the Bisons. Quarterback Keenan Kellett punctuated the drive with a one-yard sneak for the touchdown. He then raced to the far pylon to add the two-point conversion.

Harding rushed for 224 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns in the first half, but a pair of interceptions by the Southern Arkansas defense proved costly. The Bisons outgained the Muleriders 275-123 in the half.

With 10:05 left in the first quarter, Harding junior fullback D’Nico Jackson-Best broke through the line on a 33-yard touchdown run on Harding’s first offensive possession.

Harding made it 14-0 with 9:52 left in the half as Westbrook broke a tackle and raced 51-yards for a touchdown.

Southern Arkansas had its longest scoring drive of the half to answer Harding’s second touchdown. Mulerider quarterback Tyler Sykora hit Chris Terry with a 34-yard touchdown pass to conclude a six-play, 55-yard drive.

The second of two Southern Arkansas interceptions led to the Muleriders’ second touchdown. Cardarious Patterson intercepted a Kellett pass and returned it 21 yards to the Harding 29. Seven plays later, Sykora hit Karon Dismuke on a 2-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 14-14.

Westbrook’s 171-yard effort was his third career 100-yard game. Scott was second on the team with 82 yards on five carries and a touchdown. The Bisons, who entered the game averaging a Division II-best 397.0 rushing yards per game, compiled 425 yards on 63 carries, an average of 6.7 yards per play.

Harding’s defense limited Southern Arkansas (3-2, 3-2) to only 44 rushing yards on 28 carries. Senior tailback Mark Johnson entered the game ranked third in the GAC in rushing with 103.8 rushing yards per game. Harding limited Johnson to only 58 yards on 18 carries.

Sykora completed 16-of-37 passes for 296 yards, but Harding intercepted three of his passes. Cantreall, Trendall Stevenson and Darious Lane each had interceptions, and defensive end B.J. Jones had 2.0 sacks and a forced fumble. Senior Daniel Riley had five tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, and a sack.

The Thursday night game was the Southern Arkansas football team’s first ever game in school history in front of a national television audience.

Harding was first to score in the contest as D’nico Jackson-Best broke free from 33-yards out with 10:05 left in the first quarter to make the score 7-0. Around the same time in the second quarter, the Bisons would add to their lead as Romo Westbrook ran a touchdown in from 51 yards out, making the score 14-0.

The Muleriders, however, would climb back into the game later in that second quarter as they rolled off 14 unanswered points to head into the locker room with the score knotted up at 14-all. The first of those touchdowns was a 34-yard pass from Tyler Sykora to Chris Terrywith 7:42 left in the half. With 1:52 remaining in the half, the Muleriders forced a huge turnover as Cardarious Patterson picked off a Keenan Kellett pass at the 50-yard line and returned it 21 yards to the Harding 29.

Six plays later, the Muleriders found themselves on the doorsteps of the endzone after Sykora completed an 11-yard pass to Jack Brown to put the ball on the Harding 2-yardline. After a called timeout by Harding with 28 seconds left in the half, the Muleriders came out and scored on the next play as Sykora rolled to his left and found Karon Dismuke for the tying score.

The Bisons would notch the lone score in third quarter as Ahmad Scott ran in from 15 yards out with 1:19 left in the quarter. The point after attempt by John Gay would miss, making the score 20-14 in favor of the Bisons.

Looking to comeback with a go-ahead score, the Muleriders would turn the football over on an interception on the play of the fourth quarter, but they would force a Bisons’ punt on the ensuing possession. After starting on their own seven-yardline, the Muleriders would quickly move deep into Bisons’ territory as Sykora and Terry would hook up on the first two plays of the drive for a total of 85 yards to get the ball down to the Harding eight-yard line. A fumble on the next play, which was recovered by SAU, put the Muleriders back to the Harding nine-yardline. Consecutive incomplete passes made it fourth down and goal. The Muleriders would elect to kick a field goal with 8:45 left in the game, but Austin Shoemake‘s 26-yard attempt went wide right, keeping the score 20-14 Harding.

On the ensuing drive, the Bisons added to their lead as they covered 80 yards on 10 methodical plays for the score. After a successful two-point conversion, the Bisons took a 28-14 lead. That drive took 4:45 off of the clock and left the Muleriders with four minutes to mount a comeback.

After starting at their 25-yardline following a touchback on the kickoff, the Muleriders would not be able to get a first down, eventually turning the ball over on downs after an incomplete pass on fourth down.

The Muleriders would get the ball back with 54 seconds left in the game, and a huge 70-yard pass to Zikerious Ware that put the ball on the Harding 20-yardline on the drive’s first play made things interesting. Unfortunately on third and 10 Sykora would be picked off for the third time in the game.

With 21 seconds left following the turnover, the Bisons took a knee to end the game.

Statistically, the Bisons would gain 489 total yards on 75 plays and the Muleriders would gain 340 total yards on 65 plays. Individually, Sykora ended the game 16-of-37 for 296 yards with a pair of touchdowns and three interceptions. Terry led the all receivers with 124 yards on four catches and a touchdown. Defensively, Mark Spaight and Tate Mustin combined for 25 tackles. Spaight, who had 13 total tackles, secured 10 of those stops for solo tackles.

The Muleriders will now hit the road for their next game as they will travel to Russellville, Ark. to take on Arkansas Tech. That game is scheduled for a 6 p.m. kickoff on Saturday, October 12.

Courtesy Harding University and Southern Arkansas University Department of Athletics

Tags: , , ,