Special to The Sun
WARRENSBURG, Mo. —
Weather issues that forced an overnight delay did Central Oklahoma no favors and the Bronchos ended up dropping a 47-17 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association decision to Central Missouri here Sunday afternoon.
UCO owned a 10-6 lead and appeared to have all the momentum when the game was halted at the end of the first quarter early Saturday evening after a series of stoppages due to lightning, but the tide turned when play resumed.
The Mules used a fumble recovery deep in their own territory to stop the Bronchos on the first possession after play resumed and then scored 17 unanswered points to take a 23-10 lead before Joshua Birmingham gave UCO hope with an electrifying 73-yard touchdown reception on the final play of the half to make it 23-17.
UCM dominated the second half, however, outscoring the Bronchos 24-0 to climb to 5-2 on the year and in league play. UCO, which is idle next week, fell to 1-6 overall and in the MIAA.
The Mules finished with 552 total yards, passing for 338 and rushing for 214. The Bronchos ended with 364 yards, but managed just 72 in the second half.
Ethan Sharp started and went the distance at quarterback in place of injured Adrian Nelson and hit 20-of-40 passes for 295 yards and a touchdown. Birmingham ended with 216 all-purpose yards (86 receiving, 70 rushing, 60 return), while Leroy Travis (65 yards) and Christian Hood (53) each caught six passes.
UCO led 10-6 and was facing a third-and-one play at its own 45-yard-line when play resumed Sunday with the start of the second quarter and Birmingham promptly picked up a first down with a four-yard burst up the middle.
Sharp followed with a 36-yard pass to Sam Johnson to get the Bronchos the UCM 15, but the Mules came up with a crucial stop two plays later when the senior signal-caller fumbled the ball away at the four after a six-yard scramble.
A 69-yard pass quickly put UCM in scoring possession, though a sack by Adrian Shoecraft and Michael Harris forced a 44-yard field goal try the drifted wide left to keep the Bronchos in the lead.
The Mules came back with 17 unanswered points to take a 23-10 lead as UCO’s offense stalled on three straight possessions. Colter Smith threw a pair of touchdown passes in that surge, including a 46-yarder with just nine seconds left in the half to make it 23-10.
Amazingly, that left the Bronchos — and Birmingham — enough time to answer.
A squib kick and short return by C.J. Carson had UCO at its own 27 with four seconds remaining and Sharp hit Birmingham with a screen pass over the middle. Birmingham did the rest, somehow maneuvering his way through a pack of UCM defenders before breaking in the clear at midfield and outracing everybody the rest of the way for the stunning score.
That made it 23-17 at the break and had the Bronchos back in the game, but UCO didn’t threaten again and the Mules pulled away.