Phoenix staff, wire reports
BOLIVAR, Mo. — Joel Rockmore just continues to get better for Northeastern State.
The 5-foot-7, 185-pound tailback racked up 169 yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries as Northeastern State outlasted Southwest Baptist at Plaster Stadium in Bolivar, Mo., on Saturday afternoon.
“Ultimately, we did what we had to do to win,” NSU head coach Kenny Evans said. “...Lucky our offense kicked it in gear when they had to.”
With the win, NSU won its second straight game and improved to 2-6 overall and in MIAA play. Southwest Baptist (1-8, 1-8) had its home record slip to 0-5 this year.
NSU will return home Saturday to take on Lincoln, while Southwest Baptist will be at Central Oklahoma.
Rockmore, who entered this weekend as the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association’s second-leading rusher, easily eclipsed his average against the Bearcats. In fact, he was close to surpassing that mark by halftime.
Rockmore had 95 yards on 19 rushes in the first half, where he also had the RiverHawks’ lone touchdown before intermission — a seven-yard run to give NSU a 10-3 lead with 6:52 left in the second quarter.
But it was Rockmore’s final touchdown that proved to be the difference. Rockmore ran in from one yard out to cap off NSU’s 10-play, 88-yard drive.
The RiverHawks were able to move briskly down the field, only needing 85 seconds to take the lead for good. Rockmore rushed for 23 yards on NSU’s go-ahead drive, but it was two long passes by Johnny Deaton and a key penalty on Southwest Baptist that made the difference.
Deaton, who finished the game 9-of-25 for 92 yards, connected with Chucky Bryant for a 23-yard pickup early in the drive. Deaton then found Gionni Harris for a 20-yard pass to get NSU down to the Bearcats’ 1-yard line. Sandwiched in between was a pass interference penalty on the Bearcats’ Stanfre Philpot with NSU facing a third-and-12 on Southwest Baptist’s 36-yard line.
The penalty moved the ball forward 15 yards, gave NSU a first down and three plays later the RiverHawks were in the end zone.
“Our guys refused to lose a game,” Evans said of his team during its game-changing drive. “It speaks to the maturity we’re starting to get on this team. We had some catches we weren’t making early in the game.”
“We were just trying to move the ball forward,” Rockmore said of the same drive. “The most important thing is we finished where we wanted to finish: in the end zone.”
Southwest Baptist took its first lead when quarterback Dan Connors threw a 35-yard touchdown strike to Derw Lauderdale with 9:39 left in the game. The Bearcats went up 17-16 on John Colliver’s extra point.
Out of the halftime break, Southwest Baptist tied the game up at 10 on Connors’ 14-yard pass to Lauderdale.
NSU would respond early in the fourth quarter when Rockmore scored on a 3-yard run.
For Southwest Baptist, Connors finished with 275 yards on 35 of 54 passing. Lauderdale hauled in 16 receptions for 125 yards.
On defense, the RiverHawks were led again by the league’s leading tackler, Langston Jones. The junior linebacker from Whitesboro, Texas, had 13 tackles, two tackles for loss, a interception and a pass break-up while NSU limited the Bearcats to 327 yards of total offense.
It was the second straight week the RiverHawks held their opponent to under 50 yards rushing. The Bearcats had only 41 rushing yards on 23 carries.
“When we’re able to keep other teams from running and we’re able to run, we’re going to win most games,” Evans said. “Other than their long touchdown, most of their plays were nickel-and-dime plays.”