By Brian Ramsey
OBU News Information
ADA, Okla. — The sixth-ranked Ouachita Baptist University football team trailed by two possessions in the final moments of the third quarter, but two defensive takeaways sparked the Tigers to 20 points in the final 15 minutes, leading to a 43-28 road win over East Central University on Saturday.
With Ouachita (8-1) trailing 28-17 late in the third quarter, ECU (5-4) was poised for the upset. The orange-and-black Tigers had taken advantage of big plays in the first half to build a 14-point lead at the end of the first quarter and an 11-point lead of 21-10 at the halftime break.
The game turned in the final moments of the third quarter. Ouachita was forced to punt after ECU’s defense came up with a three-and-out. Gabe Goodman’s punt went 53 yards and was downed at the ECU six-yard line, and backed up to the three following a personal foul penalty on the orange-and-black Tigers. On ECU’s ensuing first-down play, Ouachita’s Hayden Lassiter stepped in front of an ECU pass for an interception, and returned it 10-yards for the second defensive touchdown as time expired in the third quarter.
That turnover and score lit a flame for the Ouachita offense. The Tigers shut out ECU 20-0 in the final 15 minutes, led by the offensive line and running backs TJ Cole and Kendel Givens. Cole and Givens combined for 319 of Ouachita’s 328 rushing yards in the win.
ECU had a chance to tie the game with under four minutes remaining, trailing by eight. With ECU nearing the redzone, Ouachita came up with its second takeaway of the game, a fumble by the ECU quarterback forced by Tommy Crumpton III and recovered by Kenta Jones.
TJ Cole took over from there. He went 17 yards on the ensuing first down, and two plays later busted loose for a 53-yard touchdown to put the game away.
It was a career day for Cole, who finished the game with 33 carries for 243 yards and four touchdowns. It was the first 200-yard rushing performance for Ouachita since Shun’cee Thomas’ 211-yard day in a 51-28 win over Oklahoma Baptist on November 5, 2016. Cole now has 1,292 rushing yards this season, which places him third all-time at Ouachita for yards in a season with two games remaining in the regular season. The record is 1,668 by William Miller in 1978.
Givens picked up his 20th touchdown of the season in Saturday’s win over ECU. He is now tied for second at Ouachita for single-season touchdowns. The record is Brockton Brown with 25 in 2019.
Ouachita remains atop the GAC standings, tied for first with Henderson State and Harding with two weeks remaining. The Tigers have two tough matchups ahead of them with Southeastern Oklahoma State (7-2) next Saturday and Henderson State (8-1) in two weeks, both games at home at Cliff Harris Stadium.