Doug Self, Sports Information Director
WEATHERFORD, Okla. – SWOSU Quarterback Casey Freeman tied the Great American Conference record by throwing for seven touchdown passes as he led the Bulldogs to a 49-35 victory over Arkansas-Monticello in the ASAP Kickoff Classic on Thursday night.
All seven of the Bulldogs scoring plays came through the air and from outside the red zone, with SWOSU racking up 421 passing yards while averaging 22.2 yards per completion. Freeman connected with eight different receivers, throwing touchdown passes to five different Bulldogs – with two apiece going to Jared Rayburn and Turner Jackson.
SWOSU started quickly, getting a 46-yard touchdown pass from Freeman to Joel Blumenthal via a double-reverse pass on the team’s second play from scrimmage. UAM scored on their ensuing drive, but SWOSU had an answer as Freeman found Kyshawn Richards streaking down the home sideline for a 43-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-6 after one quarter.
UAM scored twice in a row to open the second quarter and took a 21-14 lead after Deontae Haynes returned a Freeman fumble 34 yards for a score with 12:23 to play before the halftime break. SWOSU then put the next 21 points on the board, including touchdown passes to Rayburn and Kameron Bradley that put the Dawgs up 28-21 at the break.
Freeman again found Rayburn for a 47-yard scoring strike that lifted the Bulldogs to a 35-21 early in the third quarter. A new target emerged for the Bulldogs gunslinger in the fourth quarter as Freeman connected with Turner Jackson for a pair of scoring strikes to put the game away.
When the dust finally settled, Freeman finished 18-for-26 for a career-best 416 yards and seven scores – matching a GAC record that had been previously set three times. He surpassed the school record of four touchdown passes less than two minutes into the third quarter. His top target was Rayburn, who racked up 136 yards and two scores on just three receptions, while Bradley, Jackson and JR Omigie had three catches apiece.
SWOSU totaled 132 yards on 36 rushing attempts, getting 57 yards from Richards while Jermaine Mask had 33 yards on seven carries. True freshman Jaden Knowles got the start at tailback and carried the ball a team-high 13 times for 30 yards.
Defensively, the Bulldogs were led by senior captain Clay Wilkerson, who stepped up from his inside linebacker position to make 11 tackles – three solo, eight assist – while Malcolm Davis chipped in with six stops.
The victory opens the Chet Pobolish era of SWOSU Football in exciting fashion, as could be noticed by the attitude and energy of his players on the field and the sideline.
“I feel good. We told our guys to come out and have a good time and I feel like we did that tonight,” Pobolish said. “We’ve still got a long ways to go, there are a lot of mistakes we’ve got to clean up but we’re going to keep getting better. Even though we got put in some bad positions tonight, but we continued to Spot the Ball.”
SWOSU opens the season 1-0 for the second straight season and they will head to Arkadelphia, Ark., next Saturday for a matchup with Ouachita, who defeated Northwestern Oklahoma State 29-21 on Thursday night in Alva.