From UCO Sports Information
EMPORIA, Kan. (Sept. 15) –Missed opportunities, turnovers and a potent opponent formed a combination that was simply too much for Central Oklahoma to overcome here Saturday afternoon.
The Bronchos failed to turn eight possessions inside Emporia State territory into points – four of those because of turnovers – and gave up 538 yards to the unbeaten Hornets in dropping a 42-14 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association decision at Welch Field.
UCO hurt itself with mistakes early in falling behind 21-0 and continued to do so while trying to stay in the game in the second half. The Bronchos finished with three interceptions and two lost fumbles in addition to missing an extra point, having a field goal blocked and failing on two fourth down tries on ESU’s side of the field.
Central fell to 0-3, both overall and in the MIAA. The Hornets improved to 3-0 and 3-0.
“We made way too many mistakes in every phase of the game,” first-year head coach Nick Bobeck said. “You can’t turn the ball over and have success, especially in this league, and that’s something we have to get corrected.”
ESU passed for 310 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 228 in outgaining the Bronchos 538-340.
Adrian Nelson was 22-of-44 passing for 231 yards for UCO, but he also had three interceptions. Daniel Morrell caught six passes for 103 yards and Joshua Birmingham added 71 yards rushing in 19 attempts.
A 31-yard kickoff return helped spark a 54-yard touchdown drive on the opening possession of the game to give ESU a quick 7-0 lead, though the Bronchos were in position to tie the game minutes later after taking over at the ESU 43-yard-line after a short punt.
That drive ended two plays later on a Nelson interception at the 34 and it took the Hornets just five plays to push their lead to 14-0. UCO again looked to answer in moving to a first-and-goal at the ESU nine before Nelson was picked off again, this time in the end zone.
ESU promptly went 80 yards in nine plays to up its lead to 21-0 before Birmingham ignited the Bronchos with a 64-yard kickoff return that carried to the Emporia 29.
Nelson capped the short touchdown march with an eight-yard strike to Morrell with 10:41 left in the second quarter, but Chris Robbs missed the extra point – ending his streak of 32 straight – to leave UCO in a 21-6 hole.
The Bronchos looked to cut into that lead on a drive later in the period before Morrell fumbled the ball away at the end of a 19-yard reception at the ESU19 and the Hornets came back with an 81-yard TD drive to make it 28-6 by halftime.
UCO had another golden scoring opportunity early in the second half when ESU fumbled a punt that Anthony Anderson recovered at the Hornet 15, but the Bronchos gained just three yards and Robbs’ 29-yard field goal try was blocked.
Emporia answered that with another quick-strike TD to make it 35-6 before the Bronchos finally put together another drive.
Nelson’s 38-yard pass to Morrell was the big play and Birmingham scored on a 12-yard scamper. Nelson hit Tucker Holland for the two-point conversion to get UCO within 35-14 with 8:19 left in the third period.
There would be no miracle comeback, however, as the Bronchos failed to convert on three straight possessions inside Emporia territory – coming up short on a fourth-and-six at the 10, throwing an interception at the 49 and losing a fumble at the 28.
Mike Kirk is the Director of Athletic Media Relations at the University of Central Oklahoma.