Ouachita Baptist scored the go-ahead touchdown after a failed third-quarter fake punt attempt by East Central and held off the host Tigers late for a 24-17 win Saturday night at Norris Field.
East Central now starts its season off at 1-2 while OBU leaves down at 2-0.
Facing a fourth and seven on the OBU 40, punter Dylan Schul lost eight yards on the trick play, setting up the visiting Tigers on their own 48.
Running back Chris Rycraw got free for a 21-yard romp during the ensuing OBU drive. Two plays after a personal foul penalty on the ECU quarterback, the visitors scored on a 12-yard pass from quarterback Benson Jordan to receiver Drew White to snap a 10-all tie and give the visiting Tigers a 17-10 lead.
OBU followed that score with a back-breaking 19-play, 86-yard drive capped by a Rycraw 2-yard TD run that pushed the Ouachita Baptist lead to 24-10 with 8:24 left in the game.
ECU quarterback Spencer Bond connected with standout receiver George Robbins five times for 61 yards during an 85-yard scoring drive capped by a 10-yard quarterback keeper that got the home Tigers within 24-17 with 3:31 left. Robbins would finish with six catches for 82 yards.
But OBU wouldn't give the East Central offense another shot, running out the rest of the time with seven offensive plays. Jordan's 17-yard first-down pass to Drew White on a third-and-12 play sealed ECU's fate.
"They had a great game plan coming in. They milked the clock the whole game. They ran the ball effectively on first and second down, getting a manageable third down situation, and it hurt us," ECU head coach Tim McCarty said in a post-game interview. "It's always tough to lose one at home, especially when you come out and get a first-quarter lead and the game is in your control."
Bond had a strong night from his signal caller position, throwing for 273 yards while leading the Tigers in rushing with 81 yards on 10 attempts.
The two teams traded first-half scores.
Trevor hunt booted a 25-yard field goal early in the first period for ECU before Matthew Ehasz countered with a 36-yard field goal for Ouachita Baptist with 26 seconds left in the opening period.
Michael Allen hauled in a 20-yard TD toss from Bond to put the Tigers on top 10-3 at the 14:20 mark of the second period. The big play of that drive was tailback JoJo Snell's 31-yard catch and run.
OBU tied the game at 10-all heading into halftime after a Steven Kehner 1-yard TD plunge with just 1:02 left in the second period.
Defensively, ECU was led by senior Fred Gaines with eight total tackles and three pass break-ups Junior Daniel Holland was also a strong defensive force, with 5.5 total tackles, one sack (three yards), two tackles-for-loss (seven yards) and one quarterback hurry.
The Tigers committed 13 penalties for 124 yards, while OBU was penalized just three times for 29 yards.
"Ultimately, in my opinion those penalties are unacceptable. That's just a lack of concentration. We have to get that fixed," McCarty said. "It kept biting our offense all night."
It won't get any easier for ECU's Tigers. Next up is a trip to Henderson State Saturday. The Reddies — who edged Southeatern 44-35 Saturday at Paul Laird Field in Durant — are ranked No. 9 in the latest AFCA coaches poll. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium in Arkadelphia, Ark.
"I promise you the Tigers are going to rebound from this and get after it the next few weeks," McCarty said.