ADA, Okla. (Harding) – In Harding's last two games, the Bisons did most of their damage in the second quarter. Thursday against East Central, No. 7-ranked Harding got things rolling with a 21-point third quarter and defeated the Tigers 35-7 in Great American Conference play at Koi Ishto Stadium.
Harding improved to 8-0 overall and in conference with its fifth straight win over East Central, who dropped to 1-7. The Bisons have outscored their opponents 190-24 on the road this season.
With the score tied 7-7 at halftime, Corey Bassett opened the second half with a 46-yard kickoff return, and Harding scored four plays later on Zach Shelley's 29-yard run. The Bisons also completed a nine-play drive with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Terrence Dingle to Andrew Dather. Dwayne Carter added the third touchdown of the quarter on a 4-yard run, one play after Shelley went 45 yards up the middle.
Harding's defense did its job in the third quarter as well, holding East Central to two yards on nine plays.
Harding led 28-7 entering the fourth.
The Bisons tacked on another 1-yard touchdown run from Latu that completed a 10-play, 67-yard drive to open the fourth.
Harding's defense did not allow a first down in the second half, limiting East Central to 15 yards on 12 plays. The Tigers' four drives were all three-and-outs.
The teams combined for five first half turnovers, all on fumbles, three for Harding and two for East Central. The Bisons forced both Tiger fumbles deep in Harding territory.
Harding avoided giving up points after its first two turnovers of the half, but a fumble by Bassett on a punt return at the HU 10 results in the first points Harding has allowed a home team in the first half this season. Harding had previously outscored its road opponents 99-0 in the first half.
East Central quarterback Brooks Holder hit wide receiver David Moore on a 10-yard scoring pass to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead with 5:35 left in the first half.
Harding answered with its best drive of the half, going 83 yards on 13 plays to tie it on a 1-yard run by Michael Latu on fourth-and-goal with 26 seconds remaining. The big play of the drive was a 30-yard pass from Dingle to Andrew Dather down to the ECU 3.
It was the 20th rushing touchdown for Latu, making him only the fourth Harding player with 20 or more career rushing touchdowns.
Harding rushed for 459 yards, 346 of them coming in the second half. The Bisons had 533 total yards and limited the Tigers to only 142. East Central rushed for 47 yards and passed for 95.
Harding's slot backs did much of the damage in the running game. Brandon Gatesled Harding with 76 yards on four carries. Shelley carried three times for 70 yards, and Grant Kimberlin rushed four times for 61 yards.
Dingle, making his first start in place of banged up starter Park Parish, completed 4 of 6 passes for 74 yards and a touchdown. Dather had three catches for 59 yards, and Latu had one for 15.
Linebacker Daylan Skidmore led Harding with 11 tackles, tied for the most by a Bison this season.