ABILENE, Texas – After a 42 year hiatus, McMurry University renewed its rivalry with Angelo State University and suffered a tough 48-35 loss in its Homecoming game at Wilford Moore Stadium. The loss dropped the War Hawks to 1-4 on the season, while the Rams improved to 2-3.
After delay of over an hour due to lightning, McM actually scored first in the contest by taking the opening kickoff and marching 83 yards for a score in 11 plays…technically. Faced with a first and goal from the ASU nine yard line, McM quarterback Gabe Rodriguez completed an eight-yard pass to David McHugh to move the ball down to the one. On the next play, Paxton Grayer was thrown for a loss of four yards.
On a third-and-goal play, the Rams’ Nekechie Miller broke up a pass to the left corner of the end zone. Rodriguez then followed with a toss to the right corner, which was overthrown on what should have been the fourth down play. However, the down box had third down and the officials spotted the ball for a phantom fourth down play…which was converted when Rodriguez connect with Greg Livingston for the five-yard touchdown strike. Ian McCarthy’s extra point kick made it 7-0 in favor of the War Hawks at the 11:38 mark of the opening period.
But from that point on, the visiting Angelo State team would reel off 41 unanswered points. The Rams carried a 34-7 into the halftime locker room, after utilizing its strong rushing attack and some timely defense, and added to that early in the third period.
Down 41-7, and with hope beginning to fade, Grayer lit the fire for the McMurry faithful on his team’s first play of the second half. Grayer took the handoff and sprinted through the ASU defense on a 72-yard touchdown jaunt that helped cut the deficit to 41-14 at the 12:34 juncture of the third.
After the Rams ensuing drive stalled on the McM five and a 23 yard field goal attempt missed, the War Hawks got the ball back on their own 20. And for the second-straight series, McMurry produced a quick-strike response.
Rodriguez found wide receiver Jeret Smith over the middle and the speedy junior took care of the rest as he out-ran the Rams’ secondary to the goal line to draw his team to within 41-21 with 10:26 left in the third.
An ASU tally with just under five minutes remaining in the third quarter made it 48-21, but the never-say-die McMurry team wasn’t finished just yet.
An ASU punt pinned McMurry deep in its own end, first-and-10 from its own two. Aided by four first downs by penalty – and unsportsmanlike conduct and three of the pass interference variety – McMurry needed 11 plays to drive the distance and culminate the drive with a four-yard aerial strike from Rodriguez to Livingston with just seven tics on the third period clock, 48-28.
The War Hawk defense produced a big stop when ASU tried to convert a fourth-and-two from the McMurry 35 and was stuffed, turning the ball over on downs with 7:08 left to play.
Two big rushes of 13 and 15 yards by Rodriguez helped advance the ball downfield. On second-and-five from the ASU 18, Rodriguez tossed his fourth TD toss of the night with an 18-yard pass to Clinton McCoy, 48-35, with 2:02 left.
But that’s as close as the McM team would get in falling to a Lone Star Conference foe for the second time this season.
Rodriguez completed 22-of-46 passes for 253 yards on the night and upped his total TD throws to 15 this season.
Grayer handled matters on the ground with 123 yards. In all, McM had 230 rushing yards and out-distanced ASU in total offense (483 to 473).
Jeret Smith had four catches for 120 yards and one touchdown. Livingston had five grabs for 59 yards and the two scores.
Desmond Guy’s 11 tackles (8 solo) led the War Hawks’ defense. Teammate Scott Roberson added 10 tackles. Jonathan Blair had nine stops, while interior lineman Calvin Middlebrooks had eight tackles.
Markell Rice booked six tackles, forced a fumble and had his team’s lone sack of the game.
McMurry will travel to Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls next Saturday evening (7 p.m.).