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SEARCY - There is an old adage that states “Defense wins championships.”

Although Southern Arkansas and No. 7 Harding didn’t clash for the GAC title on Sunday afternoon, the heavyweight tilt had all the makings of a championship game from the start to the finish.

And in the end, it was the SAU defense that delivered a late knockout punch as the Muleriders overcame a slow start to upset the nationally-ranked Bisons.

The Muleriders (2-0, 2-0 GAC) defeated Harding (1-1, 1-1 GAC) 28-23.

In a contest that was originally scheduled to be a part of the NCAA’s Division II Football Showcase with the game being streamed on ESPN3, the two programs had the collegiate football stage all to themselves on the Sabbath after multiple lightning delays and continual periods of heavy rain postponed the Saturday night kickoff for 20 hours.

The Muleriders’ victory over Harding in Searcy is the first for the program since 2003.

Malik Preston led the way on defense with 16 tackles and caused three fumbles.

Anthony Washington picked up 11 stops and sophomore Demarcus Pegue added 10.

Southern Arkansas held Harding’s flexbone in check as they surrendered just 184 yards on 60 carries, while forcing the ball on the turf four times.

The Muleriders will meet Southwestern Oklahoma State in Weatherford on Saturday.

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