The team that had to travel over 800 miles to Milledgeville played like it on Saturday.
The 11th-ranked Golden Norsemen of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M (NEO) took their longest road trip of 2019 and left without putting a single point up on the Davenport Field scoreboard. The at-the-time unranked Georgia Military College Bulldogs (2-1) took advantage of several special teams miscues committed by NEO and played stifling defense to win 26-0.
The shutout marked GMC’s first of the current season with the team’s most recent one having come last October against Hocking College.
“We cleaned up a lot of things that had been plaguing us from the first couple of games,” Bulldogs’ head coach Bert Williams told The Union-Recorder and Jock Jive sports after the win. “Hats off to all the players on the defensive side and our coaching staff. They just did a nice job of making some good adjustments. If we were giving a game ball I’d have to give it to them.”
That defense, coordinated by Coach Rob Manchester, allowed only 177 yards of offense and just 22 of that came on the ground. The Norsemen did have success running the football at times, but they went to the passing game more and more as they fell further behind. Ten total tackles for loss and three GMC sacks also cut into the visitors’ rushing total. NEO’s deepest foray into Bulldog territory came on its fifth possession early in the second quarter. The Miami, Oklahoma team got all the way down inside the 10 before a fourth-and-goal situation had them lining up for a short field goal. The Norsemen had their second bad long snap of the game (the first came on a punt midway through the first quarter) and GMC fell on the football to take over on its own 33. That ensuing possession would not turn into points, but the first bad snap did as Damekus Taylor hit Tye Edwards on a wheel route to put the ‘Dogs up.
“It was one of our better games for taking advantage of field position,” said Williams. “We still weren’t as good as we want to be in that category, but we were able take advantage and get the lead. Those things make a big difference in the game.”
Bad special teams bit NEO once again with about five minutes left in the half when forced to punt. This time the snap was good, but the blocking was not as Carlos Best dashed up the middle and blocked the punt. The Norsemen avoided giving up a touchdown as one of their own recovered the football, but he was tackled in his own end zone by sophomore defensive backs Markell Anderson and Marvin Dallas. The safety put the Bulldogs up 9-0, but they weren’t done yet.
The safety meant GMC got the ball back via free kick, and return man Braylon Peterson did his job well as he set his offense up on NEO’s 25 with a 50-yard return. The possession ended with more points as freshman kicker Ashton Musgrove banged through a field goal from 30 yards out. The Bulldog defense flexed again, forcing a three-and-out on the Norsemen’s final full possession before halftime. Bulldog sophomore Nicholas Bohn came on to quarterback the offense with just 1:46 left and did a good job executing the two-minute drill. He scrambled for positive yardage when the team needed it and also hooked up with Anthony Cooper for a 7-yard score with just 10 seconds to go. Coach Williams called the late score a “shot in the arm” for his team that carried a 19-0 advantage into the break.
The GMC defense continued its dominance in the second half as NEO got almost nothing going in the game’s final two quarters. The Bulldogs could afford to be conservative with the football and were for the most part until 5:28 left in the third. Offensive coordinator Ross Robinson signaled in a flea-flicker that had the visiting defense biting big time. Taylor handed the ball off to running back T.J. Jones who soon after flipped it back to his quarterback. Taylor flung it downfield to a wide-open Trey Brown for a 40-yard touchdown. The trick play gave the Bulldogs their longest play from scrimmage Saturday.
“Their safeties are very aggressive, so that’s something we thought we could take advantage of,” said Williams. “Our guys up front and the running back did a good job with the sell and protecting it because it takes awhile for it to get off. Coach Robinson dialed that one up and it was very nicely done.”
The Norsemen had just one more special teams miscue to get out of their system before leaving Davenport Field Saturday. GMC punted the football away with about 5:30 to play in the fourth, but the catch was mishandled and recovered by the home team who basically killed the game’s final eight minutes with the surprise back-to-back possessions.
GMC was unranked but receiving votes in last week’s NJCAA poll. The win over 11th-ranked NEO should have the team back inside the Top 20 when the rankings are released Tuesday.
Williams’ Bulldogs will try to avoid being the team that makes multiple miscues when they take a long road trip themselves this week to ASA Brooklyn. This will be the GMC football team’s second game in the Empire State in three weeks.