MAGNOLIA — Harding coach Paul Simmons’s game plan for Saturday’s contest against Southern Arkansas was to control the ball and keep the Mulerider offense off the field. Mission accomplished. Harding had 42 minutes of possession and never punted in a 37-6 victory at Wilkins Stadium.
The victory lifted Harding to 2-1 overall and in the Great American Conference. Southern Arkansas (2-1) fell to Harding for the ninth time in the last 10 meetings with Harding in Magnolia.
Harding’s offense rolled up 469 yards, 442 on the ground. Cole Chancey rushed for 144 yards on 27 carries and scored two TD. It was the 16th 100-yard rushing game of his career.
Playing without linebackers Dylan Hendricks and Carl Glass for the first half due to targeting penalties that carried over from last week’s game, Harding took every opportunity to possess the ball. The Bisons chose to receive the opening kickoff and recovered two on-side kicks by kicker Cameron Scott and limited Southern Arkansas to only 46 offensive plays.
In the first quarter, the Muleriders had only three offensive snaps. Harding took advantage with a 27-yard TD pass from Preston Paden to Kage Citty on fourth down on its first drive. A 25-yard Grant Ennis field goal gave Harding a 10-0 lead after one quarter.
Southern Arkansas’s only scoring drive was a nine-play, 97-yard drive with quarterback Hayden Mallory connecting with Micah Small on a 31-yard TD pass with 11:17 remaining in the second quarter. The Muleriders were without their regular placekicker due to health concerns, so Southern Arkansas went for two and failed on an option play.
The Bisons executed an onside kick with Scott rolling the ball out near the SAU sideline. Michael Cendrick made the recovery with plenty of room to spare. The possession resulted in a 4-yard Chancey TD run.
A 23-yard Ennis field goal with no time left in the first half gave the Bisons a 20-6 halftime lead.
The second onside kick came on the opening kickoff of the second half. Scott rolled it out 11 yards and fell on it. Ennis again finished the drive with a field goal, this one from 43 yards.
Harding tacked on a late third-quarter TD on a 41-yard run from Chancey and a fourth-quarter quarterback sneak from backup Robert Wilcke that came after an interception from Harding defensive back Kyle McDonald.
Harding returns to action Saturday at First Security Stadium for a 6 p.m. kickoff against Ouachita Baptist.