NEO spoils Bucs’ conference opener, 42-31

BRENHAM, Texas – It was a great night for offense Saturday at Cub Stadium.

The ninth-ranked Blinn Buccaneers and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M Golden Norsemen combined for more than 1,000 yards of total offense, but it was NEO that came away with the high-scoring victory, 42-31 in both teams' Southwest Junior College Football Conference opener.

The Buccaneers piled up 579 yards of total offense, including 446 yards from freshman quarterback Garry Kimble, who completed 24 of 37 passes for 362 yards and ran for another 84.

Kimble's favorite target was redshirt freshman wide receiver Vasquez Haynes, who caught 12 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns.

While the Buccaneers attacked through the air, NEO used the ground game, rushing for 327 yards. Running back Gerald Howse ran for 169 yards and four touchdowns on 30 carries, and the Norsemen finished with 488 yards of total offense.

While the Buccaneers would rally in the second half, it was a slow start to their conference opener that proved costly. Howse scored the game's first points on a 40-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and a 41-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Clayton Mitchem to Kameron Doolittle made it 14-0.

Blinn sophomore Kurt Walker, a returning All-American, booted a field goal to cut NEO's lead to 14-3, but Mitchem's 11-yard touchdown run in the second quarter made it 21-3 at halftime.

Howse would score his second touchdown of the night, a 2-yarder, to make it 28-3 before the Buccaneers began to rally back. Kimble found D.D. Westbrook for a 75-yard touchdown pass, and the Bucs kept the pressure on by recovering an onside kick that set up a 54-yard touchdown strike from Kimble to Haynes.

NEO would answer with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by a 9-yard touchdown run from Howse.

Freshman running back Klartel Claridy scored from 2 yards out to make it 35-23 before NEO scored again, this time on a 4-yard touchdown run from Howse.

With 1:04 left in the game, Kimble found Haynes to make it 42-31 with the two-point conversion, but NEO would recover the ensuing onside kick to end the game.

The loss marked Blinn's (1-2, 0-1) first regular-season conference defeat since Oct. 2, 2010 after the Buccaneers went undefeated in league action last season.

NEO is now 3-0 on the season.

Blinn hosts Tyler Junior College at 7 p.m. Saturday at Cub Stadium.