The Commerce Journal
TEXARKANA, Ark. —
The Harding Bison rushed for 297 yards and scored three times in the third quarter and rolled to a 44-3 win over A&M-Commerce in the inaugural Live United Texarkana Bowl on Friday at Razorback Stadium.
The game was the first postseason appearance for the Lions since 1995, but cold temperatures and a steady rain did not help the Lion (7-5) offense, who completed just seven of its 37 passes and finished with just 100 total yards on the night. Meanwhile, the Bison (9-2) showed little ill effects from the weather, racking up 504 total yards.
The Bison were led by quarterback Kennan Kellett, who finished with 262 yards of total offense, including 207 yards through the air and a pair of long touchdown passes. Romo Westbrook finished with 96 yards and a pair of scores on 17 carries, while Donatello Luckett hauled in five catches for 149 yards and a score.
K.J. Garrett was the bright spot for the Lion offense, rushing for 58 yards on 15 carries; however, A&M-Commerce struggled throughout the night in the air, completing just six of 33 pass attempts. Defensively, Jake Williams and Stephen Ford led the way with 11 tackles apiece, including a pair of tackles for loss from Williams.
The Bison did not convert a first down on either of its first two drives, but went 76 yards in nine plays late in the opening quarter, for the game's first score, a five-yard run from Westbrook.
Meanwhile, the Lion offense struggled to get on track, finishing the first half with just 58 yards and a pair of first downs. But it was the Lion special teams that helped get them on the board in the second quarter, getting a blocked punt from Dionte Taylor. A&M-Commerce could not turn that turnover into points, but on the next series did, when Cortney Craigpicking up a dropped snap from Harding punter Nathan Kadlacek at the Bison 14-yard line, setting up a 36-yard field goal from Chase Thrasher.
But the Bison had a quick answer on their very next possession, a four-play drive that was nearly all Westbrook. The leading rusher for Harding, entering the game Westbrook bolted 57 yards up the middle on the fourth play of the drive to go up 14-3 with 6:36 remaining in the half.
Harding started quickly in the second half, putting it in the end zone just four plays into the third quarter when Keenan Kellett hit Donatello Luckett on a swing pass to the right side and watched as Luckett raced down the right sideline for a 57-yard score.
The Bison offense did not stop there, getting a 29-yard field goal from John Gay on the next possession, and then another big-play score when Alex Finley hauled in a one-handed grab and raced 58 yardsto the end zoen to put Harding up 30-3 with three minutes to go in the third quarter.
A&M-Commerce had a golden scoring opportunity late in the third quarter after Cole Pitts' kickoff return to the Harding 14-yard line. A pass from Stewart to Hayden Marsh gave the Lions a first-and-goal try at the two, but the Bison managed to turn the Lions away on four straight plays to get the football back.
Harding added a pair of scores in the fourth quarter on 11-yard touchdown run from Alapeti Malagei and a five-yard score from Ty Finley.
The loss puts an end to a successful season for the Lions, one which saw them pick up seven victories under first-year head coach Colby Carthel.