From NSU Sports Info.
Cedrique Flemming, Sports Information Director
TAHLEQUAH – The Northeastern State football team earned its second-straight victory Saturday afternoon when the RiverHawks defeated Missouri Southern State 31-21 at Doc Wadley Stadium.
NSU (2-5, 2-5 MIAA) picked up a second-straight victory for the first time since the end of the 2012 season, while the Lions dropped to 1-6 overall and 1-6 in the MIAA.
Northeastern State was led by a strong defensive effort from Darian Morris. The junior linebacker finished the contest with nine tackles, three pass breakups, two fumble recoveries, one interception, one tackle for loss and one half sack. He returned one of those fumbles 97 yards for a crucial touchdown early in the second half.
The Lions had marched all the way down to the NSU one-yard line on their opening possession of the third quarter, and they trailed just 14-7 at the time. The visitors faced a fourth-and-goal situation following two rush attempts for no gain. MSSU attempted to run the ball up the middle, but senior linebacker Irving Steele forced Will Gregory to fumble the ball. Morris then scooped up the loose ball and returned it 97 yards for the score. The play was the longest fumble recovery in school history.
MSSU was able to cut the NSU lead in half on its next possession when Terrell Crawford caught an eight-yard pass from Kyle Keller, but the RiverHawks marched 75 yards in just three minutes to push the lead back out to 28-14 with 4:23 left in the third quarter.
NSU tacked on a field goal early in the fourth quarter and held on for the 10-point triumph.
Junior quarterback Kevin Pantastico finished 12 of 23 for 212 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. He threw scores to sophomore Zac King, junior Matthew Butler and senior Garrett Powell.
Senior running back Joel Rockmore carried the ball 25 times for 101 yards, giving him at least 100 yards rushing in each of the past two games.
Northeastern State will next hit the road for a battle against Central Missouri (5-2, 5-2 MIAA). The contest will be Homecoming for UCM and is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 24 in Warrensburg, Missouri.
Qtr. Time Team Play Score
1 6:21 NSU Zac King 37 pass from Kevin Pantastico (Eddie Garcia kick) 7-0
2 8:48 MSSU Will Gregory 11 run (Brock Renken kick) 7-7
0:49 NSU Matthew Butler 40 pass from Pantastico (Garcia kick) 14-7
3 11:10 NSU Darian Morris 97 fumble recovery (Garcia kick) 21-7
7:22 MSSU Terrell Crawford 8 pass from Kyle Keller (Renken kick) 21-14
4:23 NSU Garrett Powell 35 pass from Pantastico (Garcia kick) 28-14
4 14:49 NSU Garcia 20 FG 31-14
1:45 MSSU Chad Nolan 25 pass from TJ Fleeton (Renken kick) 31-21
- Northeastern State improved to 13-7 all-time over Missouri Southern State. NSU also picked up its first win in the series since 2003, snapping a three-game losing streak to the Lions.
- The RiverHawks have now won back-to-back games for the first time since winning the final four contests of the 2012 season.
- Both teams entered the contest with identical 1-5 records, and both clubs had previously recorded their lone wins of the season over Nebraska-Kearney.
- The RiverHawks scored first for the 18th time since joining the MIAA prior to the 2012 season. NSU improved to 6-12 when scoring first over the past four years. This is also the third time NSU scored first this season (Fort Hays State, Nebraska-Kearney).
- NSU held MSSU scoreless for the first quarter. This was the first time the RiverHawks shutout an opponent in the first 15 minutes since blanking Lindenwood in the season finale last year.
- The RiverHawks have now scored a season-high 31 points in back-to-back weeks.
- NSU led 14-7 at the half, marking the fourth halftime lead for the RiverHawks this season (FHSU, MWSU, UNK).
- Northeastern State forced four Missouri Southern turnovers, while only turning the ball over once.
- NSU led in time of possession, 30:55-29:05, despite running 24 fewer plays (87 to 63).
- The Lions outgained the RiverHawks 456-331 overall, 199-119 on the ground and 257-212 through the air.
- Senior running back Joel Rockmore made his team-leading 31st career start. He has also played in a team-best 38 career games.
- Rockmore finished the contest with 101 rushing yards, marking his 11th-career 100-yard effort and second in a row.
- Four of the five offensive line starters for Northeastern State have started every game this season. Those are: Brian West (LG), Brian Hobbs (C), Lance Cox (RG) and Tyler Easter (RT). Jordan Baldwin made his fifth start at left tackle this season. Dakota Ritchie has earned the other two starts at LT for NSU.
- Kevin Pantastico threw three touchdowns in the game. This was the first three-TD performance of his career.
- Zac King’s 37-yard receiving TD in the first quarter was the first of his career.
- Matthew Butler has now registered receiving TD’s in back-to-back games after he caught a 40-yard strike late in the first half.
- Garrett Powell had a 35-yard TD reception in the third quarter, marking his second TD of the season and the seventh of his career.
- Powell also booted a 71-yard punt in the first quarter, which was the longest of his career and the longest by anyone in the MIAA this season. It was also the longest punt for NSU since Joe Kok had a punt of the same distance against Tarleton State on Sept. 6, 2008. Powell finished with a career-high four punts downed inside the 20-yard line.
- Devon Siers recorded his first-career interception in the second quarter.
- Irving Steele finished with a game-high 13 tackles, marking his fifth double-digit tackle performance of the season. He also recorded his first forced fumble of the year.
- Steffon Herd finished with double-digit tackles (11) for the fourth time this year.
- Darian Morris had a monster game, finishing with nine tackles, three pass breakups, two fumble recoveries, one interception, one tackle for loss, one half sack, and one 97-yard fumble recovery returned for touchdown.
- The 97-yard fumble recovery was the longest in school history.
- The last time an NSU player had a fumble recovery for a touchdown was Cayle Shambaugh on Oct. 20, 2012 (vs. Central Missouri).
- The last time an NSU player had two fumble recoveries in the same game was Curtis Mayfield on Sept. 13, 2008 (vs. Midwestern State).
- The last time an NSU player had at least one fumble recovery and one interception in the same game was Shakey Beller on Oct. 21, 2006 (vs. Southwestern Oklahoma State).