In the aftermath of Friday's 33-30 loss to Center, Rusk head coach Ted Patton summed it up in a seemingly simple word — execution.
And it was execution, or the lack of, that hit the Eagles especially hard in the third quarter.
After a fumble recovery and one-yard touchdown run by Rusk quarterback Zachris Sturns with only seconds left in the half cut the Roughriders lead to 18-16 at the half, Rusk began the second half and started to gain the momentum.
After Rusk's Carter Hutcison intercepted a Cameron Cloudy pass at the Eagles 22, Keshannon Dearman had runs of 9 and 10 yards respectively. The quarterback Zacris Sturns, playing in place of starting quarterback Kody Stanley, who left the game late in the second quarter with a concussion, added another six yards to bring the Eagles to the 47.
But four straight penalties — two of them illegal procedure — pushed the Eagles back to their own 25, where Sturns pass was intercepted by Center's Johnny Sudds, who returned it 35 yards for a touchdown, giving the Roughriders a 25-16 lead.
“(Sturns) has a slightly different cadence than the starting quarterback,” Patten said. “It's difficult to be effective when you have three or four penalties in a row.”
Less than three minutes later, a 50-yard punt return by Center's Miquel Johnson put the Rough-riders inside the Rusk 20 and two plays later, quarter Cameron Cloudy widened Center's lead t 33-16.
“We had some kicks that put us into a bad situation,” Patten said. Rusk's first punt of the night went for a minus-13 yards and settling at the Rusk 30, setting up Center's first score, an 11-yard touchdown by Cloudy.
But there were bright spots.
In the fourth quarter, Rusk's run-first offensive kicked into high gear, with Chaston Bennett scoring on a 45 yard run late in the third quarter, and David Overstreet with a 2-yard run in the fourth quarter.
In all, Rusk accounted for 345 yards on the ground with DJ McDuff accounting for 159 yards and Bennett with 101. In the first half, McDuff rushed for 118 yards on two carries, one for 34 yards and another an 84-yard touchdown run.
Another bright spot, Patten felt, was the defense.
Offensive miscues, he said, “put the defense in some bad positions.”
Still, he said, the defense held several times in short-yardage situations and forced three turnovers.
“We were a lot better tonight in stopping them than we did the first game of last year,” he said.
Rusk travels to Crockett on Friday. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.
Center 33, Rusk 30
Center 6 12 15 0 — 33
Rusk 3 13 7 7 —30
RUS—Leoncio Rivera, 33-yard field goal; 7:00.
CEN—Cameron Cloudy, 11-yard rush (Felipe Parra kick fail); 0:00
CEN—Johnny Sudds, 11 yards from Cloudy on hook and latter (Parra kick fail); 8:31
RUS—DJ McDuff, 84-yard run (Rivera kick); 8:09
CEN—KJ Garret, 2-yard run (pass fail); 5:12
RUS—Zacris Sturns, 1 yard run (pass fail); 0:09
CEN—Sudds, 35-yard INT return (Parra kick); 7:39
CEN—Cloudy, 11-yard yard run (run good); 4:41
RUS—Chaston Bennett, 45-yard run (Rivera kick); 1:42
RUS—David Overstreet, 2-yard run (Rivera kick); 4:06 CEN RUS
First Downs 4 13
Rushes-Yards 40-207 46-345
Passing Yards 59 15
Comp.-Att.-Int. 6-15-1 2-4-2
Punts-Avg. 0-0 4-8.75
Fumbles-Lost 4-2 3-2
Penalties-Yards 6-46 9-83
RUSHING—Center, Shaquille Ingram 4-59, Johnny Sudds 10-57, Cameron Cloudy 11-41, KJ Garrett 14-41, Miquel Johnson III 1-9. Rusk, DJ McDuff 6-159, Chaston Bennett 8-101, Kody Stanley10-37, David Overstreet 7-35, Keshannon Dearman 4-15, Zacris Sturns 11-(-2).
PASSING—Center, Cameron Cloudy 6-14-1-1—33, Cody Carleton 0-1-0—0—0. Rusk, Zachris Sturns 2-5-0-1--15, Kody Stanley 0-4-0-1—0.
RECEIVING—Center, Johnny Sudds 3-33, Tony McCollister 2-20. Rusk, Kadarius Neal 2-15