Hornets Sting Bronchos on Senior Day

Three turnovers and a failed comeback attempt cost the University of Central Oklahoma in a 35-28 loss to Emporia State University on senior day.

“We turned the ball over and they didn’t, and you just can’t win when you do that,” said head coach Nick Bobeck. “Part of our plan for success is ball control and we had done such a good job of that up to this point, but we didn’t do a good job today and that’s why we lost the game.”

The Bronchos had two fumbles all season, but fumbled three times in the game. The first came on a fumbled handoff after a 17-play eight minute opening drive. The second came on a punt return and the third came on a strip by a Hornets defensive back.

“I think we played really hard and were good enough to win,” Bobeck said. “You can’t turn the ball over.”

Senior running back Clay McKenzie led the offense in his final game at Wantland Stadium. He finished with 105 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 28 carries, and had a seven-yard touchdown reception. His 112 all-purpose yards pushed him over 4,000 yards for his career, making him just the fourth player in program history to do so.

Quarterback Will Collins was also a key part of the offense, throwing for 265 yards and two touchdowns while adding a career-high 138 rushing yards on 24 carries. He threw one interception.

“[Collins] extended some plays and did a good job with that,” Bobeck said. “He threw some good footballs in some tough situations. He’s got some growing to do, but I’m really proud of him and for what he’s done.”

Starting wide receivers Dustin Basks and Johnny Bizzell went down with early injuries, opening the door for senior Ronald Turner Jr. He turned in his best performance of the season, leading with a game-high nine catches for 81 yards.

“Ronnie is a good football player,” Bobeck said. “He hasn’t had as good a year as we thought he was going to have, but you talk about an unbelievable character kid. I can’t say enough good things about him.”

The offense posted 525 yards. It’s the second straight game with more than 500 and the fifth time in the last six games with more than 400 yards of offense.

Defensively senior linebacker Colton Lindsey led the way with nine tackles, a forced fumble and one sack. Safety O’Shay Harris finished with eight tackles, and linebacker Chris Pogi added six tackles and a sack. Senior defensive end Noble Lybrand also registered a sack.

The Bronchos started quickly, but came away empty as Collins fumbled the handoff to McKenzie at the 1-yard line. The Hornets quickly capitalized on it going 90 yards, ending with a 23-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Braxton Marstall to running back Denzel Strong, making it a 7-0 lead in the middle of the first quarter.

On the second play of the second quarter, Collins rolled to his right and found McKenzie in the corner of the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown, tying it at 7-7. After a stop, McKenzie found the end zone again from 6-yards out, making it 14-7 in the middle of the second quarter.

The Hornets forced another turnover when their punt bounced off a Broncho player and was recovered by Emporia at the UCO 19-yard line.

Three plays later, Marstall found wide receiver Jordan Reed for an 11-yard touchdown to tie it at 14-14. On the ensuing drive, the Bronchos turned it over again as Turner Jr. was stripped by Hornets defensive back Trey Morris and was recovered at the UCO 47-yard line.

However, the defense held, forcing a 33-yard field goal, missed by kicker Sam Dobbins. Kicker Alex Quevedo missed a 25-yard field goal wide left to keep it 14-14 at the half.

Emporia opened the second half with a three play 75-yard scoring drive as Marstall found Harris for a 43-yard touchdown, making it 21-7  51 seconds in. UCO responded on the next drive as McKenzie punched it in from 1-yard out on fourth and inches to tie it at 21-21 in the middle of the third quarter.

Emporia broke the deadlock in the fourth quarter when running back Landon Nault ran it in from 7-yards, taking a 28-21 lead with 4:39 left. The Bronchos got as far as their own 47-yard line before Collins overthrown pass to Turner was intercepted and returned to the UCO 46-yard line.

On the next play, Marstall broke free and ran 46 yards for a touchdown with 1:18 left. UCO responded as Collins found Ronald Monroe with eight seconds left to make it 35-28, but Emporia recovered the ensuing onside kick, sealing their 35-28 win.

The 7-4 Bronchos face Angelo State University in the C.H.A.M.P.S. Heart of Texas Bowl on Dec. 1 at Waco ISD Stadium in Waco, Texas.

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