Missed opportunities in the red zone proved too costly to overcome as the Central Missouri Mules fell to West Texas A&M 26-7 in the Third Annual Lower Kanza Bowl at Hummer Sports Park. UCM turned the ball over three times near the goal line in the loss as they were making their second straight postseason appearance.
The Buffaloes (8-3) got on the board first on a four-yard touchdown run by Khiry Robinson. The run capped a seven play, 81-yard drive to put WTAMU up 7-0 with just about nine and half minutes left in the opening quarter.
The Mules (8-4) responded with a touchdown of their own on the ensuing drive. Completions of 23 yards to Anthony Kirkwood and 24 yards to Jamar Howard set UCM up inside the West Texas A&M 20 and three plays later LaVance Taylor bulled into the end zone from a yard out to tie the game at 7-all with 5:47 to play in the first quarter.
The Mules defense came up big on WTAMU’s next possession when Sosaia Taufa tipped a pass to himself for an interception. UCM took over at the West Texas 40 yard line. Central Missouri drove to the WTAMU four yard line and had a first and goal, but Tommy Corwin’s pass was intercepted in the end zone by Mario Goins and UCM came away with no points.
The defense came up with another big stop early in the second quarter. The Buffaloes drove to the Central 10 yard line, but the defense held and forced a field goal attempt. West Texas A&M tried a fake on fourth and goal, but Marlon Douglas stopped the ball carrier at the five yard line and UCM took over on downs.
The Buffaloes got the ball right back when two plays later Goins picked off his second pass of the game to give WTAMU the ball at the Central Missouri 44 yard line. It took the Buffaloes one play to capitalize as Dustin Vaughan connected with Brittan Golden for a 44-yard scoring strike. Douglas blocked the extra point and the lead was 13-7.
The Mules look poised to take the lead on the next drive as they drove to the WTAMU one-yard line and faced a second and goal, but an interception by Curtis Jefferson in the end zone halted another potential scoring drive.
Robinson broke free for a 65-yard run on the first play following the interception and the Buffaloes were able to score right before half on a Tommy Hampton eight-yard run and WTAMU led 20-7 at halftime. West Texas A&M extended the lead to 23-7 on a 21-yard field goal from Sergio Castillo, Jr. on their first possession of the second half. A 62-yard completion from Vaughan to Lance Ratliff on the first play of the drive got WTAMU out from deep in their own territory and all the way to the UCM 19.
The Mules offense stalled on their next drive, but Matt Jordan pinned the Buffaloes deep inside their own 10 yard line. On a third and five, Garrett Smith and David Bax combined on a sack and forced a fumble, which Brandon Tett recovered at the Buffaloes’ three yard line. UCM look ready to make a game of it, but West Texas A&M stuffed the Mules from the one yard line on third and fourth downs to force a turnover on downs.
Castillo, Jr. added a 26-yard field goal with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter to extend West Texas A&M’s lead to 26-7. The Mules were held to 273 yards of total offense, their second lowest output of the season. UCM managed just 50 yards rushing, while throwing for 223 with four interceptions.
Corwin finished the day 25-of-42 for 223 yards and the four picks. Corwin finishes the season second on UCM’s single-season passing charts with 3,798 yards and 34 touchdowns. Taylor gained 31 yards on 14 carries with a rushing touchdown. Kirkwood led UCM with five catches for 63 yards. Howard had four catches for 55 yards, giving him 71 receptions for 1,199 yards this season. His 71 grabs are tied with DeMarco Cosby for the third most in a single season in Central Missouri history, while his 1,199 yards and 13 touchdowns are the second most in a single season.
The loss drops Central Missouri to 4-5 all-time in postseason games, including 2-3 in bowl games. UCM is now 2-2 in the postseason under head coach Jim Svoboda.