SEARCY, Ark. (OBU) - The Ouachita Tigers fell to 3-2 on the year after a grueling battle with the 20th-ranked Harding Bisons in Searcy, Ark. on Saturday by a final of 24-20. Despite holding the Harding rushing offense to only 108 yards on the ground through the first three quarters, a 75-yard run by Harding's Park Parish in the fourth quarter set up the Bisons' winning score. Ouachita quarterback Austin Warford went 8-17-1 for 165 yards and two touchdowns, including a 77-yard bomb to Tarrodd Collier. The Tigers managed 341 yards of total offense against the nation’s top-ranked defense.
Harding opened the scoring on their first possession of the game. After a 13 play 48-yard drive, the Bisons took a 3-0 lead on a 36-yard field goal from Tristan Parsley. On the ensuing drive, Ouachita answered by going 75 yards on 10 plays to score their first touchdown. Austin Warford found Allie Freeman who made an over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone to give the Tigers the lead.
The Bisons answered on the second play of their next drive on a 69-yard pass play. The Tigers entered the second quarter trailing 10-7. Ouachita's Cole Antley connected on a 25-yard field goal to tie the game at 10-10 with 11:35 remaining in the first half. A Ouachita turnover gave Harding the ball on the Ouachita 22-yard line with 6:36 left in the half. Harding scored on a six-yard touchdown run to take a 17-10 lead.
Ouachita started their next drive on their own 22 after a 21-yard kickoff return by Freeman. On third and nine, Warford scrambled and escaped a would-be sack to find a wide open Tarrod Collier down the middle of the field. Collier caught the Warford pass and coasted down the near sideline for the 77-yard game-tying touchdown. The second quarter ended with the score tied, 17-17.
Ouachita opened the third quarter on defense and forced a three and out to start the second half. The Tiger offense moved the ball down the field on their opening drive, going 38 yards on ten plays, taking nearly five minutes off the clock. The drive ended with a 40-yard field goal from Antley, giving Ouachita the 20-17 lead. The Tiger defense again forced the Bisons to punt and Ouachita took possession on their own seven yard line with 6:24 remaining in the quarter.
The Ouachita offense held the ball for the remainder of the third, going 43 yards on 12 plays before punting back to Harding to end the quarter. The Ouachita defense held the Bisons to eight yards of total offense in the third quarter. The Tiger offense dominated the time of possession in the third, holding the ball for 11:07.
The Tiger defense forced another Harding punt after the Bisons opening drive stalled. Kris Oliver moved the Tigers into Bisons territory but back-to-back holding calls moved the Tigers back, resulting in a Ouachita punt with 8:37 remaining. Harding responded with their longest play from scrimmage in the game, when Parish broke free for 75 yards down to Ouachita's two yard line. He would carry it on the next play to give Harding the 24-20 lead.
The Tigers next drive ended with a Harding interception and the Bisons would run out the clock. Ouachita would fall by the final of 24-20.
The Tigers out gained the Bisons 341 yards to 290. Ouachita went 7-12 on third down conversions, while the defense held Harding to 5-13 on third down attempts.
Elijah Jones led Ouachita with 12 tackles, including eight solo tackles. Waymon Johnson Jr. Finished with five tackles and three tackles for loss.