SAU ends Season with 49-6 loss at ECU

ADA,Okla. – Southern Arkansas trailed 35-0 at halftime and surrendered 42 unanswered points to East Central (Okla.) en route to a season-ending 49-6 loss to the Tigers in Great American Conference play Saturday at Norris Field.

The Muleriders finish the year at 3-7 and 3-4 in GAC play, while ECU closes at 8-3 and 6-2.

SAU clothes-lined itself with six turnovers, including four interceptions, that led directly to 21 East Central points. They had five fumbles, losing two, and committed eight penalties for 99 yards.

Although the Tigers had their own missteps with a lost fumble, an interception and 113 lost yards on nine penalties, they piled up 427 yards of offense to Southern Arkansas’ 247, and scored four touchdowns in the second quarter alone.

Sophomore running back Mark Johnson (Longview, Texas) was a bright spot for the Muleriders, rushing for 116 yards on 26 carries and their lone touchdown to push him over the 1,000-yard rushing mark on the season. Johnson becomes the first SAU player to rush for at least 1,000 yards since D.D. Holyfield’s (Hope) 1,154 in 2005, finishing the year with 1,009 yards, and 13 rushing touchdowns that matches second-best in a season with four former Southern Arkansas players.

ECU’s seven touchdowns came via seven different players, including its final score on the defensive side.

Running back Titus Mobley’s five-yard touchdown run provided a 7-0 game at 11:39 in the first quarter.

East Central then rattled off four scores in the second quarter, a one-yard plunge from quarterback Tyler Vanderzee at 9:04, before he hooked up with receiver George Robbins on a 29-yard touchdown pass at 5:44. Running back Charles Opeseyitan scored from two yards out at 3:03, and receiver Chris Espinoza caught a three-yard touchdown pass from Vanderzee to close out the scoring in the first half with seven seconds left.

The Tigers continued their onslaught in the third quarter, with running back Justin Todd diving in from a yard out at 4:25.

Johnson prevented the shutout and got the Muleriders on the board at 1:37 in the third with a nine-yard touchdown, but freshman kicker Taylor Symmank’s (McKinney, Texas) PAT was blocked, making it 42-6 after three quarters.

Symmank also had a chance for more points at 5:45 in the first quarter, but his 40-yard field goal attempt was also blocked.

ECU ended the game’s scoring with linebacker Dustin Lasell recovering SAU red-shirt freshman quarterback David Bell’s (Watson, La.) fumble and returning it three yards to the end zone with 3:56 left in the game.

Bell played the entire game in place of regular starting quarterback Tyler Sykora (Hot Springs Village), who suffered a hand injury at the end of the first half last week against Arkansas-Monticello. Bell was 11 for 31 passing for 115 yards, and responsible for the four interceptions.

Vanderzee closed out his career for East Central in completing 14 of 27 for 235 yards and the two touchdowns, with one interception.

Espinoza caught four passes for 86 yards and the touchdown, and Zack Patterson had four for 60 yards for the Tigers, while senior receiver Damion Atkins (El Dorado) led Southern Arkansas with three catches for 63 yards.

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