Special to The Sun
TOPEKA, Kan. —
A pair of quick-strike touchdowns thwarted Central Oklahoma’s upset bid and kept the Bronchos winless Saturday afternoon as No. 18-ranked Washburn pulled out a 28-19 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association victory.
UCO led 7-0 after one quarter and it was tied 7-7 in the third quarter when the Ichabods sandwiched scoring passes of 80 and 40 yards around a Broncho touchdown to take a 21-13 lead after three periods.
A fumbled punt early in the fourth quarter led to a short Joshua Birmingham touchdown that made it 21-19 after the two-point conversion failed, but WU used a long drive to push its lead to nine with 8:30 remaining and UCO’s last two possessions ended in interceptions.
The Bronchos fell to 0-4 on the season and in league play, while the Ichabods improved to 4-0 overall and in the MIAA. Central Oklahoma’s first four opponents — Missouri Southern, Pittsburg State, Emporia State and WU — have a combined 12-0 record.
“We gave ourselves a chance to win the football game and just didn’t get it done,” head coach Nick Bobeck said. “I thought our defense gave great effort and did a good job keeping them in check most of the game, but we made some mistakes on both sides of the ball in the second half that cost us.”
The Bronchos had by far their best defensive outing of the season and limited Washburn to 28 points and 396 total yards — 25 points and 76 yards under their season averages headed into the game.
Defensive back Devoris Dozier returned to action after missing the previous two games and led UCO with 12 tackles, while linebacker Adrian Shoecraft had eight stops. Adrian Mack had 2.5 tackles for loss, Tyler Newton a sack and Tray Fagins the first interception of the season for the Bronchos.
Central Oklahoma finished with 439 yards as Adrian Nelson completed 22-of-37 passes for 308 yards and a TD. Marquez Clark hauled in seven aerials for 125 yards and a score and Birmingham had 128 yards rushing and receiving despite missing most of the fourth quarter to injury.
Clark’s 16-yard punt return set up UCO’s first score midway through the first quarter and it took just three plays to cover 49 yards.
Nelson hit Clark for five yards on first down, Birmingham had a 10-yard burst on second down and then Nelson found Clark with a 34-yard TD to give the Bronchos a 7-0 lead after Seth Hiddink’s extra point kick at the eight-minute mark of the first quarter.
UCO kept that lead with a gallant goal-line stand on WU’s next drive as the Ichabods had first-and-goal at the two-yard line before being stopped on four straight runs, with Tanner Koons, Antonio Jenkins, Rezahn Clayton and Thomas Hill leading the charge.
Washburn pulled even with a short touchdown run early in the second quarter and the half ended a 7-7 deadlock.
The Bronchos had two promising drives stall in WU territory to start the third period before the Ichabods broke the tie with an 80-yard TD pass on a third-and-one play, though UCO answered right back.
Birmingham sparked an 80-yard drive by taking short screen passes 31 and 33 yards before freshman Jake Gandara ending the march with a tackle-breaking five-yard scoring scamper.
Hiddink’s PAT was off the mark to leave UCO in a 14-13 hole and that quickly became a 21-13 deficit when the Ichabods returned the ensuing kickoff 49 yards and then scored on the next play on a 40-yard pass.
The Bronchos pulled close after Jenkins recovered a fumbled punt at the one-yard line that Birmingham converted into a short score, but the two-point conversion try failed and UCO trailed 21-19 with 9:42 remaining.
WU came back with another scoring drive to up its lead to 28-19 and the Ichabods held on with interceptions in their end zone and at their 29 in the final five minutes.
UCO returns home next Saturday to face No. 6-ranked Missouri Western at 6 p.m.