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Stillwater Bounces Back For Big Road Win
9-20-16 by Sam Grubenhoff
Stillwater's defense wouldn't take no for an answer.

The Pioneers overcame a late penalty that gave Mustang a chance to close the gap for a 36-24 win Friday at Bronco Stadium.

With 1:56 left, the Pioneers defense celebrated a little too early. Mustang quarterback Brayden Garrett's fourth down pass had seemingly fallen incomplete, but an offside penalty gave the Broncos one last shot.

From the 4, Garrett rolled out to his right and fired a pass high to receiver Ping Harris, but the ball glanced off Harris' fingertips and fell to the turf with Mustang's hope for a late comeback.

Stillwater coach Tucker Barnard said he was impressed with his defense's resiliency throughout the game.

"They are tough," Barnard said. "They are mentally tough guys. We're tired. You see us in the huddle, and we got guys walkin' around with their faces in the air, trying to get some oxygen. Then they go back out there and stuff 'em again."

Coming into the game, the Pioneers expected their defense to show up after it held Moore to 16 points the week before. Against the Broncos, the offense made an appearance, too.

After an early fumble recovery, Stillwater (2-1) drove methodically down a short field, featuring steady doses of senior running back Josiah Castleberry and junior quarterback Garrett Leming.

Facing third-and-5 from Mustang's 40, Leming deftly avoided two Mustang linemen and scrambled to his left for a 15-yard gain. Three plays later, Castleberry went through the middle of the Bronco defense for Stillwater's first touchdown, giving the Pioneers a 7-0 lead.

"The offensive line had a heck of game," Leming said. "They didn't get credit for having a really good game last week, but this week they showed up, man. It was crazy. They were running off the ball like mad men out there."

Castleberry, who struggled to gain only 19 yards against Moore, gained 175 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries against the Broncos.

After the Broncos (2-1) cut the score to 17-7, Stillwater faced fourth-and-6 from the 50 and the possibility of losing the game's momentum. Leming again dropped back and evaded multiple defenders before rolling to his right and heaving a deep ball down the right sideline to receiver Matt Stenn, who made the toe-tapping reception for a 41-yard gain.

Three plays later, senior Christian Bahl hauled in a one-handed touchdown on a post fade in the back left corner of the end zone to give Stillwater a 23-7 advantage.

"We made that play and we knew it was gonna be open," Bahl said. "That was one that we're saving for a touchdown. The ball was a little behind me, but I knew I just had to bring it in."

Bahl finished with five receptions for 52 yards and one score.

Stillwater again went to the trick play to start the fourth quarter. Facing fourth-and-14 with 11:33 left, Leming lined up deep behind the center for a punt. Within seconds of taking the snap, Leming threw the ball deep down the right sideline for Stenn, who released uncovered and caught the ball in stride for a 32-yard gain. Junior running back Tyler Disidore scored on the next play for the Pioneers' final points of the night.

Stillwater's offense, which went dormant against Moore, eclipsed its season-high scoring total before the end of the third quarter, when senior utility player Connor Wilcoxen scored on an 8-yard run, his first touchdown of the season. Stillwater finished with 428 yards of offense.

Wilcoxen, a playmaker on defense with three interceptions this season, said it felt good to be a playmaker on the other side of the ball.

"Last year, I played a lot of offense, and so they're trying to rotate me every now and then," Wilcoxen said. "[The coaching staff] was like go ahead and give Connor the touchdown, so I went in there and scored. It was fun. It was a great feeling."

The Oklahoman favored Mustang to win 42-17, but Leming said the team was never worried.

"I think we're better than we get credit for." Leming said. "We're not your D-1 players, but we're a team that plays together, and we play for each other, and I think that's why the outcome's like this."