Northwest bounced back from its week 4 loss by dominating Emporia State for a full four quarters en route to a 41-0 victory Sept. 29.
Slow starts had plagued the Bearcats (4-1) heading into the the matchup with the Hornets (2-3), but the scoring showed up early and often for Northwest despite an almost two hour weather delay. On the first offensive possession freshman quarterback Braden Wright found senior wide receiver Shawn Bane Jr. for a three yard touchdown pass.
The quick start for the offense was one key area of improvement coach Rich Wright emphasized heading into the game, another was the physicality of the defensive secondary.
“We got hands on their (Emporia State’s) receivers all day,” Rich Wright said. “With Emporia State so many people play off coverage against them and if you allow him (Hornet quarterback Braxton Marstall) to catch the ball and throw it he is going to hurt you.”
Playing physical proved to be a decision that paid off as Marstall went 16-34 for 142 yards passing, well below the 404 yards he put up against Lindenwood in Week 4. Not only the secondary made strides for the defense as the front seven played held up their end.
The Hornets managed only 43 yards on 31 rush attempts and 194 yards total on 68 plays. This is far under the 333.4 yards per game Emporia was averaging coming into the Week 5 matchup. Along with halting the run game, the defensive line brought the pressure for Northwest and force Martstall off his game.
Sophomore defensive end Sam Roberts was a major part of the quarterback pressure as he accounted for two of the three sacks on the day.
“We were just playing basic really, playing basic fronts and we didn’t have a lot to think about we just had to focus on what we do,” Roberts said, “We had to get off the ball and be vertical. That is what coach was preaching all week and that is what we did.”
All together the Bearcat defense racked up six tackles for loss and seven quarterback hits. While the defense was hitting all marks, the offense did not go unnoticed. Piling up 450 yards of total offense and 41 points Northwest was able to get everybody involved.
Six runners combined for 205 yards rushing on 48 attempts for the Bearcats and leading the way was junior running back Isaiah Strayhorn with 12 carries for 66 yards. Strayhorn hinted at the potential for the offense if they continue to get better.
“We are young but I think we’re getting better every week and we are learning a lot from our mistakes,” Strayhorn said. “Our offense has the potential to do a lot and be great. We saw glimpses of that today and definitely a lot more to come from this offense.”
The next test for Northwest will be with in a top 25 matchup with No. 10 Pittsburg State who sits undefeated atop the conference. The game will be played at Carnie Smith Stadium Oct. 6 in large part for control of the MIAA.