Fitzhugh scores three TDs, No. 7 Harding moves to 3-0

Published: Sep. 18, 2022 at 8:03 PM CDT
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SEARCY, Ark. (KAIT) - For the second consecutive week, No. 7 Harding went the entire game with no punts and no turnovers and the Bison defense came up with two huge fourth-down stops in a 37-17 victory over Southern Arkansas Saturday in Great American Conference action at First Security Stadium.

The victory moved Harding to 3-0 and set up a matchup of top-10 teams next Saturday against Ouachita Baptist in Arkadelphia. It was Harding’s 12th straight GAC win and its 15th straight regular-season home victory.

Harding used an 11-of-12 success rate on third down to control the clock throughout the game. The Bisons held possession for more than 41 minutes, had 25 rushing first downs and compiled 448 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.

Leading the rushing attack were Harding sophomore fullback Will Fitzhugh and freshman quarterback Cole Keylon. Both rushed for more than 100 yards. Fitzhugh carried 25 times for 124 yards and three TD, while Keylon had 17 rushes for 114 yards and a TD. It was Fitzhugh’s second career 100-yard game and the first for Keylon.

Harding’s first key defensive stand came deep in its own territory. With Harding leading 14-7 in the second quarter, Southern Arkansas drove to the Harding 2-yard line, where it had 4th-and-goal. Harding’s combination of Cooper Carroll and Cayden Pierce stuffed the Southern Arkansas rush attempt at the 1-yard line, and the Bisons took over.

A 2-yard TD by Fitzhugh and a 3-yard score by Keylon combined with Grant Ennis’s 43-yard field goal on the last play of the first half gave Harding a 17-10 lead at halftime.

Harding opened the second half with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in Fitzhugh’s second 2-yard TD and the Bisons led 23-10.

Southern Arkansas (1-2, 1-2) came right back and drove to the Harding 24 where it had 3rd-and-2. Cade Pugh and Gage Price combined on a tackle for loss that set up 4th-and-3, and Price shot through the line again for a 3-yard tackle for loss to give the Bisons the ball back.

Harding went on a 14-play march that lasted over eight minutes, and Fitzhugh collected his third 2-yard TD to put the Bisons ahead 30-10. Freshman Braden Jay, playing in only his second game, scored his first career TD on a 16-yard run that ended an 11-play, 91-yard drive with just over four minutes remaining and accounted for Harding’s final score.

Harding’s defense limited Southern Arkansas to only 149 rushing yards, 183 yards below the Muleriders’ average after two games. Two SAU quarterbacks combined to pass for 164 yards.

Pierce and Grant Fitzhugh led the Harding defense with six tackles each. Nathaniel Wallace had a sack and leads the team with 3.0 sacks on the season. Pugh had two pass breakups.