Bisons Pound Southwest Baptist, 47-14, in Season Opener

BOLIVAR, MO. – Harding scored the first 26 points of the game and cruised past Southwest Baptist 47-14 at Plaster Stadium on Saturday in the opener of the 2005 season for both teams. The Bisons have won nine of their last 10 season openers, including their last four straight.

Harding’s 47 points were the most scored by the Bisons in a season opener since a 58-10 victory over Austin College in 1972. The 33-point margin of victory was its greatest in an opener since a 39-0 win at Lane College in 1992.

Southwest Baptist dropped its second straight opener to Harding. The Bisons won last season’s meeting 17-10 in Searcy.

Harding controlled the game on both sides of the ball. Senior quarterback Adam Lybrand threw three touchdown passes, connecting with Blake Smith on a 17-yard screen pass and hooking up twice with senior Reid Smith. Lybrand finished the game 8-of-14 for 177 yards. Reid Smith led the team with three catches for 95 yards. Junior tailback Kyle Wess, making his first career start, carried eight times for 87 yards and a 19-yard touchdown.

The Bisons rolled up 467 yards of total offense, rushing 40 times for 190 yards and completing 13 passes for 277 yards.

The Bison defense forced five turnovers, including four interceptions. Scott Dutile, Jeremy Fairrow, Rocky Hall, and Craig Quattlebaum each picked off passes for Harding. Southwest Baptist had 335 yards of total offense, led by junior tailback Moine Nicholson, who rushed 26 times for 119 yards an a touchdown.

Even the Bisons’ mistakes turned into positives. Blake Smith fumbled at the SBU 1-yard line late in the first quarter, but on the next play the Harding defense stuffed Maurice Jefferies in the end zone for a safety.

Junior kicker Ben Davis added a career-long 37-yard field, and redshirt freshman Moala Lolohea scored from five yards out on his first career carry. SBU’s Rony Santil caught an 8-yard touchdown pass just before the break to cut Harding’s halftime lead to 26-7.

Harding scored 21 unanswered points to open the second half. Wess’ scoring run opened the floodgates. With 5:35 left in the third quarter, Reid Smith hauled in his second touchdown pass, and Hall followed up with a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the fourth.

The Bisons return to First Security Stadium in Searcy next Saturday to take on Missouri Southern at 6 p.m. It will be Harding’s first game on the new Pro Play artificial surface.

Notes: Harding is 13-3 in non-conference games since joining the NCAA in 1997 and have won six straight … Harding has won five of its last six openers on the road … Saturday’s opener on Aug. 27 tied the earliest that the Bisons have opened a football season … Harding is now 6-2 in August and has won its last five … the last time Harding opened on Aug. 27 was in 1994 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, it was Randy Tribble’s first game as head coach … the Bisons played all three quarterbacks against Southwest Baptist … it was Lybrand’s sixth career 3-TD game … junior quarterback Cam Rowan completed 4-of-5 passes for a career-high 65 yards … sophomore David Knighton completed his first career pass for 35 yards … Torrance Daniels, Scott Dutile, and Reggie Knighton each led the team with seven tackles.