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Mules rally past Bulldogs for Mineral Water Bowl title

University of Central Missouri senior defensive lineman, Triphinue Taylor (90), holds up the Mineral Water Bowl trophy after it was presented by Roger Siegel of the Excelsior Springs Quarterback Club. (Photo by Russ Green)

December 8, 2017 – The University of Central Missouri Mules were in a familiar position as they trailed the University of Minnesota-Duluth 22-10 at halftime of the 52nd Mineral Water Bowl at Tiger Stadium. After all, it was the seventh time this year that UCM entered the intermission short on the scoreboard. And for the fourth time this season, the Mules overcame a halftime deficit to pick up the victory. The Saturday, Dec. 2 38-28 win over the 23rd-ranked Bulldogs on a sunny and warm early December afternoon was UCM’s second win over a ranked opponent and snapped the MIAA’s three-game losing streak in the MWB to a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference school. Both schools end the season with 9-3 records.

Brook Bolles, a finalist for the Harlon Hill Award presented to the Division II player of the year, sparked Central Missouri’s offense against a Bulldog defense ranked fifth nationally in total defense. Bolles accounted for three scores—two passing and one rushing. The 6-3, 190-pound junior quarterback completed 19 of 34 passes for 281 yards, while rushing for 82 yards on 13 carries, including the game-clinching 40-yard run with 10:27 remaining in the game. Bolles was named the game’s offensive MVP and his late run gave the Mules a 38-28 lead as they snapped UMD’s eight-game winning streak.

Junior linebacker Austin Miller was named the defensive MVP as he led the Mules with six solo tackles and three assisted stops.

Despite scoring first on a Bolles to Jovante Siglar 24-yard strike, the Mules found themselves down as UMB answered with a pair of long scoring drives covering 75 yards and 63 yards. Dre Greer pounded in from the one, and Jason Balts ran the conversion to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the game, 8-7, with 61 seconds remaining in the opening period. Nick Larson caught a 14-yard pass from John Larson with 6:13 left in the second quarter to push the Bulldog lead to 15-7.

UCM answered with 3:40 remaining in the half on an Alex Wagner 41-yard field goal that is the fourth longest in MWB history. However, Minnesota-Duluth answered with a late seven-play, 80-yard drive that ended when Dominic Bonner caught a 40-yard scoring pass from John Larson with just 15 seconds left to give the Bulldogs a 22-10 halftime lead.

The Mules began their comeback on the first possession of the second half with a quick 2:55 drive capped by Devante Turner’s 3-yard run, but UMD answered on its next possession as John Larson, who ended the day with 371 yards passing, found Obi Ibeneme for a 15-yard touchdown pass. The momentum of the score that gave the Bulldogs a 28-17 lead was quickly erased as Jaylen Zachery returned the ensuing kickoff a bowl-record 100 yards for a Central Missouri touchdown.

UCM grabbed the lead on its next possession as Bolles connected with Seth Hebert on a 29-yard pass to cap a quick two-play, 59-yard possession. The Mules threatened to score again on the next Bulldog possession when Tyron Taylor intercepted a John Larson pass and returned it to the end zone for an apparent touchdown. However, UMD dodged a bullet when an unsportsmanlike penalty on the return nullified the score, and UCM missed a 35-yard field goal attempt.

Bolles iced the game later with his 40-yard touchdown run. The Bulldogs had one last chance, but came up empty. Ben Everhart found Johnny McCormick for 27-yard pass to the Mule one-yard line, but McCormick was hit and fumbled the ball into the end zone where it was recovered by Dairon Rhodes for UCM.

The Mules then ran out the remaining 4:44 of the game.

It was the second Mineral Water Bowl meeting of the two schools with UCM winning the 2001 contest, 48-17.

By Standard Staff • StandardStaff@leaderpress.com

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