BEAUMONT, Texas – Lamar University overcame an early 28-point deficit only to have a potential game-tying point-after attempt blocked late in the fourth quarter as Northwestern State escaped Beaumont with a 49-48 victory at Provost Umphrey Stadium Saturday evening.
A game, that has defined the series between Northwestern State and LU over the course of the past three seasons, came right down to the wire again. The Cardinals recorded 378 of their 493 yards of total offense in the second half of action. Big Red ended the night with 230 yards rushing.
Senior Darrel Colbert, Jr. completed 15 passes for 263 yards and four touchdowns. He also carried the ball 27 times for 137 yards and three scores. He becomes the second LU quarterback to rush for more than 100 yards in a game this season (Jordan Hoy). Classmate Dorian Gastonhauled in four receptions for 114 yards and three touchdowns.
Senior Davon Jernigan led the defense with 13 tackles, including 11 solo stops, and three pass breakups. Classmate Chaston Brooks added nine tackles and a pass breakup. Junior Daniel Crosley had six stops, including two for losses and a sack.
"Needless to say, we have a disappointed locker room," said LU head coach Mike Schultz. "I'm proud of our guys. I thought they fought hard tonight on both sides of the ball. We started off slow offensively. We've got to get cranked up a little bit quicker, but I'm proud of how they fought back. Once the offensive got going they did an incredible job. Defensively, we never stopped fighting. If we continue to fight like that, eventually things will work our way."
After spotting Northwestern State 28 points, the Cardinals began digging their way out of early trouble. LU trailed by four scores with six minutes remaining in the first half when they began the comeback. The Red and White cracked the scoreboard with 4:04 remaining in the second quarter. Colbert guided the Cardinals on a seven-play, 65-yard drive that was capped by a three-yard run from the QB for the score.
Feeding off the momentum, the LU defense came out and forced a three-and-out and got a huge play from the special teams. Senior Rodney Randle, Jr. returned a Northwestern State punt 42 yards down to the Demon 37-yard line. Three plays later, Colbert found Gaston wide open over the middle for a 25-yard scoring strike to cut the deficit in half with less than two minutes remaining until intermission.
Big Red kept its foot on the accelerator to start the second half. The Cardinals put together a 76-yard drive that took only 57 seconds off the clock when Colbert hit junior Jawun Ruffin for a 45-yard touchdown pass to trim the Demons' lead with 9:10 remaining in the quarter. After the defense forced another three-and-out, the Cardinals were back on the march.
Just over three minutes later, the Cardinals went back to the pass as Colbert once again hooked up with Gaston for a score. Gaston's second TD reception was from 43-yards out. The touchdown pass was the final highlight of a six-play, 68-yard drive that took just 1:49 off the clock.
Unfortunately, Northwestern State answered back with a touchdown to retake a seven-point lead, 35-28, when Shelton Eppler hit Jaylen Watson on an 11-yard pass with 3:43 remaining in the third. The lead remained until 13:03 left in the game when Colbert again called his own number taking the ball in from three yards.
The Demons responded with consecutive scores to take a 14-point advantage and looking for the knockout punch, but LU responded by clawing its way out of the corner. Colbert guided LU on a 13-play, 73-yard drive that was capped by an eight-yard run for the score. The TD run pulled LU within seven with 5:01 remaining.
Big Red's defense came out and quickly shutdown the Demons next drive, forcing the visitors to punt the ball away 1:39 later. After two incomplete passes, and facing third and 10, Colbert rattled off a run of 20 yards to keep the drive alive. On the next play, Colbert connected with Gaston from 37 yards out to pull LU within one, 49-48, with just over 2:30 remaining. Saturday's game had one final big play remaining, and unfortunately it came from the Demons' special teams. Sophomore Elvin Martinez's kick to tie the game was blocked by O'Shea Jackson to preserve a win for the Demons.
The Cardinals will look to put the disappointment behind them as they return to action Saturday, Sept. 22, to host Southeastern Louisiana. The game against the Lions will serve as Homecoming for the Red and White. The game is slated to kick off at 6 p.m. from Provost Umphrey Stadium.