EDMOND — The University of Central Oklahoma introduced its next round of Athletics Department Hall of Fame inductees on Saturday afternoon at Wantland Stadium. Some day, Joshua Birmingham will likely wave to an appreciative crowd for his induction. Because after four years of waving bye-bye to so many opposing defenses, he will be a sure bet to make the Hall cut.
Only a junior, Birmingham continued an unintentional pursuit of school football records Saturday, although “I don't care much about records right now,” he said after the Bronchos lost 26-14 to Southwest Baptist (Mo.) before a homecoming crowd of 4,500. “I hate losing more than anything. I hate the feeling of losing more than I love the feeling of winning.”
It is what it is, however.
The former Luther High star finished the next-to-last-game of the 2012 season with 171 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries. Birmingham surpassed 1,000 yards for the second time in three seasons at an NCAA Division II school that will fail to break a skid of three consecutive losing seasons.
The 5-foot-9, 195-pounder has 1,020 yards this season and 3,152 for his career, which closes the gap on career leader Steve Tate, who collected 4,360 yards over the 1977-80 seasons. Birmingham finished the game Saturday with 176 all-purpose yards — not exactly one of his top games in that area — but he still has 4,486 in his career. Tate, another former Luther High School stud, had 4,560.
Birmingham's 38-yard touchdown run with 5:23 left in the third quarter that gave Central Oklahoma a 14-10 lead added six points to his all-time total that now stands at 258. James Hooks holds that record, 300, over the 1969-72 seasons.
By the way, both Tate and Hooks are in the UCO Athletics Hall of Fame. Barring injury in the season wrap-up at 1 p.m. next Saturday against Northeastern State and the fall of 2013, Birmingham is bound to top a lot of charts by career's end.
“To be mentioned in the same sentence as Steve Tate, Joe Aska and James Hooks is quite a compliment,” a subdued Birmingham said. “But really, I don't care about those right now. My thing is not to come out with the big records, I want to come out with the big wins. If it (records) happens, it happens. But they don't concern me right now.”
Another superb day for Birmingham, personally, was drowned by Southwest Baptist's fourth-quarter comeback. The Bearcats (2-8) scored 16 unanswered points in the final 11:24 of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association matchup, aided by a couple of late thrown penalty flags against UCO — the least penalized team in the MIAA.
John Colliver had a 22-yard field goal that drew Southwest Baptist within 14-13 early in the fourth quarter. The Bolívar, Mo., school received an impressive 74-yard touchdown run by Via Via Manuma, who broke several tackles while getting there. A missed two-point conversion kept Southwest Baptist's lead at 19-14 with 7:18 left.
Central Oklahoma (2-7) had the ball just once more, and the Bronchos went three and out. Chris Robbs sent a 34-yard punt to the Bearcats' 32, but UCO was issued a 15-yard penalty for interfering with kick catcher Chris Muhammad — although it appeared Muhammad never waved for a fair catch. That gave Southwest Baptist the football at its own 47 with 6:07 left. Southwest Baptist chewed almost five minutes off the clock before Colliver was sent in for a field-goal attempt.
Instead of trying a 29-yarder, Colliver snatched the ball and found a wide open tight end Brad Sundstrom for a win-clinching 9-yard TD pass.