The turnover bug paid a visit to School of the Osage Friday night. California made sure to take full advantage in a 43-13 win on its Homecoming night.
The turnover bug paid a visit to School of the Osage Friday night.
In a Tri-County Conference battle at California, the Indians entered the red zone inside their opponent’s 20-yard line on five occasions, reached the Pinto 22-yard line another time and never punted. Most of the time that may sound like a good night but factor in six turnovers and the result comes out quite differently.
California made sure to take full advantage in a 43-13 win on its Homecoming night.
“The ball bounced their way tonight and that is not an excuse at all. We have to do a better job of taking care of the football and making better decisions within the game, but offensively it is crazy to think we scored 13 points and punted zero times,” Osage coach Devin Johnson stated. “It was one of those nights where you almost just kind of have to move on… Obviously, we did not do enough to win the game but it is disappointing when you did not even put yourself in a position to be competitive because of the lack of execution.”
And Osage’s problems began straight away as the Indians turned the ball over on their first four possessions of the evening. Even so, California built no more than a 22-0 lead by halftime.
It started with with a direct snap on Osage’s first possession that was fumbled on the team’s own 47-yard line. After the Indian defense forced a turnover on downs on their own 29-yard line, junior quarterback Brockton McLaughlin’s pass on the first play of the next series was intercepted by California junior Kaden Bax. This time, the Pintos turned it into a scoring drive as junior quarterback Calen Kruger found some room on an option keeper and bursted towards the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown run on a 4th-and-3 play. He also ran in the 2-point conversion to put California up 8-0 with just over two minutes left in the first quarter.
Osage started to move the chains on the ensuing drive but another fumble on the first play of the second quarter was also recovered by the Pintos. Just a few moments later, Kruger hit senior receiver Dawson Gump for a 47-yard strike to Osage’s 3-yard line and another quarterback keeper from the junior and a 2-point conversion from junior Trevor Myers gave California a 16-0 lead.
The Indians seemed poised to respond on the ensuing kickoff as sophomore Keigan Vaughn returned the ball to California’s 34-yard line. Facing a 4th-and-5 at the Pinto 16, McLaughlin converted a first down with his legs but lost the ball on a fumble at the Pinto 10. It seemed almost any time an Osage ball carrier reached the second level of the defense or beyond Friday night, California’s ability to recover and make some tough tackles from behind were a turnover threat.
“They have good team speed and we knew that coming in that overall, their team speed was very good. They did not get a whole lot of tackles for losses but they recovered very well and that is what caused a lot of those fumbles, too, is a second guy coming over the top,” Johnson noted. “What we talked about all week is getting first downs and converting first downs into scores. We got first downs tonight, but were just not able to put it in.”
California took the ball and drove 90 yards in just over three minutes to finish a touchdown drive with a 5-yard run from senior Tagen Higgins.Trailing 22-0 at this point, Osage senior running back Jack Creasy made a pair of big runs that totaled 43 yards and McLaughlin found senior receiver Drew Elley for a 33-yard strike down the sideline to put the Indians on California’s 4-yard line in just three plays. However, the Pinto defense stood tall and denied Osage the end zone after four straight running plays that ended the drive on California’s 1-yard line.
It just seemed to be that kind of night for Osage.
The team’s first drive of the second half reached California’s 22-yard line before a turnover on downs brought that drive to a halt, Osage’s next drive ended on a backwards pass intended for sophomore receiver Hunter Graber the Pintos recovered on their own 8-yard line and McLaughlin threw an interception on the next drive for the team’s sixth and final turnover of the night.
“If we could just clean things up and see how good we could be, we told our guys that from the very beginning,” Johnson said, acknowledging California’s defense but noting how much his team beat themselves Friday night. “There is a lot of potential in our team, but we just have to become more solid and consistent as a unit and become a more cohesive unit on both sides of the ball.”
Meanwhile, California scored on a 29-yard touchdown pass to Gump to make it 28-0 in the third and added its final two touchdowns in the fourth quarter on a 14-yard tipped pass that found the hands of junior Drake Schlup after a deflection and a 21-yard touchdown pass to Myers. After throwing just three touchdown passes in the first three weeks, Kruger finished the night with a trio of touchdown passes to add to his two runs for five touchdowns on the night.
“He threw the ball more tonight than we expected,” Johnson stated of the quarterback who had been more known to make plays with his legs in the weeks prior. “We adjusted defensively and went with a 5-man front and that was more based on injuries than anything. It was kind of a ‘Who are the best 11 we got on the field?,’ and I thought our guys played hard and played well. Then, we just kind of lose a play on a big moment and those big moments are really what got us defensively. We went to a much more aggressive defense at the end of the second half and they started throwing the ball on us because we were trying to get the ball back.”
Trailing 36-0, Osage was not shut out completely. Senior Derek Bradley returned a kickoff to California’s 16-yard line in the fourth quarter and on the first play of the drive, McLaughlin hit Graber for the sophomore’s fourth touchdown reception of the season. In the final drive of the night for the Indians, McLaughlin capped an 87-yard drive with a 24-yard touchdown run.
McLaughlin finished 13-18 for 191 yards and also led the team in rushing with 77 yards on nine carries. Creasy rushed for 73 yards on eight carries and senior running back Kenan Webb added 37 yards of his own on eight attempts. Graber caught seven passes for 115 yards and Webb also hauled in four catches for 43 yards.
Friday night was a gut check for Osage and now, Johnson and his staff will be looking to see how the team responds in practice under some pressurized situations that the team can face on any given Friday night.
“I want to see how they hold themselves, how they react to adversity and play the next play. I felt like tonight, whenever bad things happened, we started pointing fingers and doing things we are not coached to do and don’t accept or tolerate in our program,” the coach said. “That is not the way to come back and face adversity. This is more than about football, this is about life and becoming young men.
“There are going to be tough times in life and things are going to be hard. Either you stick your chest out, face it and hit it head on or you cower and shy way from it,” Johnson continued. “They are going to have to react to adversity in life and we want to teach them to be great people.”
Time will soon tell how Osage (2-2, 1-1 TCC) responds with a trip to Hallsville Friday night at 7 p.m. Johnson said it will not get any easier, either.
“They had a good senior class last year and a historic season over there last year,” he said of the next opponent. “They are still a very good football team and it does not get any easier in this conference. I mean, every week is tough.”
This story will be updated with official Osage stats when they become available.