By BRIAN RAMSEY | OBU Sports Network
ARKADELPHIA — As predicted by many, Saturday night’s top 10 matchup between No. 9 Ouachita Baptist University and No. 7 Harding University came down to one score.
Ouachita’s defense came up with timely stops and the Tigers took advantage of a pair of missed kicks by Harding to come away with the 21-13 win to stay undefeated on the season and take sole possession of first place in the Great American Conference. The league’s only other unbeaten team heading into the weekend was No. 24 Henderson State, which lost to Southern Arkansas by a final score of 28-24 on Saturday.
After forcing Ouachita (4-0) to punt on the opening drive of the game, Harding (3-1) scored two plays later on a 77-yard touchdown run to take the early lead at the 11:32 mark of the opening quarter. The Harding kicker missed the extra point, bouncing the kick off the right goal post to put the Bisons up 6-0.
It wasn’t until early in the second quarter until either team found the scoreboard next, when Ouachita’s Kendel Givens capped a 10-play, 61-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown run, followed by a successful point after by Gabe Goodman to give the Tigers their first lead at 7-6 with 13:50 remaining in the second.
Harding responded with a drive that lasted nearly seven minutes, regaining the lead at 13-7 following a 12-play, 65-yard drive with just over seven minutes remaining before halftime.
The Tigers answered quickly, going 67 yards in three plays, featuring a 50-yard touchdown pass from Riley Harms to Connor Flannigan. Gabe Goodman’s point after put Ouachita up 14-13 with 5:35 remaining before halftime.
The Bisons were poised to take a lead at halftime after picking off a Ouachita pass with 3:19 remaining and taking the ball all the way down to the Ouachita five-yard line for a field goal attempt with one second on the clock. Harding’s 22-yard field goal attempt stayed right of the post as time expired to allow the Tigers to hold a one-point lead of 14-13 lead at the break.
The only score of the second half came late in the third quarter, a seven-yard touchdown run by TJ Cole at the 1:13 mark to cap a six-play, 44-yard drive.
Each team had four possessions in the second half. Ouachita held Harding to just 80 yards in the second half, and held the Bisons to only three minutes of possession in the fourth quarter. The Tigers came up with 100 second-half yards.
Overall, Harding outgained Ouachita 329-263, including a 272-177 advantage in rushing.
TJ Cole and Kendel Givens led the Tiger rushing attack. Cole had 20 carries for 85 yards. Givens had 15 for 75.
Ouachita’s defense registered 106 tackles in the win, led by Jax Miller with 21, the most by a Tiger since joining the Great American Conference in 2011.
Ouachita hits the road for its longest road trip of the season to take on Northwestern Oklahoma State in Alva, Oklahoma on Saturday, October 1. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.