Hornets survive scare from Fairview in OT
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continueposting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
By ROB PATRICK
CAMDEN — Back at the start of the football season, kicker Josh Ault was one of the first Bryant seniors to be featured in the Times’ Hornet Profiles. He struggled to come up with an answer when he was asked about his fondest football memory or moment.
“I haven’t any real fond memories,” he said. “I haven’t played that long. Last year was my first year. Just putting it through for my first time, it felt good. It was the Blue and White game, the very first game I played in. It was just an extra point, but it just felt good to make it.”
Since then, however, Ault has had a number of memorable moments. There was the cool-headed recovery of a bad snap and the clutch punt under pressure against Conway in the opener to start with and, most recently, the 45-yard field goal that opened the scoring in the Hornets’ triumphant performance at El Dorado.
But Friday night at Camden has to be the topper — so far.
With Bryant’s unbeaten season and No. 1-ranking on the line, Ault drilled a 27-yard field goal in overtime as the Hornets survived the Fairview Cardinals’ inspired upset bid, 24-21.
The game-winner was set up by the Hornets’ defense which had been challenged by the Cardinals all night. Fairview took the first shot at snapping the 21-21 tie. (In overtime, each teams is given a chance to score from the 10-yard line until one team fares better than the other.) Tailback Darnell Goodwin, who had sliced through the Bryant defense for 139 yards in the game, picked up half the yardage necessary for a score on the Cards’ first overtime play. But, on second down, Goodwin started around left end and lost control of the football. The Hornets stormed through and safety Nick Black recovered, foiling the Cardinals’ chance.
Bryant head coach Daryl Patton didn’t hesitate. Despite the fact that the Hornets had suffered a pair of missed field goals — one due in part to a bad snap, the other too low and blocked by Fairview on the last play of regulation — Patton sent out the field-goal unit on first down. Ault, usually the punter and kickoff man, got the call after junior Nick Harbert, almost perfect on extra-points this season, had been the snake-bit kicker on the previous two attempts. And Ault answered the call with the game-winner.
There was some confusion after the kick, but the officials conferred and the game was over. The relieved Hornets celebrated.
Bryant improved to 7-0 overall this season, matching the 1985 Hornets team for most wins since 1965. At 4-0 in conference play, the Hornets remained tied with Texarkana atop the league. They need one more win or a loss by Little Rock McClellan to clinch their first playoff bid since ’85. They can take care of both of those things this Friday when McClellan visits for the Hornets’ final home game of the regular season.
With the loss, Fairview dropped to 1-6 and 0-4 though their league losses included a 21-19 setback to McClellan and a 24-19 decision against Texarkana the previous two weeks.
Fairview had gained the upper hand on the Hornets when, on its second possession of the game, Goodwin swept to the right, cut back against the flow and sprinted 58 yards down the left sideline before being knocked out of bounds by Josh Baumbeck and Jason Rose.
The Hornets stuffed a first-down run at the 15 but then Fairview quarterback Darrell Atkins passed 13 yards to Goodwin for the game’s first score.
Atkins finished 11-of-17 passing for 126 yards.
“We didn’t have the intensity on defense that we’ve had,” noted Patton later. “Goodwin’s a tough runner and Atkins hit some good passes on us, but we just weren’t as sharp.”
Offensively, the Hornets answered with a nice 11-play, 72-yard march for a touchdown. They mixed it up well. Running back Matt White accounted for 33 yards on the ground in six carries, including an series-opening 9-yarder and a 1-yard plunge for the TD to cap it. Along the way, quarterback Derik McCoy was 3-for-4 in the air including a 28-yarder to Matt Brown that put the Hornets at the 9.
McCoy wound up 18-for-29 passing for 198 yards. Brown made nine catches for 109 yards.
The Hornets tried the old swinging gate play — something they often line up for but seldom run — on the extra-point attempt. But a fumbled snap sabotaged the play and Fairview held to a 7-6 lead.
And the Cardinals answered with another scoring drive. This time, they coverted 67 yards in 12 plays. The march was nearly stopped twice. When it had reached the Bryant 46, the Hornets forced a fumble by fullback Bernard Fogle. But Atkins picked up the loose ball and turned it into an 11-yard gain.
