Oct. 14, 2011
Bearcats return home for clash with Greyhounds
Today's popular word for the type of game Northwest Missouri State football team will play against Eastern New Mexico at 1 p.m. Saturday at Bearcat Stadium is trap.
All signs point to a trap game for the No. 8 ranked Bearcats, who are 5-1 and coming of a stirring 38-20 win at Central Missouri, ruining the Mules' Homecoming.
In the two previous weeks, Northwest has played two, emotionally charged games, going 1-1.
Surely, an emotional let-down will follow, especially since Eastern New Mexico brings a 2-4 record.
In addition, it is always dangerous to play a non-conference game in the middle of a heated MIAA schedule.
The Bearcats, though, are ready.
"They come from the Lone Star Conference so we know they have a lot of team speed," said Northwest senior right guard Cody Johnson. "They are underrated. They are a solid team. We have to come to the game and play the way we do. We have to come out ready to play no matter who the opponent is."
The main reasons to expect Northwest to be in game-day form are the character of the team and the hunger by many first-year starters.
Coach Adam Dorrel said many of his starters have waited two and three years to get the opportunity to play significant roles on Saturday afternoons. They cherish each game they play in.
Junior strong safety Nate DeJong is one such player.
"It's good, exciting, playing football again. That's why I came here was to play ball," DeJong said.
It is rare for these Bearcats to take a Saturday off. They never take a team lightly. It is why they won 49 straight MIAA games before falling 38-35 two weeks ago against Pittsburg State at Arrowhead.
"That was the first time I had a MIAA loss and it left a bad taste in my mouth knowing that we could have won that game. We didn't play the way we wanted to," Johnson said. "I give all the credit to Pittsburg State. They came back and won."
The biggest question for the Bearcats last week was how would they respond to something they had never experienced before?
Last week was like a finals exam in the middle of the semester. Northwest was facing a Central Missouri team that wanted revenge after the Bearcats beat the Mules twice a year ago, including a playoff game that ended their season.
Central Missouri even held a 20-14 lead with 6:10 left in the third quarter. A lesser program might have crumbled at that point.
"We threw that interception and the kid looked like he was going to score," Dorrel said. "C.J. Keeney, one of our guards, gets him out of bounds. We hold them to a field goal. After their third down play went incomplete and they kicked that field goal, our sideline was jacked up."
"We got a great kick return and went down and scored. We changed the momentum. It's something we talked about. Something we didn't do against Pitt."
Northwest scored a touchdown less than 3 minutes later and took a 21-20 lead. The Bearcats added a field goal near the end of the third quarter and then outscored Central Missouri 14-0 in the fourth quarter.
"The first drive we gave up that deep bomb," DeJong said. "But after that we played pretty well. They got yards in between the red zone, but once they got to the red zone they ran out of room.
"We got stops when we needed them and held them to field goals when they got into the red zone. The offense did a great job of carrying the rock all day and kept us off the field."
Leadership is crucial in helping a team overcome on-field adversity. The Bearcats have plenty of leaders. One of the leaders who have emerged this season is Johnson.
Dorrel called Johnson the best offensive lineman he has coached in his seven years at Northwest.
Johnson likes the compliment, but he is not sure about the high praise.
"I've known the guys who came here before whom I played with and they are way better than me," Johnson said.
Dorrel is a fan of the way Johnson approaches the game.
"From the offensive line standpoint, those guys are playing pretty good now. I think they are doing some pretty good things and he has something to do with it," Dorrel said. "He holds everybody accountable in drill work. He organizes some video stuff on his own and they are getting together and watching."
"The flip side, he likes to have fun in practice and he loves to have fun on Saturdays."
Dorrel also likes the way DeJong has progressed in his four years in the program.
"He's a very smart player," Dorrel said. "This is his first year he has played a lot. I'm really proud of him because he's worked his way into that spot.
"The thing I love about him is every time I turn around he is teaching one of our younger players. To me that says a lot about a kid. He's very confident in his ability."
Johnson and DeJong are two examples of why the Bearcats will be ready on Saturday and why they avoided a two-game losing streak, something the Bearcats have not experienced during a season since they lost three straight late in the 2001 season.
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Media Relations Department, Northwest Athletics
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