From NWOSU Sports Information
ARKADELPHIA, Ark. — As tough as Northwestern Oklahoma State’s 55-3 loss was on the field, it was – oddly enough – a great victory for the process. The 2012 opener at Ouachita Baptist marked Northwestern’s first action as an NCAA Division II school and, for head coach Alan Hall, an early litmus test.
“We needed to see where we were and I think we identified some weaknesses we need to work on,” said Hall. “There’s no substitute for actual game experience, and we got that, opening up against the defending conference champions. What better way to get some quality experience than that.”
The Rangers started four freshmen and a sophomore on the offensive line and a pair of freshmen in the secondary – a tough situation, but one Hall feels will benefit the Rangers in the long run.
“They’re going to grow and develop as the program grows and develops.”
Ouachita Baptist (1-0) dictated defensively, sacking Northwestern quarterback Kyle Jech nine times and keeping the Rangers on their heels. Jech completed 16 passes on 28 attempts for 164 yards.
The Tigers were just as crisp on offense and wasted little time establishing their passing game. Senior quarterback Casey Cooper completed his first three passes for 57 yards to move the ball deep into Northwestern territory. The Rangers appeared to catch a break when Cooper hobbled off the field with an apparent ankle injury. However, the Tigers pushed on, scoring two plays later on a 15-yard run by Chris Rycraw.
As it turned out, backup quarterback Benson Jordan was more than capable of shouldering the load in place of Cooper. The redshirt freshman continued the surge on OBU’s next possession. He found a wide open Brett Reese Jr. from 28 yards out to make the score 14-0 with 2:00 remaining in the first quarter.
Jordan struck again just over three minutes later. After a pass interference penalty on third down extended the Tiger drive, Jordan found Peyton Tolliver on a short dump off. Tolliver’s 13-yard catch and run for touchdown extended the lead to 21-0 with 13:47 to go in the second.
Northwestern was slow to get things going on offense and went without a first down through the entire first quarter before things finally clicked. Jech threw a pair of first down passes to move the ball into OBU territory before finding Chris Chamberlain all alone down the right sideline. The play nearly went for six, but Chamberlain’s toe brushed the sideline at the 19.
The Rangers nearly failed to capitalize. Jech was sacked for a loss of 10, moving the ball out of field goal range. The senior quarterback found redemption two plays later, threading a beautiful pass over the middle to a diving Andrew King on fourth down to keep the drive alive. Following a sack and a pair of incompletions, Edgar Colmenares kicked a 22-yard field goal to put the Rangers on the board. With 6:57 to go in the second quarter, Northwestern trailed 21-3.
OBU responded swiftly. Jordan led a 5-play, 71-yard march, capping it off with his third touchdown pass of the day – a 20 yard fade to Drew White in the back corner of the endzone.
The Tigers came knocking again in the waning seconds of the first half, but Bertram Lawrence stepped in front of a Jordan pass at the Northwestern 10 yard line to keep the score at 28-3 heading into the half.
The Rangers looked crisp coming out of the break, notching a pair of first downs on their opening possession of the third quarter, but a fumble stalled them at the Tiger 45. OBU went right to work, moving 55-yards the other way. Jordan Kehner put on the finishing touches with a 7-yard touchdown run, extending the hosts’ lead to 35-3.
Jordan added to it late in the third with his fourth TD pass of the night. He would finish 11-15 for 186 yards and an interception.
Tyler Towers scored on a 19-yard run midway through the fourth for OBU.
Jake Streck replaced Jech on the next drive but two plays in the Rangers fumbled a snap out of the shotgun, giving the Tigers the ball at the Northwestern 12. OBU turned the gift into a field goal to create the final margin.
King led the Northwestern receivers with six catches, 62 yards. Chamberlain and Jared Jackson had three receptions each for the Rangers, who totaled 114 yards of offense for the night.
The loss snapped what had been a 3-game Northwestern winning streak against Ouachita Baptist. The Rangers still lead the all-time series 3-2. Prior to this year, the two teams had last met in 1996.
Northwestern (0-1) returns to action Saturday, Sept. 6 for their home opener against Colorado State-Pueblo. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
“We’re definitely excited about the turn at home,” Hall said. “We’ve got a long week to get ready for them and I think we’ll use it.”
Allan Scarabello is the Sports Information Director at Northwestern Oklahoma State University.