Moments later, Fairview faced a fourth-and-9 at the Hornet 25. Just as the Bryant rush appeared to have Atkins surrounded, he flipped a pass to Goodwin who turned it into a 19-yard gain and a first-and-goal at the 6.
Goodwin scored on the next play and the Cards’ Paul Waters made it 14-6.
The drive had eaten almost six minutes off the clock. Bryant came back and chewed up five minutes with a 70-yard march in 10 plays to tie it.
That march was knocked off track by a pair of motion penalties once the Hornets got to midfield but got back on when Matt Brown beat a Fairview defender on an out-and-up pattern. The defender was forced to interfere when McCoy sent a pass that way, to prevent a touchdown.
The Hornets were awarded a first down but five plays later faced a fourth-and-4 at the Fairview 34. The Cardinals sent a blitz at McCoy who calmly stood in and drilled a pass down the hash to White, who made a nice catch behind the Fairview secondary and dashed into the end zone for the touchdown.
For the tying two-point conversion, McCoy rolled right and found Josh Farmer open just inside the goal line.
The Bryant offense started the second half where it had left on in the first, putting together a nice drive from its own 37 to the Fairview 25 behind the running of Luke Brown and the passing combination of McCoy and Matt Brown.
But a fumbled snap on first down at the 25 seemed to break the continuity. A second down pass fell incomplete and a third-down completion only netted 5 yards.
Harbert attempted a field goal and, thanks to a nice hold by Josh Farmer, got the kick away. But it hit the crossbar and came back and the score remained tied.
In turn, Fairview managed just one first down before being forced to punt. A 50-yard boot (with roll) by Tyler Pickett pinned the Hornets back at their own 6.
But the Hornets offense really hadn’t been stopped by the Fairview defense to that point and it wasn’t going to be denied this time either. In 15 plays, the Hornets covered the 94 yards to paydirt — a championship-quality march — to take the lead.
Again, it took another fourth-down conversion along the way. This time, on a fourth-and-1 at their own 29, the Hornets came through. White wriggled ahead for 3 yards to keep the drive alive.
McCoy followed with a 15-yard strike to Matt Brown and, a play later, another pass interference penalty burned the Cardinals.
From the 33, White dashed 11 yards then McCoy hit Matt Brown with a 13-yard completion to the 9.
White swept for 7 then Luke Brown powered in for the score on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Harbert’s extra point made it 21-14.
But Fairview responded gamely. Atkins completed passes of 9 and 18 yards to Darrell Green as the Cardinals drove to the 35. But three plays later, Fairview faced a fourth-and-3 at the 28. After a timeout, the Cardinals went for it and Atkins hit his massive tight end Shawn Andrews for 15 yards and a first.
On the next play, Goodwin sliced 13 yards for a touchdown and Waters tied it with the PAT.
The Hornets reached the Fairview 40 on their subsequent possession but this time a fourth-down pass fell incomplete. Fairview took over with designs on a go-ahead scoring drive.
But the Bryant defense stepped up. On second down, Goodwin was dropped for a loss by cornerback Bobby Winn and a third-down pass to Andrews was short of a first down. With 4:50 left to play, Fairview punted the Hornets back to the 26.
In nerve-wracking fashion for their fans, the Hornets used all but :08 driving to the Fairview 19. Luke Brown carried the ball on the drive’s first seven plays as the Hornets reached the Fairview 38.
A procedure penalty threw a wrench in the works momentarily but McCoy passed 13 yards to White and Brown powered for 2 yards and a first down with :30 to go.
A 6-yard pass to Michael Wallace got it to the 22 as Bryant called time out with :13 left. A 3-yard run by Luke Brown positioned the ball in the middle of the field at the 19. Another timeout was called with :08 left and Harbert came on to attempt a game-winning field goal of 35 yards.
The timing of the play was a little off and Fairview got enough penetration to block the kick as time expired.
After a three-minute intermission, Bryant won the toss of the coin prior to overtime. Patton decided to let Fairview have the ball first so he and his offense would know what they needed to win when they got their turn.