OTTAWA — McPherson College’s Bulldogs were superior to the 23rd-ranked Ottawa Braves everywhere except on the scoreboard Saturday night.
The Bulldogs ruled most of the statistical categories except the one that mattered most — the 41-38 final score in favor of the Braves, in double-overtime no less.
The Bulldogs lost despite outgaining the Braves 447-404, running 94 plays to 66 for OU, committing no turnovers and just four penalties for 21 yards.
But the Bulldogs couldn’t answer a Dominic Sigala field goal in the second overtime, as Christian Guerra-Barbosa’s 48-yard attempt to force a third extra session was just off to the left.
For Mac coach Steve Fox, whose team is 1-2 in the KCAC and 1-4 overall, it was another matter of being good, just not good enough. The Bulldogs are beginning to lead the conference in moral victories, but that and a quarter is only good for a cup of coffee.
“I told them I know it stings and it should, but you’ve got nothing to hold your head down about,” said Fox, whose team showed a lot of character by tying the game with 24 seconds left in regulation on a touchdown and 2-point conversion. “The effort and fight to the finish is what we’re looking for. Unfortunately, we had fewer points.”
The Bulldogs were trailing 24-23 when OU’s All-American candidate Luke Lundy — who had been bottled up like no other time in his career — broke off a 74-yard run with 2:16 left in regulation to give the Braves a 31-23 lead. Strangely, that might have been the best thing for the Bulldogs because Ottawa might have been able to run out the clock had he not scored.
Instead, Mac’s Cody Groff magnificently engineered a 10-play, 67-yard scoring drive and his 3-yard pass to Kelly Cordova brought the Bulldogs within two with 24 seconds left. Groff then found Michael Ramos for the 2-pointer, as the diminutive one scooped the ball just before it hit the turf and it was extra football.
Mac had first possession and scored on a 1-yard Groff run. With Guerra-Barbosa’s PAT, the Bulldogs had their first lead of the night at 38-31.
It took OU only three plays to answer, as Josh Stangby continued to torment the Bulldogs with his fourth TD grab of the night from 17 yards.
In the second OT, Ottawa got the ball first and the Mac defense stiffened, forcing a Sigala field goal from 26 yards.
The Braves’ defense, pushed around all game, finally came up big. Groff lost six yards on the first play and a Bulldog penalty pushed them back even further. Guerra-Barbosa got a lot of leg into the ball from 48, but the miss sent the Braves’ homecoming crowd into jublilation.
The loss spoiled several terrific Mac efforts. Groff, time and again running the quarterback draw, rushed for 100 yards and threw for 252 and three scores, while not being picked off. Cordova caught seven for 123 and two scores and Ste’fon Walker had six snares for 92 yards and a score.
Lundy gained 137 yards on 26 carries, but take away his 74-yarder and he averaged less than three yards a carry. But Stangby picked him up with six catches for 171 yards and four scores, as the Bulldogs didn’t have anybody in the secondary who could match his blazing speed.
One of Stangby’s scores came right before the half and it was a backbreaker. Barbosa-Guerra had just kicked a field goal with 22 seconds left in the half to tie the game at 10-all, but a long return and back-to-back 25-yard throws to Stangby that took only 12 seconds gave the Braves a 17-10 halftime lead. Mac, though, scored on its first possession of the second half and from there it was game on.
The game completed a stretch of four road games in five weeks for Mac, which now comes home for two games. First up are the Friends Falcons, who are one of five teams tied for the KCAC lead at 2-1, while the other five are 1-2.
• STATISTICS •
• Mac Listed First •
First Downs — 22, 16. Rushes-Yards — 47-149; 39-158. Passing — 23-47-0-298; 17-27-2-246. Punts-Avg. — 7-34.0; 6-45.2. Fumbles-Lost — 3-0; 2-2. Penalties-Yards — 45-21; 3-25.
• INDIVIDUAL LEADERS •
• Rushing •
Mac — Groff 19-100, Balthazor 26-44.
Ottawa — Lundy 26-137.
• Passing •
Mac — Groff 21-45-0-252; Cordova 1-2-0-46.
Ottawa — Behr 17-27-2-246.
• Receiving •
Mac — Cordova 7-123, Walker 6-92, Johnston 5-39, Ramos 3-30.
Ottawa — Stangby 6-171, Anderson 4-48.