The Northwest Mississippi Community College Rangers haven’t been very successful against the Gulf Coast Bulldogs the last few seasons.
Northwest, ranked pre-season No. 19, played its trump card in the form of receiver Michael Lindsey to end that run of bad luck and upset Gulf Coast 30-25 Aug. 27 in Perkinston in the season opener for both teams.
Gulf Coast, which entered the contest ranked No. 1 in the country in one pre-season poll and No. 2 in another, couldn’t stop Lindsey who broke a 23-23 tie by catching a 70-yard touchdown pass from Casey Weston with 5:48 remaining in the contest to give the Rangers the victory.
Lindsay, a transfer from the University of Memphis and native of St. Petersburg, Fla., hauled in six passes for 141 yards in his debut in a Northwest uniform to help the Rangers stop their five-game losing streak to the Bulldogs.
“This is a great win for our program, our administration, the community and everyone involved with Northwest,” said second-year Ranger Head Coach Ricky Woods. “We felt like we needed to come in and establish ourselves and come up with some big plays. We did that tonight.”
Northwest’s formula for success was winning the turnover battle. The Rangers turned it over just once, while Gulf Coast had three fumbles and an interception.
The last of those three fumbles was the most damaging for the Bulldogs.
With the score tied at 23-23, Gulf Coast moved the ball inside the Rangers’ 10-yard line. The Bulldogs tried a toss sweep on third down, Ranger linebacker Desley Brown of Holly Springs and cornerback Keshun Cowan of Olive Branch nailed Gulf Coast tailback Mark Seymour and caused a fumble which was recovered by Northwest safety Bud Barksdale of Batesville.
Two plays later, Weston hooked up with Lindsey for the game-winning score. Weston, a sophomore from Prattville, Ala., completed 15 of 28 passes for a career-high 378 yards.
Weston got the Rangers going early by hooking up with freshman receiver Darryl Kinkle of Holly Springs on an 86-yard touchdown pass on Northwest’s second play from scrimmage.
Gulf Coast tied the contest 24 seconds later when tailback Vick Ballard scored on an 85-yard run.
Northwest countered with a seven-yard touchdown run by freshman tailback JoJo Cox of Macon, Ga., and a 25-yard field goal by freshman kicker Kevin Buford of Greenville to claim a 16-7 lead in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs closed the half with a safety and a 29-yard field goal by Bo Bryan to trim their deficit to 16-12 at halftime.
In the second half, it looked as though Gulf Coast would continue its magic against the Rangers. The Bulldogs reeled off 11 consecutive points to take a 23-16 advantage with 13:33 remaining in the game.
But unlike recent games against Gulf Coast, Northwest didn’t fold. The Rangers tied the game at 23-23 on a one-yard run by tailback Cox. The score was set up by a 62-yard pass from Weston to receiver Lynn Williams of Southaven which moved the ball to the Bulldog four-yard line.
“When we needed a crucial play tonight, somebody always made it for us,” said Woods. “It seemed like it was a different person every time and that is what makes a team.”
Northwest will be looking for its first 2-0 start since 2004 when it hosts the Hinds Eagles Thursday, Sept. 3 at Bobby Franklin Field in Senatobia. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m.