Story and photo courtesy of Harding Athletics
ARKADELPHIA, Ark. – The winning formula for the 25th-ranked Harding football team Saturday – run the ball and stop the run. It equaled a 34-14 road victory over 10th-ranked Ouachita Baptist in Great American Conference play at A.U. Williams Field.
One of the Bisons' three pass completions proved pretty pivotal as well.
It was Harding's first road victory against a top-10 team since the Bisons joined the NCAA in 1997.
With the victory, Harding improved to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in conference play. It is Harding's best start since opening the 2002 season with the same record.
Harding, the GAC leader in rushing yards, rolled up 250 rushing yards on 55 carries.
The Bisons completely shut down Ouachita Baptist's rushing attack that featured the GAC's leading rusher Chris Rycraw. Ouachita Baptist (6-1, 4-1) had only 39 rushing yards on 21 carries, and Rycraw carried for only eight times for 18 yards.
The turning point of the game came late in the first half. Ouachita Baptist had cut the Harding lead to 10-7 with 54 seconds left before halftime on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Benson Jordan to Brett Reece.
Instead of running out the half, Harding, with no timeouts left, picked up 22 yards on a third-down run by quarterback Kelvin Martin that gave the Bisons the ball at the OBU 37. Martin spiked the ball to give Harding one more play, and sophomore wide receiver Donatella Luckett caught a touchdown along the OBU sideline on a perfectly-thrown pass from Martin. Harding took a 17-7 lead into halftime and never looked back.
Harding tacked on a 27-yard field goal from John Gay in the third quarter to make it 20-7. Then the Bisons drove 77 yards on 11 plays to open the fourth quarter, and freshman Tre' Clark scored his first collegiate touchdown on a six-yard run with 9:50 left. Ouachita Baptist had forced Harding to punt earlier in the drive, but a sideline infraction followed by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty kept the drive alive, and the Bisons made the Tigers pay.
Ouachita Baptist had 11 penalties for 102 yards.
Leading 27-7, Harding senior cornerback Tramaine Wilkes intercepted a pass down the Harding sideline and returned it 56 yards for a touchdown. It was his second touchdown of the season and the first interception return for a score by a Harding player this season. It gave Harding a 34-7 lead with 9:13 left.
It was the first of two interceptions for the Bisons. Redshirt freshman Trendall Stevenson added another in the fourth quarter.
Ouachita Baptist scored on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Ty Towers to Drew White with seven seconds remaining in the game.
Harding scored on its first possession of the game, going 70 yards on 13 plays with Ahmad Scott catching a toss and taking it in from four yards out. Sophomore John Gay's 34-yard field goal with 14:16 left in the second quarter made it 10-0.
The Bisons have won five straight games away from home this season, its longest stretch of road victories since winning eight straight from 1971-73.
Martin led Harding's rushing attack with 70 yards on 15 carries. D'Nico Jackson-Best had 62 yards on eight carries, including an early third quarter gain of 48 yards.
Jordan completed 11-of-23 passes for 137 yards with one interception before leaving in the fourth quarter with an injury. Towers was 12-of-21 for 127 yards and an interception.
Harding returns to Searcy next Saturday for Homecoming 2012 against Arkansas Tech. Kickoff at First Security Stadium is at 2 p.m.