*Central Oklahoma running back Joshua Birmingham looked like a man lost after the Bronchos' 26-14 setback Nov. 3 to Southwest Baptist (Mo.) at Wantland Stadium.
Birmingham's eyes were glossed with tears after UCO blew a fourth-quarter lead; the junior from Luther recalled his third-down fumble with about eight minutes left that was recovered by a teammate at Southwest Baptist's 40. But the Bronchos still fell a yard shy of a first down. UCO coach Nick Bobeck played it safe and sent in Chris Robbs, who punted to the 19-yard-line.
Behind a 74-yard, tackle-breaking run from Via Via Manuma, Southwest Baptist scored the go-ahead touchdown in just four plays.
Although several people were involved in the sequence of plays after Birmingham's fumble — including a pass interference penalty against UCO — “I feel like that fumble cost us,” he said. “I feel like it's on my shoulders. I hate losing like that.”
*Big tilt 1 p.m. Saturday at Red Robertson Field in Miami, OK. No. 4-ranked Northeastern A&M will play No. 10 Navarro (Texas) in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference championship game. These teams met in the regular-season finale two weeks ago, with NEO winning, 26-24. A similar shootout can be expected Saturday.
Navarro (8-2) advanced to the title game by beating Kilgore (Texas), avenging one of its two losses. Navarro wants to make amends Saturday against NEO when it counts the most.
“Today was a perfect situation for us,” Navarro coach Brian Mayper said after defeating Kilgore. “We came over here a few weeks ago and lost a game we thought we should have won. It was mistakes that killed us. Now we get to go back to Miami and play at the place where our only other loss came from. It looks like another perfect situation.”