First Pirate Gridiron Win in 64 Years
With the help of four interceptions on defense, the Southwestern University football team made history on Sept. 13, 2014, with a 27–20 win over Sul Ross State in their season opener.
A resilient Pirate defense never let up and continued to put pressure on the Lobos as Nik Kelly nabbed two interceptions and Tanner Rogers and DeeJay Johnson each also added a pick. Rogers was one of Southwestern’s defensive highlights, finishing with a game-high 11 tackles, 4.0 tackles for a loss and one sack.
Southwestern rallied back twice to take the lead, including the decisive score when Bryan Hicks found Justin Pelt near the goal line to put the Pirates up 27–13 midway through the third quarter.
“We never gave up,” says Hicks, who finished 14–37 passing for 185 yards and four touchdowns. “It came down to us going out and playing the best we can. We knew if we did that we would have a chance to win.”
Defensive end Justin Broussard also played a key role with two sacks, both coming on fourth down to stop the Lobos. Broussard added 10 tackles and 3.5 tackles for a loss, but even more impressive were his three forced fumbles.
The historic win saw a swing of emotions as Sul Ross jumped out to an early 6–0 lead in the first quarter and added another score midway through the second. However, the Pirates answered both times; first with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Hicks to Micah Sherman that was set up on a blocked punt.
The Pirates would take a 14–13 lead into halftime when Hicks found Matt Gillen in the back of the end zone from 26 yards out and capped a six-play, 63-yard drive.
Southwestern scored again when Hicks found Dante Smith on a 21-yard score to put the Pirates up 21–13 at the start of the third quarter. Smith led all receivers with six catches for 63 yards and one touchdown.
“I’m really happy for our guys. They are able to see their hard-work starting to pay off,” says Head Coach Joe Austin. (In the Sul Ross game) “we were able to see a lot of what we’ve been working toward pay off, and we made some big plays.”
No play was bigger, however, than the pressure that came from the defensive line on the final drive for Sul Ross. Southwestern held the Lobos on fourth-and-four with their final pass falling incomplete, giving the Pirates their first win.
“We left points out there, but we definitely showed we are heading in the right direction,” Austin says. “Now that we’ve learned how to win, we don’t want to get away from getting better every day.”
Story by Kristina Moore