Led by a stingy defense and an offense of playmakers, Southwestern Assemblies of God University prevailed over Haskell University 46-2 Saturday evening.
Southwestern shutdown the Haskell attack, holding them without an offensive score and yielding only 81 yards. This group, led by four seniors, has now scored in all four games and moved to No. 8 in the nation in least number of yards allowed.
They have permitted just five touchdowns in four games, including only two to No. 16 ranked Bethany College, who is 4-0.
The Indians coughed up two fumbles and were forced to punt 13 times.
Meanwhile, the Lions had five different receivers score on touchdown passes as the unit racked up 581 total yards.
Senior quarterback Jason Rice, the Offensive Player of the Week in the Central States Football League a week ago, had a solid encore.
He completed eight of 15 passes for 213 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. He rushed for 44 yards on 10 carries while splitting time with sophomore back-up Reid Golson.
Golson accounted for three scores as well, hitting seven of 15 throws for 132 yards and a pair of scoring strikes. The speedster tacked on 39 yards on eight totes, including a touchdown on a QB draw from 13 yards out.
Rice hit David Howard from 51 yards before Golson zipped another scoring pass to Nick Morphew that covered 21 yards.
Golson then connected the dots to running back Sean Haynes and he zoomed 80 yards to glory.
Rice added two more touchdown tosses in the third quarter. The first was 14 yards to Max Whitfield, of Waxahachie High School. The second was for 44 yards to Jeremy McDonald.
The Lions continue to hinder themselves with turnovers. They lost three fumbles and an interception to give them 14 miscues in four games. SAGU also committed 12 penalties for 96 yards to slow its attack.
“We turned the ball over way too many times to achieve the consistency we desire for our offense,” SAGU head coach Jesse Godding said during the 550-mile trip home. “Whether we were just sluggish on offense, or it was the effects of the long bus ride, this is something that cannot occur against Southern Nazarene.”
As for the quiver of arrows that archers Rice, Golson and Josh Harris have at their disposal, Godding was pleased.
“Five caught a touchdown in the game. That’s indicative of the ball distribution we are getting from our quarterbacks,” Godding said.
Cade Leuschner had his best day in college football with 81 yards on just seven carries, with a 40-yard bolt through the Haskell interior.
“Defensively, we created turnover opportunities and shutout Haskell. We continue to develop players defensively and every snap helps us get a little better and a little older,” Godding said. “There are always things to work on, but you have to be pleased with the coaching preparation and the effort to hold a team to negative yards rushing and 81 total yards of offense.”
Richard “Donte” Embry led all defenders with nine tackles, forced and recovered a fumble and had a tackle for a loss. Rockie Davis had five stops, while tackle Richard Adewola made three tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including a pair of sacks.
Jason Bethel, of Red Oak High School produced the defense’s points. Lining up as an outside linebacker, he sacked quarterback Ryan Alden in the end zone for safety with 3:33 left in the contest. SAGU ran out the clock from there.
The play of the SAGU special teams has steadily improved. The unit was quick and effective in their coverage. Brad Heathcock, a tough-as-nails safety, was singled out by Godding for his effort in Kansas. He returned six punts, including one for 29 yards. James Gish, of Waxahahachie High School, added a 28-yard field goal.
For the first time in the school’s history of playing college football, SAGU was listed in the rankings of the weekly Coaches Poll.
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, with 300 members, announced their top 25 teams Monday afternoon.
While the Lions did not crack that group, they were among a short list of teams who received votes in the poll of select football coaches.
To be exact, SAGU garnered one vote, which put them at No. 33 in the country after four weeks of play. Its only setback was a 29-21 loss in Kansas to Bethany College (4-0), who are No. 15 this week.
“It is nice to be recognized for what has been accomplished by these players to this point in the season,” Godding said. “There is a lot of football yet to be played. So we can’t exactly rest on our laurels at this juncture. If we can continue to play well all that stuff takes care of itself. Our focus is not on the peripheral right now but rather on the task of preparing for and playing football games. Historically, it is a milestone for the program to be able to receive one vote in the top 25. It has been a lot of work and perseverance on the part of administration and coaches to get to this point in the programs development.”
SAGU will put its first ranking to the test Saturday when it hosts No. 11 Southern Nazarene University (4-0) at Lumpkins Stadium. The game is set to have a 6 p.m. kickoff.
John Allen, the team’s defensive coordinator and former head coach at SAGU in its’ inaugural two seasons, chimed in on this unprecedented success.
“This is uncharted territory for SAGU this early in the season,” Allen said. “We have had three wins going into a game, but we were 3-5 going into the last game of the season. More of our destiny is still in front of us this time. As I have told our defense, it is time to write a new book or at least a new chapter in the book of SAGU football. It is time for them to make their mark.”