Fumbles costly in Harding loss to Henderson State

From Harding University

Henderson State converted four Harding fumbles into touchdowns and defeated the Bisons 35-21 on Saturday in Great American Conference action at First Security Stadium.

After Harding (1-1, 1-1) took a 7-0 lead with a 54-yard touchdown drive that ended on quarterback Chaz Rogers' 1-yard scoring run, the Bisons suffered a nightmare second quarter.

Henderson State's Benny Anderson recovered a fumble at the Harding 41 and returned it for a touchdown to tie the game with 7:41 left in the half. Harding answered with a 63-yard touchdown pass from Rogers to Jeremy Holt on its next play from scrimmage, and the Bisons led 14-7 with 7:21 remaining before halftime.

Harding's second lost fumble of the quarter came at the 5:40 mark on the Bison 31-yard line. Five plays later Henderson State's Turell Williams scored from four yards out. Charles Gonsalves' extra point missed wide and Harding held a 14-13 advantage.

Henderson State (1-1, 1-0) had the ball deep in its own territory as time was running out in the first half. The Bisons called timeout to force the Reddies to punt. Harding's Jeremy Holt fielded the punt but fumbled after making the first defender miss, and Henderson State's Keaton Stigger recovered the fumble and returned it 16 yards for a touchdown to give the Reddies a 20-14 halftime lead.

Harding retook the lead on Kale Gelles' two-yard touchdown run with 10:34 left in the third quarter. Gelles, who rushed for 159 yards on 20 carries, had a 59-yard run to key the five-play, 70-yard drive. The touchdown gave Harding a 21-20 advantage.

But Harding did itself in with its fourth lost fumble with 6:37 left in the third. Henderson State recovered the fumble at the Harding 26 and needed only four plays before Nick Johnson caught the go-ahead touchdown on a 21-yard pass from Nathan Nall. A two-point conversion pass from Nall to Jazz Scott gave Henderson State a 28-21 lead.

The Reddies put the game away with its only touchdown drive of the game to begin in their own territory. Henderson State went 85 yards on 10 plays with Nall connecting with Williams on an 8-yard strike with 12:32 left to play.

Harding went on a 21-play, 73-yard drive late in the fourth quarter that ended on downs.

Aside from the turnovers, Harding moved the ball well, compiling 357 total yards, including 255 on the ground. In all, the Bisons fumbled eight times, six in the first half. Henderson State managed only 189 total yards and had only 34 rushing yards on 16 carries.

Defensively, Harding recorded nine tackles for losses, including five sacks, but did not force a turnover.

Harding had won the last six meetings with Henderson State in Searcy dating to 1988.

Harding will have a short turnaround before its next game. The Bisons host Shepherd Technical College on Thursday at 7 p.m. It will be the first-ever meeting between the two teams.