WICHITA, Kan. – It had been 17 years since the Southwestern College football team's last road win over its arch-rival. And with six minutes to play, it looked like that streak was about to end. But miscues and turnovers allowed the Friends University Falcons to storm back for a 20-13 win over the Moundbuilders Saturday afternoon in front of a national ESPN3 audience at Adair-Austin Stadium in Wichita.
Junior quarterback Christian Gordon completed 17 of his 36 pass attempts for 125 yards and an interception. He connected with junior receiver Carvontez Gates 10 times for 77 yards, while senior Jacob Sigmon made three catches for 32 yards.
Senior Marquis Hodge anchored the Moundbuilder defense with 12 tackles (7 solo, 5 assist), while senior David Ashilonu added nine tackles (3 solo, 6 assist), including a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss.
Southwestern was limited to just 193 offensive yards on 71 plays. The Moundbuilders ran for 68 yards on 35 carries, and added 17 pass completions for 125 yards. Friends (2-4, 2-2 KCAC) tallied 316 yards on 70 plays. But turnovers provided the bigger story. Southwestern forced a pair of Falcon turnovers, both via interception, but those were off-set by three Moundbuilder turnovers, two of which came in the final six minutes of the contest.
Friends made the first move in the contest. A 22-yard field goal capped a 14-play, 80-yard drive, and gave the Falcons a 3-0 lead. The score remained at 3-0 until late in the first half, when Ka'Darius McQueen intercepted FU quarterback Dan Dawdy at the 20 yard line, then returned it 68 yards to the Falcon 12 yard line. Three plays later, Gordon scampered into the end zone from seven yards out for a touchdown. Mario Esparza converted the point-after attempt, and the Moundbuilders held a 7-3 halftime lead.
Esparza added a pair of long third-quarter field goals to give Southwestern some breathing room. The senior drilled a 46 yard attempt at the 9:23 mark, then added a 41 yard boot just three minutes later to extend the Moundbuilder lead to 13-3, where it stood until late in the fourth quarter.
The pendulum of momentum swung completely into Friends' favor in the final six minutes of the game. After forcing Esparza to punt from his own 8-yard line, the Falcons took advantage of a short field, and scored on a nine-yard pass to cut the Moundbuilder lead to 13-10 with 5:34 remaining in the game.
A delay-of-game penalty on Southwestern's next possession turned a third-and-six situation into an obvious passing down at third-and-11. Gordon connected with Sigmon, who nearly achieved the first down, but the ball was stripped, and recovered by the Falcons at the Moundbuilder 34 yard line. Again, Friends took advantage of a short field, and needed just two passing plays to score the go-ahead touchdown. The PAT gave the Falcons a 17-13 lead with 3:25 to play.
The turnover bug struck again on the ensuing Southwestern possession. Facing second-and-10 from their own 25 yard line, Gordon attempted an option pitch play to Silas Jefferson, but the pitch was tipped by a Friends defender, fell to the turf, and was recovered by the Falcons at the Southwestern 17 yard line. The Moundbuilders limited Friends to a 39-yard field goal that kept the deficit manageable at 20-13 with 2:15 to play, but Southwestern was unable to record a first down on its next possession, and Gordon was sacked at his own 38 yard line on fourth down and Friends regained possession. The Falcons ran a pair of kneel-down plays, and the Moundbuilders were forced to walk off the field on the short end of a 20-13 decision.
Saturday's loss drops Southwestern to 1-5 on the season, and 1-3 against Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference opponents. The Moundbuilders will return to action Saturday, traveling to Hillsboro to face the nationally-ranked Bluejays of Tabor College. Kick-off is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at Joel Wiens Stadium.