By JACOB WOERTHER
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — Following their homecoming win over Washburn, the Mules look to extend their winning streak to four games this Saturday, Oct. 29, when they host the University of Central Oklahoma Bronchos.
Last weekend, students and alumni packed the stands for UCM’s homecoming game and everyone left happy (with the exception of a few Washburn fans). The Mules scored first and maintained the lead for the remainder of the game. The Ichabods came within three points on three different occasions but were unable to get ahead of the Mules. The Mules walked away with 29-27 win.
A dominating factor in the Mules success this past week was senior quarterback Garrett Fugate. Fugate was named MIAA Offensive Player of the Week this past week after his stellar performance against Washburn. He was 28-41 with 357 yards and three touchdowns. His performance this past week caps off an impressive three-week stretch for Fugate during which he amassed 929 yards and 11 touchdowns.
This is especially concerning for a Bronchos defense that has struggled so far this season, particularly with stopping the pass. Central Oklahoma on average has given up 301 passing yards per game. Not only are the Broncos prone to allowing yards through the air, but they also are allowing teams to find the end-zone at an alarming rate. Opposing teams have averaged 41 points against the ninth-ranked Bronchos defense.
If the Bronchos defense hopes to halt the MIAA’s second-best passing offense, it is essential to keep them off the field and avoid costly turnovers. Central Oklahoma turnover margin is currently minus-12.
Central Oklahoma’s defense should also put an emphasis on wide receiver Jaylen Zachery. While Fugate is successful in spreading out his passes out among Kyle Echols, Tyler Jones and Seth Herbert, Zachery is undeniably his favorite target. He leads the team with 545 receiving yards and six touchdowns on the year. Factor in the redshirt junior’s 603 return yards, and he’s second in the MIAA for all-purpose yards.
Although the Bronchos defense has struggled as of late, their offense picks up the slack. Josh Crockett and Connor Pulley have both earned more than 600 receiving yards this season. Their offensive weapons also include Jake Gandara who has 539 rushing yards and Clay McKenzie who has accumulated 11 touchdowns and 474 yards rushing.
The Mules defense will need to be prepared for the high-powered Central Oklahoma offense. When looking at the production of the offense, the Bronchos rival the Mules. They trail the Mules by just 187 yards in terms of total offense this season.
The Mules, however, have held their own against some of the powerful offenses that MIAA has to offer. They have allowed the third fewest total offensive yards in the MIAA to opponents at an average of 380 yards per game.
History also plays on the side of the Mules this week. The Mules emerged victorious in all four meetings with the Bronchos to date.
Last year, the Mules competed in a back-and-forth battle with the Bronchos during which the lead changed seven times over the course of the game. The Mules offense was finally able to out-power the Bronchos after scoring their ninth offensive touchdown of the day and sealing their 45-42 victory over UCO.
The Mules take on the University of Central Oklahoma at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, at Walton Stadium/Kennedy Field during UCM’s annual Blackout Game.