Even the SXU defense got into the mix forcing turnovers and changing the momentum of the game when they needed to. So what did I take from the game? Here’s a few random thoughts and observations from the NAIA’s top contest on Saturday.
- SXU is much improved over last season. If they can stay healthy, they will be in the mix for the NAIA Playoffs and possibly more.
- Jarred Nowman might be the shiftiest player I have seen since John Booth at MidAmerica Nazarene in 2003. He has a keen ability to know where defenders are coming from and how to make them miss.
- Congrats to Andy Ricca of SXU. After two season ending ACL injuries in the first quarter of the Cougars first games in ’03 and ’04, Ricca made it through the entire game against NWOSU. If he stays healthy, he could prove to be one of the NAIA’s top wide receivers along with Nowman.
- Demarko Jones of NWOSU is a heck of an option quarterback. Of the few teams in the NAIA still running the option as their “base” offense, I would have to say Jones might be the second best in the country behind Larry Hay of Cumberland.
- Odie Armstrong of NWOSU has proved he is a powerful runner, now he has to prove he can be consistent. Two costly fumbles hurt NWOSU’s chances of winning and Armstrong was the man who coughed both of them up. His blooper late in the second half cost the Rangers field position and momentum.
- Tony Hatfield’s motor never turns off. He is motoring all the time whether it is for a sack or recovering a fumble. In fact the entire “Black Cloud” defense was impressive. Even though the Rangers gave up 21 points, I do not believe defense was the problem. The Rangers passing game was ineffective and turnovers killed their chances at winning. If they Rangers are to stay an elite team in the country they will have to prove they can be a better passing team or learn to rely on their running game even more.
- Mike Feminis and the Cougars won with dignity. After driving the length of the field in the final minutes, the Cougars had a choice; punch it in for another six or kneel on it. The Cougars did the classy thing and put a knee down to keep the margin of victory at 14.
Next week should be even better as Azusa Pacific travels to Carroll College. Be on the look out for another game recap via NAIAFOOTBALL.NET.