Doug Self, Sports Information Director
ARKADELPHIA, Ark. – Casey Freeman fired a 15-yard touchdown pass to J.R. Omigie with 28 seconds to play, completing a record-setting night for Omigie and lifting the SWOSU Football team past Henderson State, 35-31, on Saturday night at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium.
Trailing 31-28, the Bulldogs got the ball at their own 20-yard line with 1:28 to play after forcing Henderson State to go three-and-out near midfield. Freeman would use three different receivers to methodically move the ball downfield, connecting with Omigie to get the Dawgs into Reddie territory before hitting Eddie Thomas IV to move down to the 15-yard line. Following the lone incompletion on the drive, Freeman fired a strike to Omigie, who hauled in the reception at the goal line and fell into the end zone for the go-ahead score.
Henderson State had one last chance and moved the ball down to the SWOSU 20-yard line with two seconds remaining. After each team called a timeout, HSU’s Richard Stammeti stepped up and delivered a pass into the end zone that SWOSU’s Tony Johnson was able to deflect away from the Reddie receiver as time expired, sending the Dawgs to their second victory of the season.
While the final score was in favor of the Bulldogs, they had to play from behind for most of the game after falling down 14-0 less than nine minutes into the game. SWOSU would respond with the next 14 points, getting scoring runs from Jaimarian Biscoe and Kevin Fox, Jr., to knot the score at 14-14 early in the second quarter. With SWOSU looking to take the lead, Ryan Buchanan misfired on a 30-yard field goal attempt and Henderson State would score the final ten points of the first half to take a 24-14 lead to the intermission.
SWOSU’s defense forced stops on all four of Henderson State’s drives in the third quarter, including a forced fumble and recovery by Johnson that gave the Dawgs possession in HSU territory with 11:08 to play in the quarter. Following a personal foul on the Reddies, Biscoe carried three straight times, taking the third one into the end zone from 10 yards out for his second score of the game, which cut it to 24-21 with 9:39 to play in the third.
Henderson State missed a field goal on their first drive of the fourth quarter, which set up a quick six-play scoring drive that allowed SWOSU to take their first lead. The longest play on the drive was a 50-yard completion from Freeman to Omigie that moved the Bulldogs into HSU territory. Four plays later, Zach Hill would fight off defensive pass interference and haul in a 21-yard touchdown pass from Freeman on the far sideline and put SWOSU up 28-24 for their first lead in the game.
The Reddies would methodically answer back with a 12-play, 75-yard scoring drive that ended with a six-yard touchdown pass and put HSU back on top 31-28. SWOSU again moved into Reddie territory on their next drive before turning the ball over on downs with 2:35 to play. The Bulldog defense again held on three straight plays, allowing Freeman, Omigie and the rest of the offense to get the ball back for the game-winning scoring drive.
“I told our guys all week that the opportunity was there, but we had to go take it,” SWOSU Head Coach Chet Pobolish said after the game. “We knew that Henderson State would be a really good team, so it wasn’t going to be handed to us. None of these kids have ever won here and I’m really proud of the way they played tonight to get it done.”
Heading up the list of standouts on Saturday night was JR Omigie, who had a career game with 219 yards on eight receptions, including the game-winning touchdown. Omigie becomes the first Bulldog with more than 200 receiving yards in a game since 2005 (Danny Howard, 248 at Northeastern State) and his yardage total represents the third-most single-game receiving yards at SWOSU in the NCAA Division II era.
Casey Freeman also had a marvelous evening in directing the Bulldogs to 492 yards of total offense. Freeman completed 18-of-33 passes for 377 yards and two touchdowns, with both scoring strikes putting SWOSU in the lead during the back-and-forth fourth quarter. He completed passes to six different receivers, with Omigie, Thomas and Hill serving as his top targets.
Jaimarian Biscoe scored his first collegiate touchdown and became the first Bulldog running back to score a rushing touchdown this season, reaching the end zone twice on 13 carries that covered 49 yards. Jaden Knowles added 39 yards on 14 carries while making his second career start in the backfield.
Several players had standout performances defensively as well, led by Tony Johnson with a forced fumble, fumble recovery and final play pass breakup to go along with five tackles. Derrius Franklin made a team-best nine tackles in his first career start while Jalen Carr – added six stops and two pass breakups from the cornerback position.
Jacob Rodman had five tackles and one sack, while Braden Sweet had four tackles, including two sacks in one drive. Gerald White got the call at safety for the second straight week and was in on four tackles, as were TJ Harris and CJ Jennings, who both also got credited with tackles for loss.
The victory over Henderson State snaps a six-game losing streak to the Reddies and its SWOSU’s first win in Arkadelphia since 2011, the first year of the Great American Conference. With the win, the Bulldogs even their overall record at 2-2 heading into an in-state showdown at East Central next Saturday night in Ada.