LANGSTON — Langston continued to flex its muscle against Central States Football League teams Saturday afternoon at Anderson Stadium. Whether that helps the Lions in the long run will be left to those who vote in the NAIA poll.
Langston moved a step closer to .500 overall and remained unbeaten in the CSFL after its 53-7 victory over Oklahoma Baptist before a crowd of about 1,500.
Freshman quarterback Mark Wright Jr. accounted for two touchdowns, and running backs D'Mark Collier and Kievon Jackson added a pair of touchdown runs each for Langston, which improved to 3-4 overall and 3-0 in the CSFL. The Lions overcame a slow start in just their second home game of the season to beat a reborn OBU program that hoped to challenge for the league championship in its first year of varsity football since 1940.
Instead, the Bison fell to 2-6 and 1-2. The loss assured Oklahoma Baptist of its first losing campaign since the 1935 squad finished 2-6-1.
“They're going to have to be reckoned with in the next year or so,” Langston coach Dwone Sanders said of Oklahoma Baptist. “It's scary to think what (OBU coach) Chris Jensen is going to put together over there. They're all juniors, sophomores and freshmen. But until that day comes, we just have to be sure and stay the course here for now.”
A brutal nonconference schedule against NCAA Division I-AA programs — at Northern Colorado, at Incarnate Word (Texas), at Nicholls State (La.) and at Northwestern State (La.) — led to an 0-4 start for Langston. Since then, the Lions have used the experience to post one-sided victories over fellow NAIA members Texas College (34-8), Southwestern Assemblies of God (41-17) and now OBU.
Langston will be favored next Saturday at Panhandle State, and then comes a probable CSFL championship-deciding game Nov. 9 at No. 25-ranked Bacone in Muskogee.
Even if Langston wins the rest of its games, it might not be enough to make the NAIA playoff cut. The Central States champ does not receive an automatic bid to the postseason; instead, it must be ranked in the top-20.
Langston began this season rated No. 23 but fell out after the four-straight losses to open the year. Despite its strength of schedule, and even if it wins out by large margins, voters might not let Langston back in the poll.
“We've got to make sure the kids stay focused,” Sanders said. “We have to make sure to do what we're expected of against our conference teams. We're on our level now, and we've been winning games by three touchdowns or better. Today was a great showing.”
Sanders admits the Lions, given the chance, will try and beat future opponents by three, four, five touchdowns to impress NAIA voters, including the CSFL representative Jesse Godding, the head football coach at Southwestern Assemblies of God. Sanders hopes Godding will push for Langston's return to the poll, especially since Godding saw the Lions first hand a few weeks ago.
“Typically, I would have pulled up on OBU,” said Sanders, whose club scored 33 points in the second half. “They have caused us no harm. But, at the end of the day, I've lost four-straight games at the beginning of the season, and I have to prove a point. It's not personal against anyone, it's just business.”
If the Lions continue to win — and win big — “it would be a shame not to see Langston University not get in the playoffs after not losing to an NAIA football team,” Sanders said. “We just have to keep our eyes off the summit and take it one game at a time, not see the future past Panhandle State next week.”
Wright completed 17 of 23 passes for 283 yards and a touchdown. Collier ran for 23 yards on eight carries, and Jackson added 77 yards on just six attempts. The Lions rolled up 597 yards of offense, while the defense limited OBU to 220. Defensive back Isaiah Ross had two interceptions, and Sidtrell Grayson added another for Langston.
Oklahoma Baptist trailed by 41 points before Darryl Fields Jr. broke loose for a 66-yard TD run along the sideline in the fourth quarter.