From Staff reports
EDMOND — Wind gusts around 40 mph made Kenny Evans’ wet apparel that much colder.
He didn’t care.
The Northeastern State head coach received a Gatorade shower after the RiverHawks snuck past Central Oklahoma, 22-20, at Wantland Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The win was NSU’s third straight over UCO, meaning the President’s Cup will remain in Tahlequah for another year.
“It was worth it,” Evans said of getting doused with ice in the closing seconds. “Getting the President’s Cup for (NSU president) Dr. (Steve) Turner, he was excited and the team was excited.”
In a back-and-forth contest in the second half, the RiverHawks (4-6, 4-6 MIAA) took its final lead on Drew Patton’s 21-yard field goal with 1:53 left. Patton’s third field goal of the day capped a 20-play, 83-yard drive, which spanned 8 minutes, 46 seconds.
“I had all the faith in the world in Drew,” Evans said of his kicker, who had to kick into the wind for the go-ahead field goal.
The Bronchos (2-8, 2-8) led throughout much of the fourth quarter, thanks to Christian Hood’s 43-yard touchdown pass from Adrian Nelson. However, that was UCO’s first — and only — score of the second half, and it was the first time the Bronchos had scored since early in the first quarter.
Nelson put UCO on top with a 23-yard touchdown run early in the first period, and Josh Birmingham followed with a 1-yard score at nearly the same point in the second quarter.
From there, though, the RiverHawks would control the contest in front of 1,800 fans.
NSU cut the Bronchos’ 14-0 lead in half on Joel Rockmore’s 45-yard run with 6:26 left in the first half.
Patton drilled field goals of 30 and 31 yards in the second quarter and the RiverHawks trailed 14-13 at halftime.
The RiverHawks claimed their first lead on Chucky Bryant’s 5-yard touchdown pass from Johnny Deaton. It was the fourth time in two games that the two had connected for scoring strikes through the air.
Stealing the show offensively was Rockmore. NSU’s sophomore tailback ran for 198 yards on 33 carries.
Rockmore, who entered the game with 826 rushing yards, eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark by 24 yards.
“The offensive line did a great job blocking, even when they were loading the box,” Evans said. “To get 1,000 yards after missing the first game, it’s a big deal for our team.”
NSU’s defense also kept Birmingham in check. UCO’s junior running back rushed for 53 yards and only had four catches for 28 yards.
By beating UCO, NSU closed out the regular season with four straight wins.
“I know those other six games counted to,” Evans said. “But we were close to making our record 8-2.
“Now we just have to go back to recruiting and get ready for next year.”