ABILENE, Texas - McMurry University's football team finally got the chance to give head coach Mason Miller the obligatory "Gatorade Bath" for his first collegiate coaching victory, thanks to its big 53-27 victory over Oklahoma Panhandle State University. Playing before their home crowd for the first time in four games this season, the War Hawks (1-3) rolled up 659 yards in total offense versus the Aggies (1-4).
"The biggest thing was that I just wanted us to play four quarters of football," said Miller. "I'm happy for the for the kids. It's not really about me; it's about them. I'm proud they got a win."
The bulk of those yards came off of the arm of freshman quarterback Gabe Rodriguez (Amarillo, Texas), who was making his first collegiate start (after a four-touchdown performance off the bench in last week's loss at Texas A&M-Kingsville).
Rodriguez surpassed that effort and then some in his debut as a starter. Rodriguez tied the McMurry school record for TD passes in a game by throwing for seven scores. Rodriguez completed 26-of-37 passes for 423 yards to eight different receivers.
"That's pretty good," Miller quipped when read Rodriguez's numbers on the night. "He got some great throws. The line blocked for him. The receivers made plays. It was a good team win."
The War Hawks double-threat of receivers Jeret Smith and Greg Livingston both reaped the rewards of Rodriguez's big game. Smith hauled in seven aerials for 156 yards, while Livingston amassed 129 yards on six catches. Each had three touchdown passes and each with similar long-distance strikes (Smith with a 68-yard catch-and-run and Livingston with a 55-yard bomb for a TD).
Meanwhile, junior running back Chris Simpson led the ground game. Simpson carried 19 times for 126 yards, an average of 6.6 yards per carry. Paxton Grayer almost reached the "century mark," booking 97 yards on 16 attempts.
Sophomore linebacker Niko Alana led a balanced McMurry defense that saw eight players register five or more tackles. Alana had seven stops, six of which were solo. Teammate Jonathan Blair had six tackles and an interception, along with two QB hurries.
Senior John Keith, Jr., - who is also an all-American sprinter with the War Hawks' track team – also had six tackles, as did lineman Joshua Fisher, Scott Roberson and defensive back Chase Jackson. Fisher had one of McM's five sacks on the night, as well.
Rick Mendez, Jr. had two sacks to lead McMurry. Greg Pinckney and Tyreace House were the others to harass the Aggie signal-callers.
The War Hawks' Decorian Johnson also produced some defensive fireworks by blocking a PAT kick and a field goal attempt.
OPSU was able to rack up some good numbers, also, combining a balanced 203 rushing yards and 231 passing yards, for 434 yards of total offense.
McMurry will stay at the friendly confines of Wilford Moore Stadium for a second-consecutive week, when it hosts Angelo State Universitynext Saturday (2 p.m.) for its 2013 Homecoming Game.
Information provided by McMurry athletics department.
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