Joplin, Mo. — The Missouri Southern football team scored 35 points in the first half, en route to a 52-38 win over Central Oklahoma in the season-opener for both teams tonight at Fred G. Hughes Stadium at the Robert W. Plaster Sports Complex.
The Lions (1-0, 1-0 MIAA) racked up 241 yards rushing and 232 yards passing in the game. It’s the most points scored in a game for Southern since the Lions scored 68 in a win over Southwest Baptist on 10/22/11.
UCO (0-1, 0-1 MIAA) out-gained the Lions 511-473 in the game as quarterback Adrian Nelson threw for 328 yards and a touchdown. Running back Josh Birmingham picked up 169 yards and four touchdowns in the game.
Southern started the scoring as the Lions picked up a pair of rushing touchdowns on their first two possessions. Jay McDowell ran for a 15-yard score that capped off a 10-play, 63 yard scoring drive and JJ Jones picked up a two-yard score of his own.
Central Oklahoma added a score on Birmingham’s first rushing touchdown, before Michael Nelson and McDowell hooked up for a 61-yard pass and catch to give the Lions a 21-7 lead after the first quarter.
Four minutes into the second quarter, Giresse Forchu scored on a 49-yard pass from McDowell to make the score 28-7. Birmingham would score touchdown No. 2 before McDowell added a five-yard score to make the halftime tally 35-14.
The Bronchos picked up a 32-yard field goal from Seth Hiddink to open the third quarter. Forchu added his second score of the game, an 18-yarder to make the score 42-24, Lions. UCO would add three more scores, but it wouldn’t be enough.
McDowell became the first Lions’ quarterback to rush for at least 100 yards and pass for at least 200 yards since Josh Chapman racked up 246 yards in the air and on the ground on 11/16/02 against Missouri S&T. McDowell finished with 121 yards on the ground and went 10-11 in the air for 232 yards and two scores. The 232 yards is the most in the air for a Lions’ quarterback since Collin Howard threw for 245 against Pittsburg State on 11/12/11.
Forchu caught three passes for 107 yards and a score, while Nelson had 78 yards on two receptions with a score of his own. Chris Barnwell had 66 yards on 11 carries and a score, while Forchu and Jones had a score rushing each. Sean Seefeldt connected on his only field goal attempt from 29 yards and was perfect on point afters.
Defensively, Jason Brown led the Lions with nine stops, while Demon Haire had seven tackles and one pass break up. Dalvin Taylor had six stops and a sack, while Paco Varol had five tackles and a fumble recovery. Michael Burks picked up an interception, while Anthony Westfield had a sack.
Southern will be back in action next Saturday, September 14, when the Lions travel to Northeastern State for a 2:37 pm kickoff against the RiverHawks. The game will be televised as part of the MIAA-TV package.