An ugly first half of football turned into a second half slaughter at Memorial Stadium Saturday night as Midwestern State University made their home debut against the Southwestern Oklahoma State Bulldogs. Thirty-Five second half points took the Mustangs to a 3-0 record on the season, and probably salvaged their No. 12 national ranking.
The Mustangs offense would have trouble getting it’s footing to start the game, losing the time of possession battle by keeping the ball just over 6 minutes in the first quarter. The special teams unit wouldn’t fare much better, giving up the game first points on a safety.
Luckily for MSU, the defense didn’t falter as they kept the Bulldogs out of the end zone in the first half. Linebacker Matt Ellerbrock provided inspired play, recording two tackles for a loss on the first Southwestern possession.
Midwestern’s early troubles began with their opening drive. After stalling on their own 38 yard line, MSU’s Gunter Elenburg shanked his first punt into the crowd on what was officially an 11 yard kick. That gave the Bulldogs the ball on the MSU 49 yard line, but the Ellerbrock led defense held Southwestern in check and just out of field goal range.
Both defenses would play well through the remainder of the first quarter, with offenses trading two three-and-out possessions. Southwestern’s Shane Scott would pressure MSU quarterback Zack Eskridge, while Midwestern’s Austin Stafford stayed in the thick of things with key tackles for the Mustangs.
With 2:08 left in the first, the slow opening quarter would draw to an unusual end. The Bulldogs’ Colton Rainey sent a 65 yard punt to the MSU goal, fielded by MSU’s Michael Whitehead who returned the ball to the MSU 13 yard line before fumbling. Whitehead recovered his own fumble in the Mustangs end zone where he attempted an illegal forward pass, giving Southwestern a safety and a 2-0 lead they would carry to the end of the quarter.
With their offense starting to show signs of life, the Mustangs tried to take a one point lead on a 29 yard field goal attempt by Jose Martinez with early in the second quarter. The kick was blocked by Southwestern’s Clarence Laster, giving the Bulldogs possession on their own 7 yard line.
MSU would still get their points when Southwestern made the decision to pass on the first play of the possession, resulting in sophomore linebacker Chase Hooper recording his second sack and first safety of the season to tie the game 2-2 with 12:53 left to play in the half.
Martinez would provide the Mustangs offense through the rest of the second quarter, hitting field goals of 25, 30, and 26 yards to give Midwestern an 11-2 lead going into halftime. Even the flies on the wall likely didn’t want to be in the locker room with Mustangs head coach Bill Maskill, but whatever was said during intermission evidently worked. The second half was all Midwestern.
After the Mustangs defense held Southwestern to 18 yards on the opening drive of the third quarter, Midwestern took control with a 39 yard pass play between Eskridge and Edgard Theilar. Marcus Mathis would break a 36 yard run, stepping out of bounds at the 8 yard line.
Mathis would still hit pay dirt one play later, scampering the last 8 yards to put Midwestern up 18-2 with the extra point.
Mathis would score again with 6:35 left in the quarter, taking a screen pass from Eskridge 23 yards for the touchdown. The extra point by Martinez made the score 25-2. Mathis would also play a key role in the Mustangs next scoring drive, picking up 24 of Midwestern’s 37 yards. The drive ended with a 13 yard touchdown pass from Eskridge to David Little, putting MSU up 32-2.
The proverbial nail in the coffin was added with 20 seconds left in the third quarter when Eskridge hit Patrick Maull with a 28 yard touchdown pass.
With the Mustangs up 39-2 going into the fourth quarter, Eskridge would call it a night and give way to back up Brandon Kelsey. The sophomore from Arlington lead the Mustangs to their final score, a 9 play, 62 yard drive that ended with a 2 yard Keidrick Jackson touchdown.
Southwestern did find the end zone early in the fourth quarter when back up quarterback Dustin Stenta connected with Isaac Tucker on an 82 yard pass play, but it was too little, much too late as the Bulldogs fell to 0-3.
Despite the slow start, Eskridge went on to have a fine game, completing 21-of-30 passes for a season high 271 yards and 3 touchdowns. Kelsey again played well in relief, completing 3-of-4 passes for 39 yards.
Marcus Mathis led the Mustangs ground game, coming away with 127 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, while Desmond Ratliff led the team with 8 receptions. Ellerbrock led the defense with 7 tackles. Hooper, Steven Pankey, and Austin McDaniel each recorded a sack and Ronnie Goforth had the games only interception.
Southwestern starting quarterback Mike Van Deripe would have a tough night, completing only 5-of-21 passes and throwing one interception. Dwight Pete led the Bulldogs with 38 yards rushing, while Ryan Corbin led with two receptions. With his one catch on the 82 yard touchdown, Tucker led the team in receiving yards.
Jonathan Darby recorded a game high 14 tackles and Ozzie Donato had the Bulldogs only sack.
Midwestern hits the road again next week, traveling to Edmond, Oklahoma to take on the Central Oklahoma Bronchos at Wantland Stadium September 25. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 pm.
Southwestern heads to Ada, Oklahoma to take on East Central.