In a game that saw 172 offensive plays and 1,401 yards of total offensive combined, WT senior quarterback Dustin Vaughan went 27 of 40 for 452 yards and six touchdowns with one interception. Senior running back Aaron Harris had a WT career-best 136 yards rushing on 11 carries and one score, while junior wide receiver Anthony Johnson had a team-high 97 yards and a score. Sophomore receiver Jarrian Rhone had a career-high two touchdown receptions.
As a team, WT had a season-high 242 yards on the ground on 31 carries for a 7.8 yard average per carry. The Buffs had 452 yards passing for a season-high 693 yards of total offense in 71 offensive plays.
â??It was kind of a breakout game for both Harris and Alridge on the ground,â?? interim head coach Mike Nesbitt said. â??Our offensive line did a great job sealing up some holes and getting a good push, especially in the third and fourth quarters today.â??
McMurry tallied 300 yards on the ground, while War Hawk true freshman quarterback Gabe Rodriguez was 28 of 46 for 344 yards and five touchdowns along with two interceptions. He graduated last year from Amarillo High School. He also had six rushes for 27 yards. Rodriguez left the game in the fourth quarter with an injury and didnâ??t return.
The War Hawks had two running backs over 100 yards each as Paxton Grayer had 159 yards on 12 carries and two scores, while Chris Simpson tallied 108 yards on 20 carries and one score. Greg Livingston led the team with eight receptions for 129 yards and two scores. McMurry ran 101 plays in the game and had 40 first downs.
Defensively, the Buffs were led by a season-high 11 tackles from senior Dwight Morrison. He had 1.5 tackles for a loss of three yards and eight solo stops. Despite just one sack on the day, the Buffs had 10 tackles for loss for 36 yards and forced two interceptions by Rodriguez and one fumbler for three turnovers in the contest.
â??Itâ??s their (McMurry) style of offense and we know that,â?? Nesbitt said. â??Going into it, they are going to continue to throw it and push it down field. We really tried to keep it at three scores as a tip ball could change things quickly down the stretch.â??
Both teams punt on their initial drives as McMurry got the ball for its second possession and, on a third and 16, Rodriguez scampered 16 yards for a first down to keep the drive alive. Rodriguez threw a 2-yard touchdown to Livingston for a 7-0 lead with nine minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Vaughanâ??s first pass from scrimmage was tipped and intercepted by George Adams who returned it 51 yards to the WT 25. Rodriguez returned the favor as sophomore Ethan Morriss intercepted the Rodriguez offering in the red zone keeping the deficit at 7-0.
From there, WT and Vaughan made things look easy as Vaughan hooked up with Johnson for a 72-yard touchdown and a 7-7 score on a third and four from the WT 28. After a MCM punt and a great 33-yard return from junior Jeremy Watson, WT settled for a 27-yard field goal from senior Sergio Castillo and a 10-7 lead.
A great pass from Vaughan to Rhone for 32 yards after another War Hawk punt, set WT up in enemy territory once again as Vaughan and Rhone hooked up for a nine yard score and 17-7 lead with 1:40 remaining in the quarter.
Senior kicker Kevin VanVoris kicked an onside kick as WT recovered catching the War Hawks off guard. After a good run by Harris, Vaughan completed passes to sophomore Word Hudson for 19 yards and 21 yards to Rhone for a score and a 24-7 lead with 40 seconds remaining in the quarter.
McMurry began its drive at the 35, but Rodriguez hooked up with Livingston for a 61-yard touchdown as time expired in the quarter for a 24-14 score.
WT sophomore Geremy Alridge rushed in from seven yards out early in the second quarter for a 31-14 lead. After trading punts, McMurry started at its own 18. Rodriguez threw a nine-yard pass to Clinton McCoy who was stripped by senior defensive back Curtis Slater and senior linebacker Taylor McCuller alertly picked up the ball and ran it back 36 yards for a touchdown and a 38-14 lead. It was Slaterâ??s team leading fifth forced fumble of the season as he entered the game ranked fourth nationally in forced fumbles.
The teams then traded touchdowns as WT went into half with a 52-28 lead and the track meet was on in the second half. Vaughan hooked up with Harris for a 63-yard touchdown pass on a short screen pass for Vaughanâ??s 100th career touchdown pass and a 55-35 lead midway through the third quarter.
WT kept the War Hawks at armâ??s length between 20 and 27 points for most of the second half. Harris scored from 17 yards out for a 76-49 lead late in the third quarter for the most points to that point this season (71-0 vs. Central State, Oct. 5) and then Alridge scored from 15 yards out with 30 seconds left in the quarter for an 83-49 lead which was the third-most points WT has scored in school history. WT scored 104 and 100 points, respectively, versus Oklahoma Panhandle State in 1922 and 1923.
The Buffs return home for two weeks, beginning with the Annual Wagon Wheel Game Saturday, Nov. 2 versus Eastern New Mexico at 6 p.m. at Kimbrough Memorial Stadium.