Hammer Tournament XIV – Semifinal 2 1st Half
Tournament Recap: last week we watched a scoreless game between Northeastern Oklahoma A&M (NEO A&M) and Southwestern Oklahoma State (SWOSU) go to overtime. NEO A&M ended up getting the victory in overtime after two turnovers by SWOSU. SWOSU fumbled the ball on a goal line stand then on their ensuing possession SWOSU attempted to run the option only to turn the ball over again as NEO A&M returned in 99 2/3 yards for the game clinching TD.
The next game was a slugfest between Oklahoma (OU) and the Kansas City Chiefs (KC). These two teams never met in the 5 years since 2010 when KC joined the Hammer Tournament League. History was made that day as the Kansas City Chiefs became only the second team in 14 years to defeat OU in the Hammer Tournament and the first to defeat OU while playing at Norman Oklahoma in the tournament. Trailing 10 to 8 in the final minutes of the 4th quarter KC managed to drive the length of the field and make a field goal to win the game 11 to 10.
Today we will watch the Wild Card Round Winner, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M (NEO A&M), go up against the top seeded team in this tournament, Central Missouri (UCM). These are two teams that are no strangers to success in the Hammer Tournament. NEO A&M was a founding member of the Hammer Tournament back in 2001. During the league’s first 5 years of existence NEO A&M saw action every year. Prior to the 2010 expansion season the participants of the Hammer Bowl were simply the best 2 teams out of the available 3 that had the most successful season. NEO A&M went up against OU every single year during those first 5 seasons. The NEO A&M / OU matchup became a semi-annual event for the Hammer Tournament as these two teams produced some of the most exciting football games this tournament has ever produced.
The University of Central Missouri Mules was part of the 2010 expansion project and in 4 years UCM has made it to the Championship Round 3 times. In 2010 UCM defeated KC in the semifinals then lost to OU in the Championship 24 to 18. In 2011 UCM defeated SWOSU in the semifinals then lost to OU in the Championship. In 2013 UCM defeated KC again in the semifinals then lost to OU in the Championship. Three attempts followed by three defeats. Last year’s Hammer Bowl (Championship) still resonates in the record books. When UCM scored the potential game tying touchdown as time expired only to lose the game on a blocked extra point. It was the closest Hammer Bowl in 14 years.
Today we have UCM vs. NEO A&M. Two teams that only met once before. In the 2012 Semifinals UCM lost to NEO A&M 15 to 8. It was the loss that dashed UCM’s shot at 3 consecutive Hammer Bowl appearances.
Since NEO A&M is the visiting team here at Warrensburg Missouri they will call the coin toss. They won the toss and have elected to defer until the 2nd half. The first quarter is one exciting quarter of football. NEO A&M breaks 60 yards for the first touchdown but has the run erased due to a holding penalty. UCM is clearly fired up as players and fans are clearly focused and ready to go. UCM controls the ball for over 9 minutes of the 1st quarter but fails to produce any points. On 4th and short, UCM executes a trick play and attempts to convert on a fake field goal. The play ends with a fumble behind the line of scrimmage that goes out of bounds.
UCM 0, NEO A&M 0, End of the 1st quarter.
Midway through the 2nd quarter NEO A&M attempts and misses a long field goal. UCM has a player back near the goal line who recovers the short kick and returns the ball 80 yards to the NEO A&M 20 yard line. Five plays later UCM draws first blood and punches it in for a TD.
UCM 6, NEO A&M 0
The only question mark for the UCM team seems to be the special teams as the PAT is blocked. Missed chip shots like that can come back to haunt a team later in the game, just like we could have seen in the other semifinal game between OU and KC when the Chiefs went for two in the 2nd quarter to pull ahead 8 to 7. Missing that 2 point conversion could have been detrimental for KC at that moment.
It’s halftime here in Warrensburg in a solid and well played semifinal game. UCM leads by 6. Come back tomorrow for the 2nd half.