Oct. 16, 2010
Late interceptions send Northwest past Emporia
By David Boyce
Throughout the record-breaking conference winning streak, Northwest Missouri State faced moments when defeat was very possible. Emporia State put the Bearcats in that position again.
And like they have 41 previous times, the Bearcats made fourth-quarter plays to win the game.
"Obviously, it's a big thing being the first team to do this in the MIAA, but all in all our goal is conference champions and this is just another step," said Northwest senior linebacker Willie Horn.
Northwest turned two pick-six into a hard-nosed 42-28 victory Saturday afternoon at Bearcat Stadium. It was Northwest's 42nd straight MIAA win, breaking the mark of 41 held by Northwest from 1997-2001.
"It's not so much the emphasis on the record, but as far as the team, this wasn't a good win, but a win," said junior wide receiver Jake Soy, who caught two touchdowns. "But these are some of the best kinds of wins. These games test us, put us through adversity and see what we are made of.
"These games you come out with a little more confidence despite the way it might look."
The win lifted Northwest to 5-1 overall and 5-0 in the MIAA. Emporia State dropped to 5-3 and 3-3.
"I know I wasn't thinking about the record too much," said senior quarterback Blake Bolles. "Our goal every year is to win a conference championship and with this conference being as tough as it is you got to win every game."
Emporia State definitely put a scare into the Bearcats. The game was tied 28-28 early in the fourth quarter. Northwest was still trying to find a consistent rhythm on offense.
The Northwest defense made it possible that the offense really didn't need to find itself.
Senior cornerback Ryan Jones gave Northwest the lead with 14:02 left when he intercepted a pass and returned it 28 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
Still, with a 35-28 lead, danger lurked for the Bearcats. Emporia State proved during the game that it could put together a long drive to score or hit the Bearcats with a quick strike.
Plus, Northwest had trouble pulling away from the Hornets.
The Bearcats finally got breathing room when junior linebacker Chad Kilgore returned an interception 65 yards for a touchdown that gave Northwest a two-touchdown cushion with 5:34 left.
"They ran that play twice and I got ripped for it twice," Kilgore said. "We called the same defense and I saw him dragging across and I said, ‘I got this one.' It took a little bit, but I got it.
"I feel like the offense picks us up when we are down and we were just trying to do the same," Kilgore said.
It was enough for Northwest to keep its impressive winning streak intact.
Northwest faced adversity throughout the first half. The Bearcats gave up a game-opening 82-yard scoring drive that ate up 8 minutes and 29 seconds to fall behind 7-0.
"I was very pleased," Emporia State coach Garin Higgins said. "When you play a team like Northwest you got to have the mindset when you step on the field that you got to give yourself a chance to win. That's why we took the football and we executed really well with our game plan.
"What we wanted to do was run the football and best we could. We just executing all the way down the field and it gave us some confidence offensively."
And when it appeared the Bearcats were in control early in the second quarter with a 14-7 lead, disaster struck twice in 17 seconds.
Northwest first gave up a 68-yard bomb from Tyler Eckenrode to Shju Richardson that tied the game at 14-14.
The next play was even more stunning. Bolles tossed an interception that Wayne Burgess returned 25 yards for a touchdown to give Emporia State a 21-14 lead with 8:02 left in the second quarter.
Once again Northwest proved why it has one so many conference games in a row. The Bearcats quickly responded to a bad situation.
Of course, they got some help. For some reason Emporia State tried an onside kick that drifted out of bounds. The ill-advised trick play gave Northwest the ball at Emporia State's 38.
"I was just thinking we needed to score here," Bolles said. "You got to take advantage of good field position. It was a big momentum swing when they ran that ball for a touchdown.
"Trying to do something like that was a good decision by their coach. Obviously, it didn't work out for them and gave us a short porch."
It took the Bearcats only two plays to score the game-tying touchdown on an 18-yard run by Jordan Simmons.
"The way the game was going it was a back-and-forth battle," Horn said. "We just had to make sure we kept our heads in the game. We knew we had to make big plays because their defense was making big plays. We just had to go out and make plays."
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