MAGNOLIA, Ark. – The Southern Arkansas football team scored 28 points in the second quarter to overcome what was a 14-0 deficit and eventually routed the Arkansas-Monticello Boll Weevils by a score of 51-20 on Saturday afternoon at Wilkins Stadium at Rip Powell Field.
Arkansas-Monticello Boll Weevils (5-6, 5-6 GAC)
Southern Arkansas Muleriders (7-4, 7-4 GAC)
HOW IT HAPPENED – First Half
- UAM scored the game's first points as Cole Sears connected with standout wide receiver Jalen Tolliver for a 63-yard pitch-and-catch. It was Tolliver's 15th receiving touchdown of the year, extending his lead in DII in that category.
- The Muleriders were forced to punt on their ensuing drive and UAM then began to march down the field for their second score of the game. That drive drained the remaining 5:55 on the first quarter clock and briefly leaked into the second quarter as Imani Riley scored a rushing touchdown from five yards out on the first play of quarter No. 2.
- Now up 14-0, the Boll Weevils short kicked the kickoff and SAU began their next drive with good field position at their own 36-yardline. After a five-yard rush by senior tailback Michael Nunnery, SAU picked up first downs on the next two plays as Barrett Renner completed a five-yard pass to Jonathan Weisheit and a 15-yard pass to Tanner Hudson.
- On the next play, Renner put the first points on the board for the Muleriders as Nunnery leaked out from the backfield and caught a pass up field and eventually scored to make it a 36-yard receiving touchdown, the first of his season.
- On the second play of UAM's ensuing drive, running back Logan Penn was stood up by a host of Muleriders at the line of scrimmage and in the midst of the stonewall, Malachi Pointerwas able to strip the ball away, giving the Muleriders the ball right back.
- The Muleriders wasted no time at all after that in tying up the score as three plays later, Renner connected with Hudson from 25-yards out on a #SCTOP10 worthy catch by the senior tight end as he skied for the reception.
- Following a missed 33-yard field goal by UAM, SAU quickly marched down the field once more, this time capping the drive with a five-yard plunge by Nunnery to take a 21-14 lead with 2:32 left in the half.
- Not long after that, SAU's defense forced a three-and-out and on the first play of the Muleriders' ensuing drive, Renner threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Karonce Higgins. That touchdown was the Muleriders fourth of the second quarter and turned a 14-point deficit into a 14-point advantage.
HOW IT HAPPENED – Second Half
- Having lost the toss and kicking off to begin the game, the Muleriders were the first to possess the ball in the second half. In that initial drive, SAU drove the ball down to the UAM 24-yardline before being forced to try for a 41-yard field goal attempt by Bradford Grems. The senior from Corinth, Texas drilled the try from distance and it was now 31-14 SAU with 12:33 left in the third quarter.
- The Mulerider defense forced a quick three-and-out once more and the offense rewarded the effort with a 6-play, 77-yard drive that ended with a four-yard rushing touchdown by Nunnery to make it 38-14, SAU.
- Early in the fourth quarter, Renner and Higgins connected once more for a score, this time from an abbreviated six yards out, pushing the lead out to 31 points, 45-14.
- UAM's next possession ended in a turnover as Terry Bozeman threw the ball right to a waiting Kaseem Smith at the SAU 35-yardline. Smith returned the pick 22 yards to the UAM 43-yardline. That ensuing drive by SAU would get down to the UAM 25-yardline before stalling out. Grems would make it a successful drive, however, as he nailed a 42-yard field goal attempt to make it 48-14, SAU.
- The Boll Weevils were then finally able to break the Muleriders' unanswered scoring barrage as Tolliver collected his second receiving touchdown of the game. This one was from 24-yards out and once again came from Sears. The Boll Weevils failed in their two-point conversion attempt to keep the score, 48-20 in favor of SAU with 1:16 left to play.
- UAM then attempted an on-side kick, but it was recovered and returned by Weisheit 11 yards. At the end of that return, an unsportsmanlike penalty was added giving the Muleriders starting field position at the UAM 19-yardline.
- With the game in hand, the attention turned towards senior kicker Bradford Grems as he was now just one point away from tying the SAU career record for points scored. A pair of five-yard rushes by Nunnery and SirCharles Perkins centered the ball at the UAM 9-yardline to set up a makeable 26-yard field goal try.
- After calling a timeout with five seconds left, Grems was sent back on to the field with a chance at putting his name atop an esteemed career record at SAU. Moments later, Grems right leg hammered the ball through the uprights as time expired. Those three points gave the Muleriders 51 in the game, but more special to Grems, gave him 266 in his career, passing former standout running back Mark Johnson (2008-13) who ended his career with 264 points scored.
- After trailing 14-0 and just scoring their first touchdown of the game, the Muleriders got the ball right back thanks to a forced fumble by Malachi Pointer on the second play of the ensuing UAM drive. SAU needed just three plays from there to score the game-tying touchdown.
- The Muleriders have now won all six of the games in which the Battle of the Timberlands Trophy has been up for grabs. The traveling trophy has not left Magnolia since its inception in 2012.
- Additionally, the win at home was the Muleriders fifth of the season as they ended the year unblemished at home. Since 2012, SAU is now an impressive 24-3 (.889) at home. Even more impressive is the fact that the 10 seniors on this year's team ended their careers with a 17-1 (.944) record at home.
- Those 10 seniors were: Darren Crawford, Colby Geissen, Bradford Grems, Tanner Hudson, Corey Jenkins, Elgin Moore, Michael Nunnery, Garrett Turnbull, Jonathan Weisheit, and Travis Williams.
- The career points scored record was not the only record Grems achieved on Saturday. He also set a new single-season record for PAT kicks. Grems was tied for the single-game mark heading in the game and was 6-for-6 to give him 52 for his senior season. In his junior year, Grems set a career record in PAT kicks as well.
- Quarterback Barrett Renner broke yet another record, this time it was one of his own as he set a new SAU single-season record for passing touchdowns. His four-TD performance gives him 35 on the year and surpassed his previous record of 33, which he set as a freshman in 2015.
- Needing just nine yards to reach 2,000 receiving yards in his career, senior wide receiver Jonathan Weisheit totaled 61 yards and his now one of just five receivers in SAU history with over 2,000 yards receiving.
- Senior running back Michael Nunnery was knocking on the doorstep of a career milestone as well entering the game as he needed just 60 yards to get to 2,500 for his career. Nunnery would more than double up that amount as he ran for a season-high 153 yards on 26 carries. Nunnery now has 2,613 yards rushing in his career as a Mulerider.
The Muleriders may still have another opportunity to play a football game pending the upcoming NCAA Division II Playoff Selection Show and bowl game invitations that will be issued afterwards.
Saturday's Great American Conference football action saw Ouachita claim an out-right conference title and likely secured a spot in the NCAA DII Playoffs after a 49-42 win over Henderson State. Harding upended Arkansas Tech on the road, 24-17, to push their record to 8-3 overall and dropping Tech to 8-3 as well. Tech entered the final week of the regular season ranked No. 7 in the Super Region 3 poll while Harding was No. 8 in that same poll. The top-7 ranked by the selection committee advance to the NCAA DII Playoffs.
SAU's win made them 7-4 on the season and tied them with Southeastern Oklahoma after the Savage Storm beat East Central, 27-24. SAU holds the head-to-head tie-breaker with Southeastern, however, by virtue of the Muleriders' 49-19 win over the Savage Storm back on October 21.
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By: Doug Ireland/Sports Information Director