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Lamar wins OT thriller at Northern Colorado

Cardinals rally for road win over Big Sky foe
Credit: Lamar Athletics

GREELEY, Colo. — Senior kicker Bailey Giffen drilled a 26-yard field goal to force overtime and sophomore running back Chaz Ward bulldozed his way in from 10 yards out in overtime to help Lamar University defeat Northern Colorado, 17-10, at Nottingham Field Saturday afternoon.

In a game that was dominated by the defenses – 14 combined points in the first 57:30 of game time – it closed with two field goals in the final 2:30 of regulation to go along with Ward's game-winning score in OT.

The Cardinals' defense didn't allow Northern Colorado any breathing for 60 minutes plus Saturday. The Bears were held to a scant 236 yards of offense, and just 84 yards on the ground. LU's defense stiffened its back on third down holding their hosts to a 3-of-14 (.214) effort.

The defense was led by Aaron Calcote's nine tackles, including two for losses. Senior Desmond Veals added four tackles, including 3.5 for losses and two sacks. Jaymond Jackson also tacked on two stops both behind the line of scrimmage.

The Cardinals recorded 301 yards of total offense against UNC, which included 202 rushing yards. Ward led all Cardinals with 20 carries for 77 yards and a touchdown. He was one of two Cardinals to rush for at leads 70 yards in the game (Marcellus Johnson 2-74 and a touchdown) and one of three to rush for at least 40 yards (Jalen Dummett 14-41).

Dummett also completed 7-of-13 passes for 86 yards. His favorite target was Erik Pizarro with five receptions for 66 yards.

"This was a game where we could of quit and crumbled on numerous occasions," said LU head coach Blane Morgan. "This was a field position game and both offenses struggled today. I thought our defense was phenomenal. They just kept getting stop after stop. Unbelievable character and resiliency by this team this afternoon."

After a first quarter dominated by the defenses, the Cardinals dented the scoreboard first when Marcellus Johnson took a pitch from Dummett and carried the ball 67 yards untouched down the near sideline for the score. The five-play, 91-yard drive took 2:13 off the clock.

UNC answered back on the very next possession with a nine-play, 75-yard drive that consumed more than four minutes off the clock. The drive was capped by a four-yard pass from Conner Martin to Dylan Thomas. The score would be the final one of the opening half.

The Cardinals finished the first 30 minutes with 159 yards of total offense, including 132 on the ground. The Bears managed 161 yards, with the majority of their damage coming through the air (91 yards).

Both teams had offensive miscues in the opening half that swung momentum to the other side of the field. Within a five-play stretch, the Cardinals picked off a pass (Vencent Rockwell) only to see UNC return the favor following a first down completion. Midway through the first quarter, the Bears had a drive that saw three penalties (two 15 yarders) and a sack forcing them to have to punt the ball away.

UNC managed to get a school-record 57-yard field goal from Ben Raybon to take a three-point lead, 10-7, with 2:30 remaining. With the defenses controlling the game it appeared to be more than enough for the win, but Dummett and the Cardinals responded with a 12-play, 66-yard drive to set up a 47-yard Bailey Giffen field goal (with six seconds remaining to force overtime).

In overtime, the Cardinals got the ball first and took control. It only took four plays (all rushes) to get Big Red in the end zone, the drive capped by a 10-yard run from Ward for the overtime lead.

With the one-score lead in their pocket, the LU defense would need to step one more time, and step up they did. The Cardinals forced an incomplete pass in the Bears first attempt in the extra period. After a one-yard gain, Veals broke through the line on third down to drop the UNC quarterback for a 16-yard loss back to the LU 40. The Bears final offensive play would also end in sack as Jaymond Jackson would drop the quarterback to end the game.

"We really didn't impose our will until the overtime period, and sometimes it just takes that long," said Morgan. "We're going to have to be more multiple in what we do, we know that, but our defense was playing so good it gave you confidence."

The Cardinals return to action Saturday when they take on Abilene Christian in a non-conference contest. The game against the Wildcats will kick off at 6 p.m. from Provost Umphrey Stadium.