OPSU pulls out overtime win in Abilene

OPSU Aggies.

From OPSU Sports Info.
Justine Gaskamp, Sports Information Director

Abilene, Texas—A familiar showdown did not disappoint as the OPSU Aggies met up with the McMurry Warhawks Saturday afternoon, went toe-to-toe for a full 60 minutes and then came back for more in a 36-35 Aggie victory in overtime.

The two teams have now faced off three times since Coach Russell Gaskamp took over the OPSU Football program in 2012, with the Warhawks owning the upper hand in the previous two match-ups. Saturday’s game seemed secure as the Aggies closed out the opening half with a 20-0 lead; but the Warhawks bounced back after the break, battled through two score-ties and fell just short of victory, missing a point after attempt in overtime which would have extended the game.

The game was filled with twists and turns that gave Aggie fans one rollercoaster ride they won’t soon forget, starting in the first quarter with a forced fumble by the Warhawks on a 25-yard pass completion from Shane Truelove to Devon’te Jackson. The Aggie defense responded with a Zach Clack sack on the next drive forcing the Warhawks to punt from their own 20-yardline. Truelove then called his own number on a third-and-two play that went 49 yards to the end zone for the first Aggies TD of the day; a failed PAT attempt left the score at 6-0 midway through the opening quarter. McMurry’s offense was contained for the remainder of the quarter and the Aggie D came up with their second sack thanks to the combined efforts of Isaia Vimoto and Devon Johnson.

OPSU held possession going into the second quarter as well as a 6-0 lead, but the Warhawks broke through and grounded Truelove with a sack at the OPSU 40. A 41-yard punt by Jacob Test put the Warhawks back on their own 38 and the Aggie defense held them to a quick three-and-out putting the ball back in Aggie hands. Senior running back Chris McClendon then tread turf 45 yards on three consecutive rushes crossing over to the McMurry 35. Rod Moore and Truelove teamed up for a combined 13 yards and an Aggie first down when the Warhawks swooped in for an interception in the end zone. OPSU’s defense once again put the brakes on McMurry’s offense with another three-and-out giving the Aggies great field position and setting up a Devyn Williams touchdown for a 13-0 lead with under seven minutes left in the half. Another strong stand by the Aggie defense forced the Warhawks to punt and, four plays and 54 yards later, the Aggies added another seven points to the board with a Truelove rushing touchdown. Frustration started to show as the Warhawks sustained two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and one sack on the resulting drive and the Aggies left the field with a healthy 20-0 lead at the half.

After the break each team came out with quarterback changes as Brandon Ramon took the snaps in the first three series of the second half. The Warhawks entered the end zone for the first time, four minutes into the third quarter, on a botched lateral that resulted in a McMurry touchdown. Darnell Reed then gave the Warhawks a dose of their own medicine, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Vimoto on the 50 yard line. The real rollercoaster ride then began as the Warhawks turned around with another interception on the resulting play and put up a 27-yard pass for their second touchdown to pull within one score of the lead. The twists and turns continued as a third interception by the Warhawks was answered by back-to-back sacks from the Aggies and a safety for OPSU. As the quarter ticked down, Truelove was taken for his third INT of the day, but the Aggies still held an eight-point lead (22-14) going into the final fifteen minutes.

The game got real when McMurry tied the score on an 82-yard touchdown pass and two-point conversion with 8:20 left on the clock. Then, as OPSU was making a move for the end zone the Warhawks recovered a fumble and then took seven plays to break the tie going 45 yards for a TD and a seven-point advantage (29-22). With less than one minute left in the game, Zacari Lavender gave the Aggies great field position with a 55-yard kickoff return; Truelove then rallied with three complete passes for 33 yards and the tying touchdown that sent the Aggies into overtime. Red-shirt freshman Will McKinnis saved the day with the diving catch in the endzone scoring the first touchdown of his college career.

OPSU got the ball first and took it four plays for an Aggie TD forcing the hand of the Warhawks right out the gate. With the PAT good from Nik Clarkson, the Aggies led 36-29 and McMurry had one possession to keep the game going. A seven-yard pass and four rushes later left Aggie fans holding their breath as the Warhawks found the end zone coming within one play of either victory or defeat. As the kicker was set, Gaskamp called a timeout; the ensuing PAT failed and the Aggie fans exhaled with relief for the one-point squeaker they had just witnessed.

After the dust settled the Aggies ended up with 468 total yards of offense, on a fairly balanced attack, with 262 yards rushing and 206 passing. The Warhawks totaled 306 total yards with 203 from passing and 103 rushing. There were nine turnovers throughout the game; seven being Warhawk takeaways from OPSU that cost the Aggies a total of 21 points; but the defense evened things out with six sacks and twelve tackles-for-loss on the day.

Leading the Aggie offense were Chris McClendon and Zacari Lavender with 134 all-purpose yards each. McClendon had one touchdown on 119 yards rushing and Lavender totaled 67 yards on return, 60 receiving yards and seven yards rushing.

There were many contributors on the defensive side of the ball. Senior Tanner Hallford led in tackles with eight and one quarterback hurry, followed by Darnell Reed who had seven tackles and one forced fumble. Michael Weaver came up with the Aggies’ lone interception and Xazier Murry was awarded two pass breakups. Assisting in the sack attack were: Royce Asi-1, Isaia Vimoto-0.5, Sheldon Catley-1, Kameron Lyons-1, Clack-1 and Devon Johnson-1.5.

Coach Gaskamp responded on the win, “Any time that you get a win on the road you are happy as a staff. However, it is almost statistically impossible to win a game when minus five in the turnover margin, but our kids figured out a way to get it done. I’m proud of their effort and I’m proud of them for not giving up at the end of the game. I am so happy for Will [McKinnis] game-saving touchdown. He has been working very hard in practice and getting better every week.”

Gaskamp continued, “As a team we understand that we are going to have to play better and clean up the mistakes for us to compete down the stretch versus the LSC.”

The Aggies will continue their travels this week with an LSC matchup against Tarleton State in Stephenville, Texas on Saturday, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. Aggie fans can catch all the action with live stats, video and audio links available on the football page of the OPSU Aggie Athletics website.

Carl Wooten Field will be brimming with “spirit” on Halloween as the Aggies host a “Go, Fright, Win” game against Texas College on Saturday, Oct. 31 at 2 p.m. Stay tuned for more details; fans won’t want to miss this fun-filled day for the whole family!

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