War Hawks knock off #20 Louisiana College to remain in playoff hunt
PINEVILLE, La. – The McMurry University football team inched closer to its first playoff appearance in program history Saturday by throttling No. 20-ranked Louisiana College 49-28 at Wildcat Field. Jake Mullin passed for four touchdown and 446 yards, and the War Hawks tallied 635 yards of total offense in the victory.
Both teams came into the contest at 5-1 in American Southwest Conference play with the winner expected to advance to the NCAA Division III playoffs if it won its last game. The War Hawks were ranked No. 5 in the NCAA Division III South Region while LC ranked seventh.
McMurry improved to 7-2 on the season and moved to 6-1 in league play to ensure at least a share of second place. That's the highest finish in conference play since head coach Hal Mumme's arrival in 2009.
Mullin, a three-year starter at quarterback, missed both the 2009 and 2010 contests to illness and injury respectively against Louisiana College and the Wildcats promptly took 55-13 and 35-32 wins respectively. However, the junior completed 25 of 39 passes and had touchdown strikes of 16, 66, 38, and 67 yards to receivers.
Delfonte Diamond caught six passes for 145 yards and a score, Simeon Neal had four catches for 87 yards and a touchdown while R.J. Long had four catches for 64 yards and two touchdowns to lead the receiving corps.
D.J. Baiza had a key first-half interception in the second quarter and returned it for 48 yards setting up a seven-yard touchdown run by Chris Simpson to put McMurry up 27-7. The War Hawks carried a 27-14 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Backup quarterback Stephen Warren threw an 85-yard touchdown pass to Jeret Smith on a fake punt to help McMurry take its first lead of the contest in the second. Darnell Williams caught an 18-yard touchdown pass for LC with 10:30 left in the first quarter for the game's first points before McMurry tied with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Mullin to Long.
On fourth-and-long, Warren lined up as punter in a swinging gate formation found Smith streaking down the sideline and the pair connected for an 85-yard score.
Long's second touchdown catch of the day was from 38 yards out with 6:16 left in the third quarter for the second half's first points to put McMurry up 33-14. The Wildcats countered less than two minutes later with a five-play 67-yard drive that set up a Daron Bartholomew touchdown run to cut the War Hawks' lead to 12 at 33-21.
Mullin's 67-yard touchdown pass to Neal on the ensuing possession was the dagger putting McMurry up 41-21 after a successful 2-point conversion. Then, Baiza recovered a key fumble on the War Hawks' 1-yard line ensuring a goal-line stand by the defense to help nix a rally attempt with 9:37 to play.
The War Hawks ate up 5:55 on an 11-play, 99-yard drive capped by a Justin Johnson touchdown run for McMurry's final score. LC scored on another Bartholomew rush with 45 seconds remaining for the games' last points.
In the losing effort Jamie Bunting threw for 454 yards and two touchdowns for the Wildcats while Williams carried for 244 yards and a score.
Will Morris had 10 tackles to lead McMurry defensively while Baiza had three tackles and a blocked field goal to go along with the interception and fumble recovery. Nate Janzen had 13 tackles and an interception in the loss for the Wildcats.
LC fell to 7-2 overall and 5-2 in league play. McMurry had not beat Louisiana College since 2006 and hadn't won in Pineville since the 2005 season. The War Hawks' seven victories were the most since the 1999 season when McMury finished 7-2. Hal Mumme picked up his 125th career victory and moved to 17-12 since his arrival as head coach in 2009.
The War Hawks must beat Mississippi College Saturday at home and hope for an at-large selection by the NCAA Division III playoff committee. The two teams will square off at 2 p.m. at Wilford Moore Stadium Saturday.