Chris Brannick, Director of Sports Information
EDMOND – The University of Central Oklahoma football team beat fourth-ranked Northwest Missouri 31-21 Saturday night at Wantland Stadium in Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association play.
The Bronchos improved to 2-2 on the season, handing Northwest Missouri its first loss of 2018. It’s the first time the Bronchos have beaten Northwest since joining the MIAA in 2012.
“Those guys just went out there and did it,” seventh-year head coach Nick Bobeck said. “They wanted it and they fought for it. They worked so hard and I’m really proud of them.”
Chandler Garrett, a sophomore from Mustang, Okla. making his first career start, was brilliant in the win. He was 17-for-33 passing with 274 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran the ball 18 times for 59 yards, including a game-high 27-yard scamper.
“Chandler is a competitor,” Bobeck said. “He just goes out there and competes. He’s been a great teammate in everything he does and he just went out there and got it done tonight.”
The effort by Garrett started early. The Bronchos got the ball after forcing Northwest to punt on its first possession. Garrett then found L’liott Curry for a 9-yard pass completion, and then an 11-yard pass completion. After Clay McKenzie ran the ball for eight yards to the Northwest 43, Garrett launched a pass back Curry’s way. The junior receiver hauled it in, muscling past the Bearcat defense and into the end zone for a touchdown.
That put UCO up 7-0. The Bronchos never trailed Saturday.
Central’s defense – which Garrett deferred credit to after the game – played its biggest and best effort in recent memory, halting Northwest early and often. UCO got the ball back by forcing a turnover on downs and the teams traded possessions a few times before the Bronchos struck again.
Garrett capped a 15-play, 65-yard scoring drive that spanned the final six minutes of the opening quarter and ended a minute into the second stanza when the Broncho QB found McKenzie on a 2-yard rollout pass in the end zone to make it 14-0.
The Bronchos went to halftime up 14-3 and after a pair of punts to open the third quarter, Garrett led the Bronchos on the drive of the game.
UCO led a Northwest punt go around the 10-yard line and it took a Bearcat bounce, coming to a stop at the UCO 1-yard line.
On Friday night, the University officially opened the Sports Performance Center, a 40,000+ square foot state-of-the-art facility just north of Wantland Stadium. Garrett lined up with virtually every inch of turf between him and the SPC. But 12 plays and 6:06 later, a pass from Garrett to Ronnie Turner made the score 21-3 UCO and the fans atop that new building in the north end zone got the best look at the big play.
The big plays weren’t over either.
Central’s defense came through again, as was the theme of the night, and forced a Northwest three & out on the next series and the Bronchos took over, 1st & 10 at its own 28-yard line.
Garrett took the snap and dropped back. He paused for just a moment and fired a deep ball to a sprinting Dustin Basks down the left sideline. Basks was already a few steps behind his defender and was a few steps farther when he caught the pass. A race to the Sports Performance Center was easily won by Basks and the 72-yard touchdown made it 28-3 Bronchos with 2:29 to play in the third quarter.
Northwest Missouri grabbed a pair of touchdowns and a field goal in the fourth quarter to make a game of it. Alex Quevedo pelted a 45-yard field goal too to keep UCO ahead. The Broncho defense handled the rest.
Chris Pogi led the Broncho defense with 10 tackles including 1.5 behind the line of scrimmage. He also forced a fumble. Dillon Hall added nine tackles including one sack, and Justin Stewart also had a sack to go with his four tackles.
Central combined for five tackles for a loss but also had five breakups in the secondary.
Garrett’s final numbers on the night: 274 yards, four touchdowns, 60 more yards rushing the football. He found Curry eight times for 103 yards and a score. He found Basks four times for 105 yards and a score. In all, he hit six different receivers on the night.
The Bronchos pull back to .500 with the win and now turn its focus to the defending MIAA champions in Fort Hays State. UCO will play at Hays, Kan. in Week 5, traveling north to take on the Tigers on Saturday, Sept. 29 at 7 p.m.