Kristian Thompson's 42-yard touchdown run with 4:28 remaining in the fourth quarter catapulted Arkansas Tech University to a 41-35 victory over Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Great American Conference play on Homecoming Saturday at Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field in Russellville.
The go-ahead touchdown marked the longest run of Thompson's Wonder Boy career, and it allowed the sophomore from Dardanelle to finish with a career-high 145 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries.
The extra point after Thompson's run failed, but the Arkansas Tech defense made the 6-point lead stand when Bruce Livingston recovered a NWOSU fumble on a fourth-and-17 play from the Wonder Boys' 28-yard line with 43 seconds remaining.
Arkansas Tech (5-4) earned its sixth consecutive win over the Rangers (4-5) and kept its hopes of a second consecutive winning season very much alive with two games remaining in the 2016 campaign.
After a scoreless first quarter, Arkansas Tech took control in the second quarter behind a 15-yard touchdown run by Thompson at the 11:52 mark and a 62-yard touchdown pass from Joshua Qualls to Henry Wesley with 7:58 remaining in the half. The Wonder Boys led 14-0 at the intermission.
The margin remained 14 points through three quarters, but only after an eventful beginning to the second half.
Northwestern Oklahoma State attempted two on-side kicks during the third period. Both times Arkansas Tech recovered, and both times it converted the short field into a touchdown. Jabyes Cross tossed a 49-yard touchdown pass to Justin Bailey and Thompson had a 5-yard touchdown run to account for the Wonder Boys' scoring in the third quarter.
The Rangers answered those scoring plays with touchdown drives of their own. Reid Miller's 10-yard touchdown pass to Horatio Smith with 7:36 left in the third quarter and Jacob Peyton's 7-yard touchdown run with 59 seconds remaining in the third period allowed NWOSU to stay within 28-14 heading to the fourth quarter.
It appeared the Wonder Boys might have locked up the win when Brett Calhoun blocked a punt and Jackob Dean recovered it for a touchdown with 11:57 left, but that 35-14 Tech lead soon disappeared.
Two touchdown passes by Miller and a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown by Northwestern's Jordan Norris tied the score at 35-35 with 6:43 remaining.
That set the stage for Thompson's heroics. On the fourth play of the ensuing drive, he burst up the middle and raced to the north end zone for what turned out to be the decisive touchdown.
NWOSU's Miller completed 26-of-52 passes for 344 yards and three touchdowns.
Tech's D'Vonta Derricott had a game-high 18 tackles.
The Wonder Boys will go on the road for their final two games of the season. Tech will visit Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford on Saturday, Nov. 5, and Harding University in Searcy on Saturday, Nov. 12. Both games will start at 2 p.m., and both will be carried live on KCJC 102.3 FM and www.arkansastechsports.com.