Sept. 2, 2010
Northwest moves to 0-4 in openers
By David Boyce
Four years ago a lightning storm struck that was so severe that Northwest Missouri State's season-opener was stopped before the first quarter ended. The game was postponed.
The Bearcats were leading Arkansas Tech 21-0 and was well on their way to beginning the season with a victory.
It turns out the electrical storm was a bad omen that the Bearcats still can't shake.
No. 1 ranked Northwest Missouri lost to No. 14 Texas A&M-Kingsville 16-7 Thursday night at Bearcat Stadium.
"First of all you got to give credit to Texas A&M-Kingsville," Northwest Missouri coach Mel Tjeerdsma said. "They came in here and had a good game plan and they stuck with it. We got a score and got ahead and they just hung right in there. Their kids believed in what they were doing and they executed.
"As far as our performance, I was extremely disappointed. I was disappointed in myself and coaches for preparation. It didn't look like much preparation. I'm not sure I've seen us play quite that bad in a long, long time.
"We got a lot of people who will have to do some self-evaluation in their commitment and what it means. It's nice to walk around with a ring and talk about last year. We got a long ways to go."
It's the fourth year in a row the Bearcats begin the season 0-1.
What does it mean? Maybe nothing if Northwest duplicates what it has done the previous three seasons.
The year the lightning struck, Northwest lost 25-21 at Nebraska-Omaha in the first game that counted and went on to play in the NCAA Division II championship.
The next two seasons the Bearcats lost to Abilene Christian in the opener and later avenged those losses in the playoffs and returned to the title game each time, winning it last season.
"I don't know why it has been four straight years," said Northwest senior quarterback Blake Bolles. "I can tell you why we lost tonight. The offense didn't have any tempo to start off the game.
"I made some very poor throws to guys who were open. I didn't execute when I needed to. I slid the protection the wrong way a couple of times. This whole game is on my shoulders. I could have played a lot better. The tempo and everything starts with me."
Northwest has 16 days between its first and second game and when it returns to action it will be at Nebraska-Omaha, a team capable of handing the Bearcats another loss.
"I wish we were playing next week so we can get this taste out of our mouths," said senior linebacker Willie Horn. "But at the same time it allows us to get some players back who are injured because a lot of us played a lot of minutes.
"But that's not an excuse. We got to come out and execute and that's a big thing on the defensive side and that's what hurt us a lot this game."
The Bearcats' bigger concern will be to get their offense on track. Northwest mustered only 189 total yards.
Initially, it looked pretty good. Although Northwest failed to take advantage of great field position in its first possession, the Bearcats managed to score a touchdown before the first quarter ended on 10-yard touchdown pass from Bolles to junior Jake Soy.
Northwest entered the second quarter with a 7-0 lead and the defense was playing well.
"For the most part our defense played pretty well considering how long they were on the field," Tjeerdsma said.
Unfortunately, the Bearcats never did much on offense the rest of the way.
Texas A&M-Kingsville's offense slowly started making progress behind the play of quarterback Nate Poppell and running back Fred Winborn.
Great field position by the Javelinas allowed them to kick a 42-yard field goal by Christian Brom with 8:58 left in the second quarter. The drive went only 22 yards.
Five minutes later, Texas A&M-Kingsville took the lead for good on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Poppell to Winborn.
The Bearcats went into halftime down 10-7.
A flag for a block in the back doused the spark that Northwest appeared to have ignited to start the third quarter. Tyler Shaw returned the kickoff for a touchdown.
The celebration was short lived because of a block in the back. Instead of a touchdown, Northwest started at its 34.
"We came out with the fire we needed to," said sophomore running back Jordan Simmons. "Not getting the touchdown deflated us a little bit, but the offense I think we really picked it up."
Northwest marched the ball down field and faced a 4th and 2 at the Javelinas 15. Bolles fumbled the snap, ending the drive.
"I just pulled out early," Bolles said. "Again, I take full responsibility for that. Fourth and short, I have to stay in there. The offensive line had done a good job up to that point of blocking on short-yardage situations when we needed a first down.
"In a big-time situation like that it was a huge momentum swing against us. It's another play I needed to make."
It never really got better for the Bearcats on offense the rest of the way. Bolles was sacked seven times for the game.
Bolles, though, stood up like a leader and accepted the blame.
"Three or four sacks definitely were my fault," said Bolles. "The offensive line was working hard. I have to do a better job of getting away from one guy.
"I feel like the defense played their tails off. Seven points is not going to get it done."
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