There is no better way for the Northeastern A&M Golden Norsemen to celebrate Military Appreciation Day at Robertson Field on Sept. 11 than by hosting the defending national champion Blinn College Buccaneers in a 3 p.m. contest.
Coach Brad Franchione’s Buccaneers won their second National Junior College Athletic Association national championship in three years and their fourth in school history by defeating Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College 31-26 last year in the inaugural Citizen’s State Bank Bowl in Pittsburg, Kan.
Ironically, the two teams open the 2010 season on Aug. 28 as the Bucs host the Greyhounds in a 3 p.m. game.
The Fort Scott game will be played at Cub Stadium in Brenham because the Blinn College Trustees voted that necessary repairs to Spencer Stadium were cost prohibitive this year.
The Bucs will play all three regularly scheduled games at the high school venue.
Last season, Blinn won the Southwest Junior College Football Conference championship by defeating previously No. 1 ranked Navarro College by a 45-34 score to move into the nation’s No. 2 position and earn the right to face Fort Scott for the national title.
Blinn held the No. 1 position in the poll for eight consecutive weeks before losing 23-20 to Navarro in the final game of the regular season.
The Bucs earned the right for a rematch with the Bulldogs after eliminating Tyler 21-15 in the SWJCFC semifinals.
Behind the pin-point passing and running of national Player of the Year quarterback Cameron Newton, the Buccaneers finished 11-1 on the season and 5-1 in the conference.
Newton (6-6, 234 of College Station, Texas) became the second straight Blinn quarterback to earn All-American honors after transferring from the University of Florida.
Terrance Cain received the nation's top honor in 2008 before transferring to the University of Utah. Newton transferred to Auburn University to continue his career.
But, the revolving door continues at quarterback after Franchione secured the services of another Division I transfer.
Justin Tuggle (6-4, 225 of Atlanta, Ga.), son of former Atlanta Falcon linebacker (1987-2000) Jessie Tuggle, joined the Buccaneers in the spring after playing one season at Boston University.
He threw for 229 yards and four touchdowns in limited action.
“The fact that I could go somewhere for a year and then get back to a Division I school appealed to me,” Tuggle said in a Blinn College press release. “Blinn has a good track record, and the coaching staff really sold me on the school.”
Blinn led the SWJCFC in total offense last season while ranking second in the NJCAA by averaging 480.3 total yards per game and 47 points per game.
Expected to bolster the Blinn ground game is the return of veteran tailbacks Don Brooks (6-1, 200 of Waller, Texas) and Ziggy Foster (5-8, 182 of Rosenberg, Texas).
Brooks rushed for 226 yards on 38 carries with two TDs while catching four passes for 57 yards and one touchdown.
Foster gained 141 yards on 27 carries with two touchdowns while catching one pass for four yards in three games.
With the versatility of Tuggle at quarterback, the Bucs passing game should remain solid.
Returning at wide receivers are Grant Merritt, Darrin Moore and Sean Rutherford.
Merritt (6-1, 203 of Sugarland, Texas) recorded 22 receptions for 444 yards and three touchdowns.
Moore (6-4, 204 of Irving, Texas) led the Bucs with 28 catches for 450 yards and three TDs.
Rutherford (5-11, 180 of Bay City, Texas) is a converted quarterback. He caught 13 passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns while completing 19 of 29 passes for 415 yards and two TDs with one interception.
Veteran tackles Kevin Lowery (66-3, 291 of Gainesville, Fla.) and Garrett Langthorp (6-3, 307 of Conroe, Texas) are expected to return along the interior offensive line.
The Buccaneers defense ranked 10th in the nation by limiting the opposition to an average of 252 yards per game.
Blinn held opponents to an average of 96.2 total yards per game on the ground.
Graduation took a heavy toll on the Buccaneers defense with only part-time tackle Jeremy Williams (6-2, 290 of Cypress, Texas) returning along the front.
Williams recorded seven total tackles and two quarterback sacks in limited action as a freshman.
Three sophomores are expected to return at linebackers led by Princeton Jackson (6-0, 210 of Cypress, Texas).
Jackson made 40 total tackles while recorded 5.5 quarterback sacks.
Joining Jackson at linebackers are Gadrian Muse and Dextrell Simmons.
Muse (6-1, 230 of Brookshire, Texas) recorded 37 total tackles and two quarterback sacks.
Simmons (5-11, 205 of Houston, Texas) posted 31 total tackles, two quarterback sacks and 4.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for a loss.