The No. 8 Central Missouri Mules football squad made history, winning its first playoff game ever in a 55-35 rout over No. 14 West Texas A&M on Saturday at Walton Stadium/Kennedy Field.
The Mules (10-2) scored the contest’s first four touchdowns and never looked back in the win. UCM tied the school record for wins in a season with 10, and scored the most points in a postseason game in team history as well. West Texas finished the season at 8-4.
Central Missouri took the opening drive of the game down the field for a touchdown for the first time since facing Washburn in September. Senior quarterback Eric Czerniewski found wideout Seth Mason from five yards out for the score, capping a nine-play 79 yard drive. It was the Anthony Stewart show on the drive though, as he had 23 yards rushing, and 53 receiving yards.
After forcing a three and out by the Buffaloes, the Mules had a short field, and it took just one play to make it 14-0. Czerniewski hit Stewart on a short pass, and he took it 48 yards for a score with 9:55 on the clock. The catch put Stewart over 100 yards receiving just 5:14 into the contest.
The Mules stopped WTAMU on the next possession as well, and again turned it into a touchdown, going 73 yards in 11 plays, taking 5:43 off the clock. Czerniewski tossed his third TD of the contest, this time to senior wide receiver Jamorris Warren from three yards out. It was the largest first quarter lead of the season for UCM, and the first time West Texas had trailed in the opening quarter all season.
The Buffalo offense finally got into UCM territory on the next drive, but senior cornerback Paul Stephens picked off a Taylor Harris pass in the endzone to give the ball back to the Mules going into the second quarter.
Central Missouri made it 28-0 with 5:27 left before the break on a one-yard rush from senior fullback Brent Boehringer, his first ever rushing TD. The play was set up by a 32-yard Czerniewski-to-Warren connection down to the one.
WTAMU got on the board after an eight-play, 70 yard drive that saw Harris find Stephen Burton on a deflected pass in the back of the endzone that Burton picked out of the air, just before getting a foot in bounds from 14 yards out.
Although the score came with only 1:48 on the clock, the Mules still took advantage, taking the ball 65 yards down field in just 1:23, capped by a 10-yard strike from Czerniewski to Mason to make it 35-7 just before the break. It was Mason’s second multiple TD game of the year, and third of his career.
The Mules out-gained the Buffs 373-to-219 in the half, while Czerniewski tossed four TD’s on 23-of-28 passing. Stewart had 169 receiving and rushing combined yards in the half.
The third quarter started with a bang for the Mules as well, with senior Joseph Bangali picking off Harris on the first possession. UCM punched it in with a one-yard rush by Stewart on fourth down, making it 42-7 with 12:45 left in the third quarter.
The two teams traded scores in a long third quarter, with Stewart running one from 17 yards away for a TD. West Texas answered again to make it 49-21 on a 57-yard TD catch by Brittan Golden with 2:48 left. The Buffs tried to make a game of it just after the score, recovering an onside kick.
Instead, Stephens delivered the dagger, picking off a deflected Harris pass and returning it 52 yards for a touchdown, making it 55-21.
Central Missouri cruised from there, running as much clock as possible in the fourth quarter. Stewart finished with more than 100 yards rushing and receiving for the second time in his career, with 112 on the ground, and 131 though the air. Czerniewski tallied 368 yards and the four TD’s, one 33-of-42 attempts.
Harris became West Texas A&M’s all-time leading passer in the game, and recorded the highest passing total ever against the Mules with 495 yards. The Buffs were held to only 32 yards on the ground though.
Central Missouri will head to Abilene, Texas next Saturday for a contest against top-seeded Abilene Christian (11-0) in the round of 16.
Story courtesy of Central Missouri athletics.