OPSU Quarterback KC Crandall (OPSU Athletics photo by Ronald Kelly)

GOODWELL, Okla. – After being picked last in the Sooner Athletic Conference’s pre-season coaches poll released earlier this week, Oklahoma Panhandle State University football threw a monkey wrench into the prognostication by opening conference play with a 25-18 win over Wayland Baptist University at Anchor D Stadium. The win for the Aggies (1-4, 1-0 SAC) also avenged a non-conference setback, 29-24, to the Pioneers (1-2, 0-1 SAC) back on October 31 in Plainview, Texas.

“I’m very happy for our players and assistant coaches,” OPSU Head Coach Bob Majeski said. “They found ways to overcome adversity. We got the fast start that we wanted. But we made it too close for comfort at the end.”

Panhandle notched the win thanks largely to some big-play offense and sterling defense. On its four touchdowns in the game, the Aggies’ offense used a total of six plays in the four series’, combined.

Freshman quarterback KC Crandall shredded the WBU secondary for 308 yards, completing 12-of-22 passing attempts, and tallied three aerial touchdowns.

Crandall’s big day was the first 300-yard passing game for an Aggie signal caller since November 12, 2016 when Shane Truelove went for 325 yards versus Texas A&M-Kingsville.

Crandall’s efforts also had a trio of Aggie receivers – Emile Cola (4 catches/97 yards), Jaishone Brown (2 catches/95 yards) and Seth Barbarino (3 catches/91 yards) all flirting with 100-yard receiving games. Each was the recipient of a Crandall TD toss, as well.

OPSU broke on top first, thanks to its defense forcing a WBU fumble deep in its own territory, recovered by D’Quan Charles at the WBU 15. On the first play after the recovery, the Aggies’ George Dominguez bulled his way in for the score that – after Lorenzo Amador’s extra point kick – put the home team up, 7-0 at the 10:56 juncture of the opening stanza.

Just 36 seconds later, after the ensuing kickoff, The Pioneers knotted matters at 7-7with some big play offense of their own on a two-play, 60-yard drive.

In less than four minutes at the end of the first quarter, the Panhandle team struck twice to take a 19-7. Both scores were quick-strike passes by Crandall on the first play of the respective drives.

After taking possession on its own 19 after another Pioneer punt, Crandall hit Cola over the middle. The speedy Cola popped past the Pioneers for an 81-yard catch-and-run that made it 13-7 with 3:56 on the first half clock.

Crandall repeated the feat less than two minutes later, this time with Brown as his target. Beginning first-and-10 from his own 37, Crandall laid a perfectly placed pass to Brown in stride, culminating in a 61-yard score.

WBU added a late field goal as the only points by either team in a rather sedate second quarter, by comparison, making it 19-10 at the intermission.

OPSU added some insurance it would prove to need in the third stanza. The three-play series culminated in an 84-yard Crandall-to-Barbarino aerial that upped the Aggie advantage to 25-10 with 4:10 left in the third frame. That score stood until late in the fourth quarter, when the Pioneers managed a touchdown pass with 1:15 left to play and the game now a one-score affair, 25-18.

The subsequent on-side kick was recovered by OPSU’s Danny Valverde Jr. around midfield. However, after the Aggies failed to get a first down and punted, WBU had one last gasp. The short pass play – which was sniffed out by OPSU defensive end Braden Price and corner Marquez Johnson - was nullified by going to an ineligible receiver, thus ending the game.

D’Quan Charles had a big day for the OPSU defense. Charles had a game-high 10 tackles (6 solo) and 3.5 tackles for losses of 21 yards. He also had one of the Aggies’ five sacks on the day, as well as a pass break-up.

Warren Dillon and Anthony Taylor were close behind with nine stops, apiece. Dillon also had six solo tackles. Taylor had 4.0 sacks to his credit and forced one fumble.

OPSU will next be in action this coming Saturday (Feb. 27) at Arizona Christian University in Glendale, Ariz.  Kickoff at ACU is scheduled for 3 p.m. Central Time. In the fall, non-conference games, ACU defeated the Aggies, 28-13, in Goodwell.

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