SEARCY, AR - Harding University junior quarterback Josh Powell connected on an 11-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Tyler O'Quin with 18 seconds remaining to give the Bisons a 17-15 victory over Missouri Southern in the 2009 season opener Saturday night at First Security Stadium.
Harding (1-0) won the first game of the season for the seventh time in the last eight years. Its only loss came in last season's opener against Missouri Southern. The Lions had won five straight openers entering the game.
Harding celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 1959 team during a halftime ceremony, and Saturday's defensive showdown was reminencent of the games of yesteryear.
Missouri Southern (0-1) took a 15-11 lead with 12:21 left in the fourth quarter on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Collin Howard to Daniel Thompson.
Harding then squandered its next three chances to take the lead. The Bisons went three-and-out on the first possession, then had a pass intercepted after hitting the hands of a Harding receiver, and had a dropped pass on fourth down to end the third possession.
Missouri Southern took over with 2:27 left and a chance to run out the clock, but Howard fumbled on the first play with Harding junior Josh Jones recovering at the Lions' 46-yard-line.
Two first downs later, Harding had the ball at the Missouri Southern 10. Junior Dominic Blood rushed for two yards, but a sack and an incomplete pass left the Bisons with fourth-and-goal at the 11. Powell dumped a short pass over the middle to O'Quin who caught it at the five-yard-line and battled his was into the endzone for his first career touchdown.
Harding trailed 9-3 at halftime but took the lead with 13 seconds left in the third quarter when Powell hit Kurt Adams for a 33-yard touchdown. Holder Zac Ross ran in the two-point conversion, and Harding took an 11-9 lead.
Powell, who was making his first start at Harding after transferring from Long Beach City College, completed 32-of-45 passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns. The score by Adams was the 22nd receiving touchdown of his career, three short of the Bison career record.
Ten different Harding players had receptions, led by Ross with seven for 40 yards. Adams caught six for 81 yards.
Harding's first points came on a 22-yard first quarter field goal by freshman Adin Menkin.
The Bison defense, much maligned last season after allowing over 40 points and 535 yards per game, limited the Lions to 377 total yards and forced six fumbles, recovering three.
Juniors Steve Hudson and Jermaine Blanchard and redshirt freshman Josh Aldridge each led the team with eight tackles. Junior Jason Thomasson recovered two of the three fumbles.
The Bisons have a short week of preparation before playing West Alabama in non-conference action on Thursday in Livingston, Ala. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. and the game is on CSS regional television network.