The No. 15 ranked Harding Bisons football team had their first loss of the season Thursday, Aug. 31 to Henderson State, 28-20. The game, played at Harding’s First Security Stadium, was both teams’ first of the season.
Senior running back Grant Kimberlin said the team was prepared for the game, knowing they had a good chance to win, but small errors in the end lead to their defeat.
“During the game, we felt like we had it, but we just didn’t connect on all cylinders,” Kimberlin said. “After the loss, we have a lot of room to improve, so that’s what this week is about. I think this next week will show who we really are.”
At the top of the game, the Bisons wasted no time and scored the first touchdown after taking advantage of a fumble by the Reddies in the opening kickoff. Junior quarterback Terrence Dingle made the 30-yard touchdown pass to Kimberlin to score just 49 seconds into the game.
Henderson responded quickly, scoring twice in the first quarter. The Bisons nearly tied the score after a 78-yard drive with Dingle scoring from a yard out. The Bisons missed the extra point to make it 14-13 with the Reddies in the lead.
Just before halftime, Henderson quarterback Andrew Black avoided several tackles to make a pass to the back corner of the end zone for another Reddie touchdown. Henderson State scored again with 1:09 left in the third quarter on a fake punt for a 28-13 lead.
The Bisons scored once more and had the chance to tie the game late in the fourth quarter after recovering an onside kick at the 50 with only 57 seconds remaining in the game. The Bisons drove to the Reddies’ 25, when Henderson intercepted the ball and claimed the victory.
For head coach Paul Simmons, the game against Henderson was not only the first of the season but his first as head coach.
“The Thursday night game frustrated us because there were so many small things that if we had done something differently, we’d have had that ballgame,” Simmons said. “The character of our team was very evident, and I think everyone in the locker room just felt like we ran just out of time in the end.”
Dingle said the team is still in good spirits after the loss and is prepared for this weeks game.
“If it did anything, it brought us closer together,” Dingle said. “We feel fine. We’re not worried at all. We still have high expectations for this season.”
Dingle said the senior leadership this season encourages the whole team to go out and play their best every week.
“One of the reasons I feel so comfortable just going out and playing every Saturday is that I’m surrounded by guys who have been playing at a high level for a long time,” Dingle said. “It just makes my job all the more easy.”
According to Kimberlin, the Bisons are focused on their next game at Southern Arkansas University (SAU) and improving each week.
“Looking ahead for the season, we just want to take it one game at a time, really focus on ourselves and not so much who we’re playing,” Kimberlin said. “This week we’re focused on the little details and getting everything right.”
Simmons said they have high expectations for this week as they face their second game of the season.
“One of the oldest clichés in football is that the most improvement that the team makes is between the first and second ballgame,” Simmons said. “I think it’s especially true when you have a young football team with a lot of guys who are talented but not as experienced. So we certainly expect for the Bisons to improve as much as anybody in the country between our first and second game. We’re certainly working in that direction, and I think we will.”
The Bisons will travel to Magnolia, Arkansas, on Saturday, Sept. 9, to play SAU at 6 p.m.