LANGSTON — The stakes were considerably less than a year ago. No conference championship was on the line. No playoff berth was up for grabs.
This time, two oft-successful small college football programs were simply trying move a step closer to .500.
Langston moved within one victory of an even season Saturday night with a 17-14 victory over winless Southern Nazarene before an estimated 3,500 fans at W.E. Anderson Stadium.
Anthony Fernandez kicked a 37-yard field goal with 9:07 left in the game to give Langston (2-3) the lead for good. The field goal came four plays after the Lions kept the drive alive with a fourth-and-1 conversion plunge by quarterback Brendan Crawford. Fernandez, a senior who played soccer in high school in California, said there was no doubt the field goal was good. After that, he said, it was all up to the defense to keep the lead.
“Our team hasn't been down or anything like that,” Fernandez said of the Lions' slow start. “We've played some good teams, and we've lost some tough games. But this is a big confidence boost for us.”
The last time these teams played, last Nov. 12 in Bethany, Southern Naz beat Langston 38-34 to clinch the Central States Football League championship and advance to the NAIA playoffs. These days, both teams are retooling. Both squads have lost difference-making offensive standouts — quarterback Brady Wardlaw for SNU and tailback Carlos Ross for Langston — and the 2012 season results are proof. SNU is also making the transition to NCAA Division II, and its schedule is loaded with future Great American Conference opponents.
SNU (0-5) still had a chance to pull out Saturday's game, getting good field position late in the fourth quarter. With Lions punter Dave DeHarde standing in the end zone, SNU's Matt Pruitt got a piece of the football, though it still traveled forward to Langston's 34.
Langston dodged a problem when SNU quarterback Dylan Terry overthrew an open Sedrick Johnson in the end zone on second down. Lions nose guard Pierre Alexander then batted away Terry's pass on third down. Ian Sanders was sent in to try a 40-yard, game-tying field goal with 2:01 remaining, but his attempt was way right.