Score: #14 Evangel 16, Culver-Stockton 14 | Box Score
Records: Evangel (4-0); Culver-Stockton )2-2)
Location: Ozark, Mo. | Tiger Stadium
OZARK, Mo. – Sixteen unanswered points proved to be enough as the 14th-ranked Evangel football team stifled Culver-Stockton 16-14 Saturday night at Tiger Stadium.
The matchup saw the nation's No. 1 pass defense against the nation's No. 2 pass offense. In the end, it was the defense the prevailed for Evangel improving to 4-0 on the season while Culver-Stockton fell to 2-2 on the year.
The opening drive for Culver-Stockton ended much the way they had finished drives this season, in the endzone. The Wildcats marched 75-yards in nine plays to take an early 7-0 lead.
However, from there Culver-Stockton would look very pedestrian the rest of the night.
Four interceptions and two fumbles helped Evangel hold Culver-Stockton to under 300 yards of total offense and 283-yards through the air.
Will Boswell scooped a fumble that was jarred loose on the Wildcat sideline setting up the first Crusader score of the night. Justice Webber connected on a 32-yard field goal to make it a 7-3 Culver lead with 7:22 left before halftime.
A second Andrew Poppen interception in the second quarter would put Evangel in scoring position where the Crusaders would take the lead. Poppen has already matched his career-high with three picks this season.
Nicos Oropeza would find the end zone just five plays later from 2-yards out for his second touchdown of the season. Oropeza carried seven times for 10-yards while Darrius Lee led the way on the ground with 11 carries for 28 yards for Evangel.
With a 9-7 lead at halftime, the Evangel would seemingly put the game out of reach in the third quarter when Cameron Hardesty found Joshua Tips for a 31-yard touchdown strike. The first play of the drive gave the Crusaders 16-7 lead with 3:06 left in the third.
Hardesty finished 17 of 33 for 192 yards as he found nine different receivers. Sam Buckner led the group with four catches for 61 yards. Lee and Oropeza both added three catches for 20 and 14 yards respectively.
However, the drama would build in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
Culver-Stockton would block an Evangel punt with 4:48 left in the game and take the ball to the Evangel 8-yard line. Two plays later the Wildcats would score to pull within 16-14.
The onside kick failed for Culver-Stockton but the drama was not finished. A quick three-and-out by the Crusaders gave the Wildcats the ball at their own 14-yard line with 2:42 left in the game.
Culver-Stockton managed to drive the ball into Evangel territory setting up a 42-yard field goal attempt. However, a bad snap, coupled with an intense rush forced a fumble by the Wildcat holder. The Crusaders recovered and a finished the win with a kneel down.
Athanie Leeviraphan came up with the other two interceptions for Evangel as he finished with six tackles. Seth Cathey and Poppen each had a team-high 10 tackles, while Cathey forced two fumbles, added a sack and 2.5 tackles for a loss.
A quartet of Crusaders finished with six tackles including Dalton Taylor who added a tackle for a loss in a strong defensive effort for Evangel. The secondary that included Taylor, Darien Ruffin, Dalton Cloyd, Jacob Eden, and Micah Daniels tallied six pass breakups.
Evangel heads back to Iowa for the Heart Conference Game of the Week at Grand View. The Crusaders and Vikings are set for an 11 a.m. kickoff on ESPN3, Mediacom 22, and KSMO in Kansas City.
For the latest information on Evangel Athletics, follow the Crusaders on Facebook at Facebook.com/EUAthletics or go to www.EvangelAthletics.com. Fans can also receive updates on the team by downloading the Go Evangel Front Row App at EvangelAthletics.com/FrontRow available on Google Play and in the App Store.