RUSSELLVILLE -- The enormity of this game-winning field goal was clear the moment it banked in.
A rain-soaked Thone Stadium crowd of 1,104 and a sideline manned by approximately 100, including players, coaches, staff, and cheerleaders wrapped in emergency ponchos erupted with delight when senior kicker Jesus Zizumbo's 44-yard field-goal attempt at the fourth-quarter buzzer bounced off the right upright and over the crossbar to give Arkansas Tech a 22-21 Great American Conference victory over Southwestern Oklahoma State on Saturday.
The field goal was the 40th of Zizumbo's career, a school record.
"I'm just happy we won the game," Zizumbo said. "We needed this win. I don't really like looking at records. All I want is for my kicks to fall in. If they do that, I've done my job."
Late in the game, it seemed unlikely Zizumbo would get a chance.
Arkansas Tech (4-5, 4-5 GAC) was out of timeouts when its defense stopped Southwestern Oklahoma freshman running Gerald Palmer for a 1-yard loss on fourth and 1 at the Tech 39 with 1:16 left in the game.
The Wonder Boys were 60 yards from the end zone. After a first down on an 8-yard run by senior back Devontae Dean, Tech faced third -and 9 from its 46, when senior quarterback Jack Grissom completed a 16-yard pass to sophomore receiver Mason Ross.
"He doesn't drop passes," Grissom said. "He's very reliable."
Ross made it sound simple.
"I watch the ball all the way in," he said. "We emphasize that every day in practice, so I think it's very important."
After a 3-yard run by Dean and a spike left time for one more play, onto Buerkle Field marched Tech's field-goal unit, including junior deep snapper Garrett Scott and holder Aaron Winn.
Winn said he could feel the anxiety.
"We practice that mayday situation every week, just in case something like this happens," Winn said. "It was routine, but at the time when it's an actual game, you have some pressure on you."
Winn said as he watched the kick head right and strike the upright through a jumble of linemen, he figured it had missed. He said Zizumbo, 5-9, 225 pounds, was knocked on top of him, and he hoped to see a flag on the field for roughing the kicker.
Zizumbo said he never watches his kicks. He instead listens for the crowd's response to present results.
"He looked at that one, I can tell you that," Winn said.
An insightful diagnosis of this game-winner was unnecessary for Arkansas Tech Coach Kyle Shipp.
"The snap and hold looked good to me," Shipp said. "As long as the kick went in, it doesn't really matter. I'll watch it on film tomorrow to see if it was perfect or not, but I'll take it any way we can get it."
Southwestern Oklahoma (3-6, 3-6) had turned a 14-10 halftime lead into 21-10 on Palmer's 1-yard touchdown run with 12:09 left in the third quarter, But Grissom's 39-yard touchdown run on Tech's next series cut it to 21-16. Zizumbo, who had earlier missed a 20-yard field goal attempt, missed the extra point.
"When you miss, you have to forget about it," Zizumbo said. "Life goes on after a kick."
"I don't think I'll say anything to him about those misses," Shipp said.
Zizumbo's 23-yard field goal midway through the third tied the Arkansas Tech career field-goal record of 39 set by Piotr Styczen from 1993-96.
The record-breaker took care of everything else for Tech.
"We practice that all the time," Grissom said. "We were ready for it."