Lions lose momentum after half

Senior wide receiver DeMarcus Mathes carries the ball to earn a first down for the Lions during the second quarter of the Sept. 4 game.

Senior wide receiver DeMarcus Mathes carries the ball to earn a first down for the Lions during the second quarter of the Sept. 4 game.

Jacob W. Brower

A 17-point halftime lead was not enough to lead Missouri Southern to a win Saturday as they fell 32-27 to Harding University.

The Lions jumped to a 21-3 lead going into the break, but HU responded with 29 unanswered points and thwarted a Lions comeback attempt late in the fourth quarter.

Lions head coach John Ware said he saw many positive things out of his team, but believes his players did not show the confidence needed to pull out a victory.

“When 70 percent of the team is made up of freshmen, you can take a lot of positives out of how hard we played,” Ware said “But we’re a young team; We still have to get better in all aspects, and our guys have to learn some confidence.”

HU drew first blood in the second quarter with a 13-play, 75-yard drive, capped off with a Ben Davis field goal.

The Lions responded quickly. On their next drive, sophomore running back Wentric Williams carried the ball 28 yards, setting up a short Nathan Emert pass which wide receiver Demarcus Mathes turned into a long 57-yard touchdown, putting Southern up 7-3.

A fumble recovery by Moses Manga, sophomore cornerback, on an HU punt return set up an 18-yard touchdown strike from Emert to junior wide receiver Tedaryl Mason with 10:14 left in the half, putting Southern up 14-3.

With a little more than a minute left in the first half, Southern senior cornerback Floyd Ike picked off an Adam Lybrand pass and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown, making the score 21-3.

Southern had a chance to extend its lead late in the second quarter when freshman defensive tackle Bobby Odoir recovered a Bison fumble on the HU 16-yard line, but the Lions’ chances ended when they fumbled the ball at the 20-yard line and had the ball returned by HU defensive back Torrance Daniels to the Southern 1-yard line to end the half.

Tyson Basore, junior wide receiver, saved the touchdown, but Ware said he believes the play shifted the momentum in the Bisons’ direction.

“They got the momentum when we couldn’t take advantage of that fumble,” he said. “Football is a game that can change quickly. We’ve got to instill in the team that we don’t lose games like that.”

The HU comeback began with 9:26 left in the third quarter when a 49-yard pass from Lybrand to wide receiver Joe Price set up a 21-yard Davis field goal. After Southern was forced to punt on the following drive, the Bisons produced a 7-play, 46-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Dontray Thomas.

The Davis extra point was good, cutting Southern’s lead to 21-13.

A little over two minutes into the fourth quarter, the Bisons ended a six minute, 55 yard drive when Lybrand found fullback Kyle Wess in the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown catch, reducing the Lions’ lead to 21-19. The two-point conversion pass attempt by Lybrand fell incomplete.

The Bisons put themselves in position to take the lead when HU free safety Reggie Knighton intercepted an Emert pass on the ensuing drive and returned it to the Lions 8-yard line. Lybrand took the ball in the end zone on the following play, giving HU a 25-21 lead. The two-point pass attempt by Lybrand fell incomplete.

After Southern was forced to punt on its next possession, HU chewed up nearly five minutes on a 99-yard drive, which was capped off by a 1-yard Lybrand touchdown run. The Davis extra point attempt was good, giving HU a 32-21 lead.

Southern responded on its next possession when Emert and Mason connected once again for a 3-yard touchdown with 1:13 left in the game, reducing the deficit to 32-27, but Emert’s two-point conversion pass attempt failed and the following onside kick was recovered by HU.

After converting on third down, Lybrand kneeled down, preserving the victory.

The Lions are now 1-1 for the season. They open up MIAA conference play on Saturday with a visit to the University of Missouri-Rolla