From UCO Sports Info.
Mike Kirk, Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations
MARYVILLE, Mo. – Two big turnovers derailed Central Oklahoma’s gallant upside bid against No. 3-ranked Northwest Missouri here Saturday afternoon.
The Bronchos played inspired defense all day, but NWMSU scored 14 points off a blocked punt and a 56-yard interception return that led to a short scoring run and that was the difference in a tough 23-16 setback.
UCO fell to 0-4 on the season and in Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association play, while the Bearcats improved to 4-0 in both.
“We gave great effort and had a chance to win the football game, but made some big mistakes that were obviously critical to the outcome,” head coach Nick Bobeck said. “You can’t give any team 14 points, let alone one the caliber of Northwest Missouri, and we couldn’t overcome that.”
The Bronchos had a chance to force overtime in the final minutes, but Chas Stallard‘s long fourth-down pass was knocked down at the NWMSU 20-yard-line in the final seconds.
UCO managed just 266 yards against the Bearcats, rushing for 141 and passing for 125 as Stallard completed 11-of-35 attempts.
Clay McKenzie led the running game with 75 yards and a TD on 15 carries, while Stallard had 57 yards in 23 attempts.
The Bronchos limited NWMSU to 358 yards (240 passing, 118 rushing) as the Bearcats hit 18-of-40 passes.
Linebacker Malcolm Howard had another big game with 16 tackles, including three for loss. Safety David Busby added eight tackles and linebacker Jason Frimpong five.
UCO led 13-10 at halftime, but the Bearcats went in front to stay at 17-13 with 4:56 left in the third quarter after the long interception return to the Broncho four-yard-line resulted in a one-play TD drive.
Stallard threw passes of 30 yards to Easton Pingleton and 14 to J.T. Luper in a 52-yard drive that ended with Seth Hiddink‘s third field goal of the game, this one from 33 yards that made it 17-16 in the final seconds of the third period.
The Bearcats drove inside UCO’s 10 twice in the fourth quarter, but the Bronchos forced NWMSU to settle for field goals of 27 and 29 yards in stretching its lead to 23-16.
UCO’s final possession started with 2:54 remaining, with a fourth-down penalty and 30-yard Stallard-to-Connor Pulley pass helping the Bronchos reach a first down at the NWMSU 37.
Two sacks dropped UCO back to its own 47 and Stallard’s fourth-and-26 pass from there fell incomplete with 16 seconds left.
The Bronchos broke on top 7-0 midway through the first quarter after a 19-yard Luper punt return gave UCO great field position at the NWMSU 30.
Three McKenzie runs covered that distance, with the hard-running sophomore picking up 23 yards on the first play before finishing off the short drive with a six-yard smash.
The Bearcats came back with a short field goal to get within 7-3 and then took a 10-7 lead with the blocked punt and 12-yard return in the final seconds of the opening quarter.
Stallard’s 36-yard keeper led to a 42-yard Hiddink field goal that tied it 10-10 early in the second period and UCO went up 13-10 with 5:06 left in the half on a 30-yarder by the junior kicker.
The Bronchos return home next Saturday to host Nebraska-Kearney at 2 p.m.