JACKSON, Miss. – Despite holding the lead for most of the first half, the McMurry University football team let its conference road opener slip away in the second half for a 46-18 loss to Belhaven on Saturday afternoon in Jackson, Miss.
Scoring on the opening drive, McM (0-4, 0-3) held a 11-3 lead midway through to the second quarter. Belhaven (1-3, 1-2) took a 25-11 lead at the half, but the War Hawks made it a one-possession game early in the third quarter. The 25-18 deficit turned into more, as three unanswered touchdowns late in the contest doomed the Maroon and White.
The War Hawks opened the game with an eight play, 75-yard touchdown drive, capping it off with a 37 yard touchdown run by freshman Dee Robinson to take the early momentum. Following a two-point conversion, it appeared McMurry had set the tone just three minutes into the game.
Robinson had a career day at running back for McMurry, finishing with 76 yards and a score on 14 carries.
Belhaven was forced to punt and was held to a field goal on its first two possessions. Freshman kicker Jared Mendoza answered that field goal with one for the War Hawks, nailing it from 27 yards out in the second quarter.
The McMurry lead was 11-3, which lasted until the 8:28 mark when Belhaven found the end zone for the first time on a 15 yard touchdown pass from Mario Asagunla to LaMar Caradine. The two-point conversion tied the game, then Belhaven took its first lead with another touchdown with 2:51 until halftime.
Down one possession, the War Hawks looked to work down the field but were forced to punt. Belhaven running back Brad Foley put his team ahead 25-11 heading into the locker room, scoring his second straight touchdown on a 19 yard pass from Hunter McEachern.
The War Hawks wasted no time making it a one-possession game again after the break, forcing a special teams mishap for the Belhaven punt unit on a botched snap.
Senior quarterback Xavier Alexander engineered a nine-play, 31 yard scoring drive on offense that ended with a 15-yard touchdown catch by Moise Fokomla. The Mendoza point after attempted sailed pure, pulling McMurry within one possession at 25-18 midway through the third quarter.
Belhaven would take over the game following that score, putting up three unanswered touchdowns on its next three possessions to freeze the game and earn the win.
Alexander finished 13-for-29 passing for 107 yards with one touchdown and a pick six. Making his first collegiate appearance at quarterback, freshman Hagen Garvin went 2-for-5 on the final two drives for 32 yards.
Behind Robinson at running back, sophomore Kameron Session ran for 13 yards on 11 attempts, while adding 112 yards on kick returns. Senior Kevin Hurley Jr. led the receiving core with five catches for 57 yards, all coming in the first half.
Using a number of underclassmen on defense, freshman Ke’Shaun Jnofinn and junior Micheas Garibaldi led the squad with five tackles each. Seventeen players recorded a tackle for the McMurry defense.
Up next, McMurry welcomes the defending NCAA Division III national champions to town, as No. 1 Mary Hardin-Baylor comes to Abilene this Saturday, Oct. 5 at 1 p.m.