Vikings survive self-inflicted wounds

Monday, October 19, 2015
Sophomore Cedric O'Hara (25) knocked the ball from CMU quarterback Caleb Bedford's hand to set up the Vikings' go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. (Chris Allen/Democrat-News)

After watching the Marshall football team overcome turnovers and penalties to win Friday night, Missouri Valley College players decided to try to same formula.

It almost didn't work, except that a couple of plays on special teams saved the day -- and possibly the season -- Saturday during the Vikings' 35-33 HAAC North Division decision over visiting Central Methodist.

"We were as charitable as we could be and still found a way to win, which is amazing," MVC head coach Paul Troth said after watching his team commit seven turnovers and 15 penalties. "That was disappointing to see, but we got a win and we'll take it."

The game began ominously as senior Brandon Johnson returned an interception 47 yards for a touchdown on the opening play, the first of the Eagles' six first-half takeaways.

"They jumped that first play," Troth noted. "That was a tough read."

After exchanging punts, Valley squandered junior Jakari Johnson's 52-yard run to the CMU 7-yard line when junior Desi Villanueva missed a 20-yard field goal. However, junior Ricky Williams got a 76-yard pick-six to close the margin to one point, the extra point blocked.

Senior Elliott Hawkins gave the Vikings the lead with a 61-yard dash, junior Travis Middleton flipping to senior Del'von Franklin for two points. Williams recovered a fumble at the Eagles' 30 to set up a short drive capped by Middleton's 4-yard keeper.

Then the turnover binge began, five of Valley's next six possessions ending that way, starting when Middleton let go of the ball at his own 25-yard line. Methodist cashed in with junior Tyler Steinkamp's 15-yard run and a 10-yard scoring strike from junior Caleb Bedford to senior John Fuller.

With 1:02 left in the half, freshman Kyle Livingston walked in with an interception at the MVC 16 for a 21-21 tie.

"We were way too generous," Troth said. "We tried to help them every way we could, and we're still tied."

Methodist drove the ball into Viking territory on the opening series of the second half, until sophomore Cedric O'Hara knocked the ball loose from Bedford's cocked arm and scooped it up. Operating mostly out of the Wildcat formation, Valley went 50 yards on 11 plays, Johnson going in from three yards out.

Johnson took a shuttle pass from senior Ricky Fuentes 43 yards to set up another similar flip to sophomore Dorian Stanard for a 12-yard touchdown with 7:48 left in the game.

If the Vikings thought they could breathe, they were wrong. Justin returned the kickoff 43 yards, Bedford found junior Brandon Harrison for 19 yards and junior Edward Bernard carried the ball in from the one to close the margin to 35-27, sophomore Luke Longstreet's kick sailing wide.

The Eagles (2-5, 0-1 South) got the ball back with 1:41 left and took only 32 seconds to score on senior Jamall Williams' 49-yard catch. On the two-point conversion attempt, junior Dedric Allen caught Bedford in the backfield and Valley's defense swarmed on him to preserve the lead -- something it wasn't able to do earlier in the season during losses to William Penn and Peru State.

"I tried not to think about those things," Troth said. "We've had trouble putting teams away in the second half, primarily due to turnovers."

The Vikings (4-3, 1-0) accumulated 551 yards on offense, with Hawkins rushing for 150 yards, his third straight game over the century mark. They'll be at home again Saturday against Avila, with plenty of things to clean up.

"Oh gosh, my goodness," Troth responded. "That was not a very impressive win on our part."

Contact Chris Allen at callen@marshallnews.com

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