Warrensburg, Mo. -- The Missouri Southern football team scored the game's first touchdown, but the 15th ranked Central Missouri Mules scored 28 unanswered points en route to a 42-24 season-opening win over the Lions at Walton Stadium in Warrensburg.
Southern (0-1, 0-1 MIAA) trailed the Mules by only 35 yards of total offense, but four costly turnovers helped lead to the difference in the game. It was the first time the Lions were playing their conference opener to start the season since 1990.
Central (1-0, 1-0 MIAA) converted 7-11 third down chances including three with more than ten yards to go that resulted in touchdowns. Tommy Corwin led the offensive attack as the fifth-year senior exploded in his first start, tying a UCM single-game record with six touchdowns and 397 yards passing on 22-34. Jamar Howard had five catches for 134 yards and was one of three different Central receivers with two touchdowns catching.
The Lions held Central to three consecutive three-and-out possessions to start the game, but Southern had two straight interceptions in their first two trips. The Lions recovered, however, as Collin Howard led the team down the field in 11 plays, gaining 66 yards, while taking 4:30 off the clock. He concluded the play with a roll out pass to Landon Zerkel in the endzone for the game's first score.
The Mules answered right back and Corwin connected on a 57-yard touchdown pass to Taylor Dyer to tie the game at seven apiece with just under two minutes left in the first quarter. After Southern punted in its next possession, Corwin hooked up with Howard on the first play of the drive for a 65-yard score. Corwin then made it three-straight possessions with a passing touchdown as he hooked up with David Cannon for a 37-yard pass and catch to run the score to 21-7 with 9:05 left in the first. Corwin and Dyer hooked up again on an 18-yard touchdown score with six minutes to go in the second quarter.
Southern got back on the board with a 32-yard field goal from Dallas Herndon, making the score 28-10 with just over two minutes to go in the half. On the first play of the Mules' ensuing possession, Maurlon Bembry picked up a fumble forced by Alex Wong and gave the Lions the ball at the Central 45 yard line. Southern made the turnover hurt and the Lions drove 45 yards in 1:35 and a pass and catch from Howard to Threatt with 20 seconds left made the score 28-17, Mules at the half.
The Lions took the ball at the start of the second half and held possession for just a little more than seven minutes, but a 38-yard attempt at a field goal from Herndon was wide right.
Big plays killed the Lions when in the first quarter, a third and 18 for the Mules was followed up with a 57-yard touchdown pass and in the third quarter, a third and 21 for Central resulted in a 34-yard pass and an eventual 37-yard touchdown score from Corwin to Howard to make the score 35-17 with 4:54 left in the third.
The Lions answered back with their second seven-minute drive of the second half when Howard hooked up with Anthony Westfield for his first collegiate touchdown on a fourth down play to cut the Central lead to 35-24 with under 12 minutes to go in the game. Southern held the Mules to their first three-and-out since the first quarter and were driving in enemy territory, but a fumble led to a Mules score with 6:44 left in the game when Corwin threw his sixth touchdown pass of the game, this time a ten yard strike to Cannon.
After a rocky start to the game (1-4 passing and two interceptions), Howard rebounded to go 9-9 to end the first half, and 21-28 to end the game finishing 22-32 for 215 yards and three touchdowns. Zerkel, Threatt and Westfield all had touchdown catches for the Lions. Howard rushed for 73 yards on 16 carries, while Steven Sumpter picked up 63 yards on 20 attempts. The Lions, alltogether, had 202 yards rushing as a team. Dallas Herndon was 1-2 from field goals, making from 32 yards, but missing a 38 yard attempt.
The Lions will now have a little over two weeks off to prepare for Washburn University when the Ichabods come to Fred G. Hughes for Southern's home opener on September 17 at 6 pm.