Ryan Corbin has endured the worst of times at Southwestern State. Knee surgery that wiped out a year of football. Four losing seasons.
That's why this fall is special. Corbin has saved his best for last. And the Bulldogs are flirting with success not seen in Weatherford for a while.
“Football is not meant to be perfect,” said Corbin, a fifth-year tight end. “A lot will go your way, and a lot will not go your way. That's the way it is. I accept that. But I'm an effort-kind-of-guy. If you keep giving good effort, it will pay off eventually.”
Southwestern State is 4-3 going into Saturday's 6 p.m. Great American Conference game against East Central (3-3) at Fast Lane Field in Weatherford. The Bulldogs and Bacone are the only small college teams in Oklahoma with a winning record. With four games left on the schedule — three of which Southwestern State should be favored — the Bulldogs might have its best season in years.
Corbin has been a big part of the rebuild, although a severe knee injury dashed his 2011 season. He received a medical redshirt, and intense rehabilitation was driven by people “doubting and questioning whether I would be able to come back and play. It made me work even harder to come back and show them.”
The Newcastle High product returned in 2012 and caught 47 passes for a team-best 400 yards, including one touchdown. This season, Corbin has 44 catches for a team-high 575 yards and four TDs. The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder has played fullback a couple of times this season, and he has two TDs by rush.
Corbin's best game so far this season came Oct. 17 against Southeastern State in Durant. He had three touchdown catches, including a pair of 8-yarders in the fourth quarter that capped a big comeback. The Bulldogs won 37-27, and Corbin was named The Oklahoman's State College Football Player of the Week the following Tuesday.
“I just ran a couple of good routes and caught the ball,” Corbin said with a laugh. “It was great to win against a state rival. We don't like to lose in-state games. I hope we can do the same against East Central this week.”
* Northeastern A&M wraps up its 2013 season with a 1 p.m. game Saturday at Navarro in Corsicana, Texas. NEO (3-5) snapped a three-game skid a week ago with a 21-14 victory over Cisco (Texas). NEO is 1-4 in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference and will not qualify for the league's playoffs.
* Bacone (5-2) cracked the NAIA rankings, coming in this week at No. 25. The Warriors are the first team rated by the NAIA this season since Langston opened at No. 23. Langston has since dropped out of the rankings, though voters did not consider the Lions' strength of nonconference schedule. The Lions host Oklahoma Baptist at 2 p.m. Saturday with a very deceptive 2-4 record. Expect the Nov. 9 game in Muskogee between Langston and Bacone to determine the Central States Football League champ.
* Marquez Clark knew Central Oklahoma's football program was in rebuilding mode when he signed in 2012. The first-team junior college All-American chose UCO so he could play with best friend Adrian Nelson and for coach Nick Bobeck, people he developed relationships with while at Navarro.
Nelson, a quarterback, and Clark, a receiver, set several school passing/receiving records while in junior college. Clark signed with Kansas State out of Navarro but failed to meet academic requirements.
“Coach Bobeck told me it was going to be a rebuilding process,” Clark said. “But I told him I wanted to go to war with him, regardless. I love Coach Bobeck, I know he's a good coach.”
Clark ranks fifth among UCO's single-season receiving leaders with 987 yards and five touchdowns on 58 catches. The Bronchos have three games left, and the junior needs 482 yards to tie Dee Dee Carter for most in a season. Carter had 1,469 in 2001.
* Southern Nazarene lost one of its leading receivers when Ryan Mischler left the team for personal reasons. The sophomore out of Tulsa Union caught 25 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns in five games. He was the Crimson Storm's second-leading receiver. ... SNU's freshman running back, Brian Yenor, goes into Saturday's game at Arkansas-Monticello needing 27 yards to take the team rushing lead. The Perry High product started the season as the Storm's No. 3 running back.
* Before the season started, coaches pointed to defensive lineman Kimes Gilbert as an impact player for Oklahoma Baptist's first varsity football season since 1940. The 6-foot, 240-pound freshman out of Southmoore has not disappointed. Here's an example: Last Saturday, during the Bison's 37-10 rout of Wayland Baptist (Texas), Gilbert had 11 tackles; three sacks for minus-14 yards; five tackles for minus-23 yards, a forced fumble; and a fumble recovery.
* UCO's Nick Bobeck said starting running back Joshua Birmingham has been bothered by an ankle injury since a Sept. 28 game at Washburn (Kan.). Although Birmingham has played through the injury, Bobeck sidelined the senior for most of the second half last week against Central Missouri. True freshman Jake Gandara finished with 17 carries for 87 yards, both team highs, and a touchdown.
* East Central wide receiver Caleb Holley was named Great American Conference Offensive Player of the Week. The senior set a single-game school record with 224 yards and tied a school record with three touchdown catches during the Tigers' 64-14 rout of Northwestern. Holley's batterymate, quarterback Spencer Bond, could have easily won the league award. Bond completed 21 of 30 pass attempts for 418 yards and five touchdowns.