Ouachita Baptist tramples Northwestern Oklahoma in opener
ARKADELPHIA, Ark. -- The Ouachita Tigers (1-0) staked their claim as the first team in the NCAA to claim a victory in 2012, downing recent GAC addition Northwestern Oklahoma State (0-1) by a final score of 55-3.
The Rangers are still in the midst of the NCAA acceptance process and will play a full conference schedule, but will not be able to win a conference championship. The teams have had an interesting week, after having their game moved up a day due to Hurricane Isaac after receiving NCAA and GAC approval.
Head coach Todd Knight said his team is happy to grab a victory.
“Any time you win, it's precious," he said. "We've been here when we didn't win many games and we don't take them for granted. Every win is fun and fun to be a part of. We are very fortunate to be where we are.”
Tigers' starting quarterback and reigning GAC Offensive Player of the Year, senior Casey Cooper went down with an injury early in the game. Redshirt sophomore Benson Jordan stepped in and handled the job flawlessly though, finishing the game with 181 yards and four touchdowns through the air en route to an 11 of 15 performance. Drew White finished the game with five receptions for 111 yards and a touchdown in his first start, showing great hands. Also impressive was the backfield combo of Chris Rycraw and Steven Kehner, who finished with 69 and 76 yards respectively. Both players finished with a touchdown.
The Tigers' offensive attack started early and never let up, with Rycraw registering the first touchdown of any NCAA football player in 2012 just five minutes into the contest. Jordan then connected with senior receiver Brett Reece with two minutes remaining in the first quarter, scoring the second touchdown of the game for the Tiger offense.
“I thought Benson really played well and I thought our ability to run the ball and throw and catch was good,” said Knight. “All in all, it was a good day. Anytime you have 454 yards, which is hard to do versus air, much less a team out there, so I am proud of the movement of the football.”
Heading into the second quarter, the Tiger onslaught continued, as Peyton Tolliver grabbed a 13 yard pass from Jordan, making the score 21-0 following a converted PAT by kicker Jason Fowler. The Tigers then scored with a little less than five minutes remaining in the quarter on a 20 yard reception by Drew White, giving Jordan his third touchdown of the night. Northwestern scored their only points of the game in the second quarter, as kicker Ed Colmenares connected on a 22 yard field goal.
As the third quarter began, the Tigers held a 28-3 lead, and it didn't take them long to stretch it even further, as Kehner scored on a six yard run just five minutes into the quarter, followed by a 27 yard receiving touchdown for freshman receiver Jamarlin Jackson with about five minutes remaining in the quarter.
The Tigers played a much more conservative fourth quarter, but still posted 13 points, coming on two field goals from Fowler and a 19 yard run by Ty Towers, sealing their 55-3 victory and becoming the first team in the win column among all NCAA teams in the country for the 2012 season.
Kyle Jech, the Rangers' quarterback, finished the game with a 16 of 28 performance through the air, recording 164 yards. He was pressured by the Ouachita defense all night though, as he was sacked 11 times. Javari Liggins was the leading rusher for the team, recording nine yards on five carries. Andrew King reined in six passes on the night, gaining 62 yards in Northwestern's favor, but the Ouachita defense still limited his team to only 114 total yards.
Defensively, the Tigers saw a total of eight players record sacks, including three from Dion Young. Antwion Patterson registered a forced fumble, while Jackson Guerra led the team in tackles with 11.
Knight was excited about what he saw from the defensive line, saying, “Right now, we've got probably as good of a defensive line as we've had in a long time. We are two-deep up front so we are able to get a lot of guys in there and keep them fresh.”
The Rangers defensive crew was led by Michael Harmon, who finished second on the team in tackles in 2011. Harmon picked up eight tackles in the game, while the only interception of game came from Northwestern's Larry Long, when he slipped in and picked off a pass from Jordan intended for White.
The Tigers led almost all of the categories across the board, including turnover margin, which is one of the things that the Tiger coaching staff likes to focus on. Ouachita gained a total of 454 yards in the game, averaging 7.4 yards per play. The Tigers converted on all seven of their red-zone opportunities and finished the game without allowing a Ranger touchdown.