5th in the midwest it was a spectacular day with sunny skies,
light breezes and temperature in the mid-70's. And the prospects
for a game as good as the weather were excellent with a matchup
featuring the big play offense of Northwest Mississippi against
the brutal, swarming defense of Middle Georgia.
But shortly after
the playing of the National Anthem it was obvious that the football
was going to be ugly. After taking a 3-0 lead on Les Binkley's
36 yard first quarter field goal, the Rangers day went downhill.
Middle Georgia's record-setting defense had Northwest Mississippi
in self-destruct mode all afternoon. The Rangers had untimely
penalties, interceptions, fumbles, dropped passes, shanked punts,
muffs, slips and mental errors. 35 penalties gave it all the
continuity of a game of musical chairs.
Led my linebacker
Kendrell Bell and nose tackle Nakia Adderson, the Warriors punished
every Northwest ball carrier and receiver and harassed quarterback
John Holmes into numerous mistakes. In all, they forced six Northwest
turnovers which led to 27 points. They limited a Northwest offense
that had average 437 yards a game to only 188. Middle Georgia's
offense was efficient, taking advantage of the field position
that the defense gave them.
Rico Martin gave the Warriors a 7-3 first quarter lead with a
14 yard touchdown run, but they blew the game open with 20 second
quarter points. Iniko Simpson fell on a Martin fumble in the
end zone to open the quarter and Jason French caught a 21 yard
TD pass from quarterback Jason Vaughan with 47 seconds left to
close it. But the unlikely star was kicker Casey Sirmons who
shattered a 36 year old Mineral Water Bowl record with a pair
of 48 yard field goals.
The 27-3 halftime
deficit took the drama out of the game and much of the fight
out of Northwest Mississippi. The second half was riddled with
penalty flags and more of Middle Georgia's stifling defense.
The Warriors added two more touchdowns on a punt return by Tim
Stokes and a 41 yard scamper by Demetrius Berry.