SEARCY, Ark. (HU) – Senior quarterback Deon Williams connected with junior wide receiver Gerald Worsham on a 15-yard touchdown pass with just over a minute remaining to give West Alabama a 22-17 victory over Harding on Saturday in Gulf South Conference action at First Security Stadium.
West Alabama's victory was its first against Harding in Searcy since 1981, snapping a streak of six straight Bison home wins over the Tigers.
Following the touchdown, West Alabama's two-point coversion attempt failed leaving the Tigers with a five-point lead. Harding (2-3, 0-3) took possession at its own 36 with 1:07 left in the game.
Harding quarterback Josh Powell completed two passes and coverted a 4th-and-1 on a quarterback sneak and moved the Bisons down to the West Alabama 27-yard line with two seconds remaining. On the game's final play, Powell rolled to his left and fired a pass to senior wide receiver Jordan Watson, but West Alabama's Shontral Ford broke up the pass as time expired.
Harding trailed 16-7 at haltime but closed to within two points with one second left in the third quarter as Bison backup quarterback Chaz Rogers hit senior wide receiver Kurt Adams on a six-yard touchdown pass. It was Adams' fourth touchdown reception of the season and the 26th of his career, breaking the previous record of 25 set by Gerald Payne in 1999-2000.
With 8:58 left, Harding took its first lead of the game on Adin Menkin's 21-yard field goal. A 75-yard Kale Gelles rush set up the score. It was Harding's longest play of the season and the longest run by a Harding player since Chris Pierson went 80 yards at Tarleton State in 1997. Gelles, who entered the game as the GSC's leading rusher, finished with 115 rushing yards on 15 carries. It was his third 100-yard rushing game of the season.
Following the field goal, West Alabama (4-2, 2-1) marched down to the Harding 17 and looked poised to take the lead at that point until Harding defensive lineman Marcus Jones forced Williams into an ill-advised pass that linebacker Jason Thomasson pulled down for his second career interception.
Harding took the ball with 5:25 left and ran three plays before a fumbled snap gave the ball back to West Alabama for the eventual game-winning drive. The Tigers narrowly avoided a turnover on the possession, as Thomasson appeared to have forced a fumble after a Worsham reception on 4th-and-13. Game officials ruled that Worsham was down before the ball came out, and the Tigers scored three plays later.
Thomasson, a native of Daingerfield, Texas, led the Harding defense with 12 tackles, including a tackle for loss, recovered a fumble and had the interception.
The Tigers scored two first quarter touchdowns, the first points scored against the Bisons at home this season.
Harding had 365 total yards in the game, 198 coming on the ground, just missing the 200-yard rushing plateau for the first time this season. Powell was 9-of-17 passing for 108 yards and a touchdown, and Rogers was 4-of-9 for 59 yards and a touchdown. Williams completed 23-of-37 for 293 yards and two touchdowns for West Alabama. Six of the passes went to Worsham for 99 yards and two scores. Tiger freshman tailback T-Ray Mitchell had 105 rushing yards on 24 carries and a touchdown.
Harding will play the third of its four road games this season next Saturday in Cleveland, Miss., as the Bisons take on the 13th-ranked Delta State Statesmen. Kickoff on Parker Field at McCool Stadium is at 4 p.m.