Junior running back Anthony Stewart compiled 259 all-purpose yards as the No. 19 Central Missouri Mules came from behind in the fourth quarter to defeat Missouri Southern 27-17 on Saturday afternoon on Senior Day.
It is the Mules (8-2, 6-2 MIAA) first eight-win season since 2003, and it completes a perfect 6-0 record at home for Central Missouri in the regular season. The win also keeps the Mules in the playoff hunt going into the season finale at No. 3 Northwest Missouri.
The Lions (3-6, 3-5 MIAA) took advantage of three first-half fumbles by Central Missouri to get a 10-0 lead with 9:53 left in the first half. The Mules had lost only two fumbles the entire season coming in.
The Mules, who moved the ball the entire period, finally put together a scoring drive on a short field late in the half. After pinning the Lions on their own two, UCM forced a three-and-out and started on the MSSU 48. It took only two plays to get the TD, as junior quarterback Eric Czerniewski found a wide open Bobby Guillory from 47 yards out with 4:43 left.
Central Missouri nearly tied it before the half on the next drive, thanks to an interception by junior Joseph Bangali, but Aaron Jamieson’s 30-yard attempt was wide left at the buzzer to keep it 10-7.
UCM held a 246-to-130 yard advantage in the stanza, including 207 yards in the air from Czerniewski. He became the all-time leading passer in school history in the half, and ended the day with 7,400 yards in his career, passing Paul Kaiser (7,233).
The Mules first two drives of the second half stalled, but the defense stepped in and made a play on the Lions’ only scoring chance of the third quarter. Junior cornerback Kor’Ree Manson picked off MSSU’s Roland Thompson at the UCM one after the Lions had driven to the Mule 32.
After getting out of danger, the Mules punted and then stopped MSSU on three-and-out to get the ball back with 1:55 left in the third. Central Missouri went 62 yards in nine plays, capped by a Czerniewski sneak from a yard out to make it 13-10 (missed extra point) with 12:59 left in the game.
The Mules had a chance to extend that advantage on a career-high 48-yard punt return from Adam Parks, but a penalty and a sack pushed UCM from the 15 back to the 33, forcing them to punt.
The Mules went 90 yards on their next drive, thanks to a 53 yard reception by Stewart, and capped by a 33-yard rush from Guillory out of the ‘Wild Mule’ formation. That made it 20-10 with 4:15 left in the game.
The Lions took 3:05 off the clock on their next drive, but punched it in the end zone to on a 12 play, 75-yard drive to make it 20-17 with 1:04 left. The onside kick was snagged by Guillory though, and UCM had the ball on the MSSU 35.
The Lions called a timeout after the first rush from scrimmage, but Stewart broke it up the middle from 35 yards out for a touchdown on the next play with 51 seconds left to ice the game.
Stewart’s 259 all-purpose yards were the sixth most ever in a game at UCM (134 rushing, 125 receiving), and the rushing total was a career-high. Czerniewski threw for his third 300-yard game of the year, finishing 22-of-38 for 329 yards. It was his seventh career 300-yard outing.
Defensively senior Randy Shepherd led the way with 12 tackles, along with a sack and an interception. His pick on the last play of the game was his sixth of the season and 11th in his career. Bangali also put up nine stops, while the defensive line had a sack and eight hurries in the contest.
Story courtesy of Central Missouri athletics.