RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. – Despite a career outing from Ladarius Abrams, Southeastern saw a 31-14 third-quarter-lead disappear over an 11:44 span bridging the third and fourth quarter en route to a heartbreaking 45-38 defeat at the hands of Arkansas Tech on Saturday night in Russellville, Ark.
The loss drops the Savage Storm to 1-4 overall on the season and leaves them winless in Great American Conference play at 0-4.
SE will be back in action on Oct. 13 when it travels to Alva, Okla., to face GAC newcomer Northwestern Oklahoma State.
Although the Storm saw a 31-14 advantage dissipate behind five-straight ATU scores, SE would put together a nine play, 74 yard drive midway through the fourth quarter that was capped by a 10-yard CJ Kirk touchdown run that stopped the bleeding and gave Southeastern a 38-37 lead with 8:30 to play in the contest.
The glimmer of pulling off the conference road win faded just over a minute later when the Wonder Boys capped a three-play, 70-yard drive with a 12 yard TD pass from Tanner March to JJ Ford that would be followed by a two-point conversion that would fashion the 45-38 final.
As has been the case much of the season, the Storm held an advantage in total offense despite the final score. SE piled up 489 yards on the contest with 336 of those coming on the ground.
The ground game was carried by Abrams and Jercolby Bradley who each rushed for 100-plus yard on the day marking the first time SE has had a pair of hundred-yard rushers in a game this season.
Abrams piled up 176 yards on 18 carries and averaged 9.8 yards per carry. He also added a pair of scores.
Bradley finished with 114 yards on the ground, crossing the 100-yard plateau for the second-straight contest.
CJ Kirk added 54 yards on nine carries to go with a pair of touchdowns.
Despite his success on the ground, Bradley had a tough go passing, finishing the night 13-of-28 for 153 yards and one touchdown across from two interceptions.
Anthony Gale led the receiving corps in catches and yards, hauling in four passes for 80 yards, including a 62 yard scoring strike on Southeastern’s opening drive.
Izzy Eziakor led the defense in tackles with 11 stops, crossing into double-digits for the third time this season and the second consecutive week.
Josh Garcia and Derek Ogg each added nine tackles while Houston Slemp chipped in eight along with a pair of pass breakups.
The Storm opened the contest by driving the opening possession 79 yards in four plays thanks to Gale’s 62 yard TD grab from Bradley to take the early 7-0 lead. It was the first time this season that SE has scored on its opening possession.
The Wonder Boys would respond on their ensuing possession when Ford would haul in his first of two TD passes from Marsh to knot the game at 7-7.
Abrams would cap the first quarter with a two-yard scoring plunge to finish off a 10-play, 80-yard drive that lasted 4:39 and would give SE a 14-7 advantage with 1:09 to play in the first.
That would stretch to 21-7 with 6:16 to play in the second quarter when Kirk would find his way into the end zone from a yard out to complete a 13-play, 73-yard drive that burned 5:36 off the clock.
ATU’s Marsh would add a two-yard TD run to cut the Storm lead to 21-14, but SE would force an ATU fumble and take over at the Wonder Boy 18 yard line with less than a minute left before Chris Peoples would connect on a 28-yard field goal as time expired to take a 24-14 lead into intermission.
After Southeastern forced an ATU punt on the first possession of the second half, the Storm would march the ball back down field on the back of Abrams, culminating in a 48-yard run that would put SE up 31-14 with 12:18 remaining in the third quarter.
That was when the wheels would slowly start to come off for the Savage Storm.
The Wonder Boys would put a 37 yard field goal on the board on their next possession to make the game 31-17.
Two plays into SE’s next offensive drive, Bradley would be intercepted and the ball would be returned to the Storm five yard line. ATU would capitalize on that field position with a one-yard Casey Henderson TD that cut the Southeastern lead to 31-24.
A bad snap on a punt on the ensuing possession would hand the Storm its first safety since surrendering one to Abilene Christian in the 2009 season, a span of 33 games. That would trim the lead to 31-26.
ATU would cap the following possession with a 36 yard field goal and SE’s 17-point lead early in the third quarter would stand at 31-29 when the quarter ended.
The Storm’s spiral carried into the fourth quarter as well as Bradley would toss his second interception of the night on the second play of the final frame and the Wonder Boys would capitalize on the miscue with Henderson’s second TD run of the game to put SE in its first hole at 37-31 following the two-point conversion.
Southeastern would regain the lead briefly when Kirk would cap a 13-play, 74-yard drive with a 10-yard TD run to make the score 38-37 with 8:30 to play in the game.
ATU would answer right back, however, with a three-play drive to regain the lead and set the final score at 45-38.