Revises, adds new material
MIAMI — Jack Diamond admitted being nervous on his first pass attempt in Thursday’s season opener with Arkansas Baptist College.
Rylan McQuarters ran the opening kickoff back to the ABC 43. However, Khoreon Ellis-Perry had an interception and a 60-yard return on the game's first offensive play, putting the Buffaloes in position to grab the early lead.
But two runs and two passes netted only 1 yard and the Norse took over at their 29-yard line.
Nine snaps later, Diamond teamed with DJ Wagoner on a 27-yard touchdown strike.
That started the proverbial boulder rolling downhill for Arkansas Baptist as NEO scored on five straight possessions to open up a 41-13 halftime lead.
“I think I was just nervous,” said Diamond, who completed 10 of his next 18 pass attempts to net 149 yards and three scores in his Norse debut. “It’s been a while since I actually played a game,” he said. “I knew I had to step it up from there. The defense got a stop and we were rolling from there.
“I just underthrew it. I should have just thrown it up and let him run under it. I just underthrew it a little.”
Eight different players had touchdowns for the Norsemen, who were ranked 13th in the preseason by the National Junior College Athletic Association.
Beating ABC for the sixth straight time, Northeastern A&M cranked out 682 yards in total offense — the second most ever.
That was just 8 yards shy of the school record — set during a 74-6 drubbing of the Buffaloes in 2016.
Of the total, 415 came on the ground (fourth most ever) and NEO added another 267 on the arms of Diamond and Tanner Griffin.
Diamond, a redshirt from Shawnee, went to DJ Wagoner for 27 yards, Dallas Daniels for 36 and Johnny King for 17, helping the Norsemen open up a 27-0 lead.
“He looked a little nervous,” NEO head coach Zach Allen said. “He’s a real good quarterback. He was dealing with some cramping issues later, but we all were.”
Tanner Griffin, another redshirt from Bixby, added a fourth TD strike, teaming with Bryce Alonzo on a 38-yard play to finish off the scoring with 9:42 still remaining.
He was 9 of 13 for 118 yards while splitting time with Diamond, just as Allen said they would.
“We both bring different things to the table,” Diamond said. “We showed we were an explosive offense and have a really good defense.”
Most of the first quarter was played on the NEO side of the field. But the Buffs had nothing to show for it thanks to a swarming Northeastern A&M defense.
“We played hard, we played aggressive and we were very physical,” defensive coordinator Zach Crissup said. “The things we’ve got to get better at is those costly penalties that kept a couple drives alive.”
Arkansas Baptist could muster only about 180 yards in total offense, including 66 rushing, against an NEO defense that was led by linemen Ian Marshall and Ron Tatum (an OU transfer), linebackers Trey Kiser and Gilton Crawford and DB Connor Wilcox.
“We had a few guys stand out, but we really had some guys lower on our depth chart that came out and played well,” Crissup said.
The 69 points was the most in an opener for the Golden Norse in its modern era.
In 1922, the School of Mines crushed Oswego Military 113-0.
It’s also the most points scored in a game by NEO since a 74-6 romp over Arkansas Baptist in 2016.
The Norse now have outscored the Buffaloes 255-43 in the last four meetings.
“We played consistent all the way through,” Allen said. “I wouldn't say clean by any means. Consistency all the way through is going to be fun to watch.”
About the only other things that went wrong for the Norse over the night was they lost a fumble, had an extra point blocked and drew 18 penalties for 189 yards.
Each team returned a blocked PAT for a touchdown, but each was negated by a penalty — the Norse for an illegal block and ABC because of an offsides call.
Making it even more bizarre was the fact that they came on consecutive scoring drives.
“Those are some more fixable things than maybe cultural things that we struggled with last year,” Allen said. “The false starts, the holdings — those are just about understanding the speed of the game and the tempo in which we want to play. Yeah, we had a couple personal fouls, but they weren’t the stupid kind; more the aggressive kind.
“That just goes back to finishing games strong and understanding everything that is asked of them.”
Carl Garmon had TD runs of 1 and 23 yards and Danuel Oscar went 14 and 2 yards.
NEO’s fifth rushing touchdown of the night came on a 1-yard run by Lewis Shepherd in the fourth quarter.
Garmon was NEO’s leading rusher with 103 yards, followed by Shepherd with 73, Friday, 70, and Oscar, 53.
The Norsemen travel to Milledgeville, Georgia next Saturday to face Georgia Military.