BRENHAM, Texas - Seeking a reversal of fortune against nationally-ranked teams, Northeastern A&M's Golden Norsemen square off against sixth-ranked Blinn College at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Following a 65-24 drubbing last Saturday at the hands of No. 1 ranked Navarro College, the Golden Norse stand 2-4 on the season and 2-2 in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference.
Earlier in the season the Golden Norse dropped a 48-29 decision to then 17th-ranked Trinity Valley College in Miami.
“We know going into this game that there are several areas where we have to do a better job in order to be successful,” Golden Norse head coach Rob Green said. “Blinn is just another challenge that we've got to be ready to face.
“With (Terrance) Cain at the controls of their offense, Blinn runs the spread formation better than any team in our conference,” Green said. “Not only is he a very agile, mobile quarterback, but he is a very accurate passer.”
Cain leads the conference in passing efficiency and has already thrown for more than 1,400 yards, Green said.
“As if he weren't enough to contend with, they also feature the SWJCFC second-leading rusher in (Reggie) Brown,” Green said.
Brown is tied with NEO's Cardell Clemons with 755 yards, but Brown is averaging 7.6 yards per carry which is 3 yards per carry better that Clemons.
“Their third weapon are three talented wide receivers,” Green said. Wide out (Justin) Jordan leads the conference with 28 receptions for 377 yards and three TDs.”
While NEO's defensive unit ranks fifth in the conference by allowing 367.2 total yards per game, seven individual members rank in the league's top 10 in total tackles.
All three Golden Norsemen linebackers head the list with veteran Robert Spann making 39 unassisted tackles and 34 assists.
Sophomores Johnny Row has 36 tackles and 34 assists while Randy Tonche' has recorded 31 tackles and 35 assists.
“Defensively, we've got to do a better job of getting ourselves in position to gang-tackle,” Green said. “Too many times last week we put ourselves in situations where one player was expected to make the tackle.
“Against teams as athletic as Navarro and Blinn, you just can't do that,” Green said. “We're not playing very good team defense. “Against a good football team, you're not going to stop anybody if you lineup offsides or blow a coverage in the flats on a screen pass,” Green said. “I told this group that they have the potential to be a pretty good, not a great, but a pretty good defense, but they've allowed themselves to sink into mediocrity.”
Green said another area needing improvement is in kickoff and punt coverages.
“We can't give up 50, 60 or 70-yard returns and let a team as talented offensively as Blinn is, have a short field,” Green said. “We had too many blown assignments, both on defense and on special teams that produce negative situations.”
Even though NEO's defense is struggling, the offensive unit has managed to average 368.8 total yards per game. Several offensive members appear in the nation's top 10.
Clemens, a freshman from Glenpool, ranks fifth in the nation in rushing with 755 yards on 164 carries and eight touchdowns. Clemens has also caught eight passes for 78 yards.
“Right now I feel like we're right where we want to be with our running game,” Green said. “Cardell has proven to be a durable back by averaging 27 carries per game.
“What we need is for another freshman or two to step up and take some of the pressure off Cardell,” Green said. “That will just make him that much more effective.”
Running back Durell Parker, a freshman from Wagoner, has contributed 166 yards on 26 carries with two TDs in four games.
“Going hand-in-hand with the success of our running game has been the maturation of our offensive line,” Green said. “They have done an excellent job of creating running lanes and sustaining their blocks.”
Freshman quarterback Trey Munden ranks 20th in the nation in passing. Munden has completed 80 of 149 passes for 961 yards with five touchdowns and seven interceptions.
He has also rushed for 122 yards on 666 carries with one TD.
“Because we're a run-to-throw offense, we've got to do a better job with our passing game,” Green said. “Even though I wasn't pleased with our yards-per-catch (9.2) last week, Trey did a pretty good job getting the ball to our receivers.
“But we had too many drops where we could have had big gainers,” Green said. “We were pretty dominant offensively in the first half against Navarro and then we disappeared in the second half. We've got to maintain that intensity for four quarters.”
Freshman wide receiver Colton Chelf ranks 21st in the nation with 24 receptions for 460 yards and two touchdowns.