TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Northwest Missouri State couldn’t have drawn up a much better rebound from its first loss of the season. The Bearcats got right back on the road and came away with a 59-7 victory over Northeastern State in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, on Saturday afternoon.
“I was really pleased,” Northwest coach Rich Wright said. “It started with our week of preparation. I felt like our focus was really good. Our energy was really good all week. I was confident that they would come out and respond, and they did.”
Perhaps more importantly than the final margin of victory was the fact that the Bearcats (6-1) appeared to make it through the game healthy. The most notable of those healthy players is junior quarterback Braden Wright.
Wright hadn’t seen the field since the season opener at Fort Hays State, but was cleared to practice on Monday — the first day he was cleared to lift anything heavier than 15 pounds.
The Bearcats didn’t require Wright to do any heavy lifting in the game Saturday either as he entered the game in the third quarter after starting quarterback Mike Hohensee and the Bearcats built a 35-7 lead.
“We’ve been waiting on that,” Bearcat junior Jamar Moya said of Wright’s return. “Me and him have been talking about that since he got injured. It is crazy. Glad he’s back.”
Hohensee finished his day 15-for-19 for 143 yards and three touchdowns in the air with one on the ground.
“It was good to come out here and really just focus on ourselves and what we needed to improve at,” Hohensee said.
Hohensee also had two interceptions. The second one was returned for a touchdown and a mistake that Rich Wright doesn’t want his sophomore quarterback making.
“The back went the wrong way, and Mike rolls out,” Rich Wright said. “That ball needs to go into the third row of the bleachers. That is something that we have to get fixed, because in a big football game, that is what is going to get you beat.”
Braden Wright came in and went 4-for-5 passing for 81 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown pass came on his first drive with a 19-yard pass to senior Alec Tatum.
“It was just so fun to get back out there with the guys again,” Wright said.
Wright’s first pass of the game required senior Kaden Davis to make a diving catch for four yards, but his second pass was a 20-yard strike to Tatum on third-and-15 before he capped the 3-for-3 drive with the touchdown to Tatum.
“That first one, I was jittery, I was just like I just got to get this first one, got to see it into the hands of somebody,” Wright said. “Didn’t make the best throw I’ve ever made, that’s for sure, but I’m glad Kaden caught it so I could get that first one out of the way. That first one is the hardest. Once you get that one, it gets a little bit easier.”
The running game helped the quarterbacks out all night with Al McKeller and Moya each going over 100 yards rushing. It is the first time the Bearcats have had a pair of 100-yard rushers since Nov. 17, 2018, when Josh Caldwell and Isaiah Strayhorn accomplished it.
McKeller had 16 carries for 130 yards.
“Like the coaches said, it’s lightning and thunder,” Moya said of he and McKeller. “We are going to bring the energy every time.”
Moya had a bigger role with Davonte Green missing the game and took advantage with eight carries for 169 yards and two touchdowns. He also had two receiving touchdowns.
“Big shout out to the O-line,” Moya said. “They really make it happen. I just run the ball.”
Moya has been a Swiss-Army knife for the Bearcats all season, lining up all over the field. The transfer from MidAmerica Nazarene enjoyed the opportunity to showcase his rushing ability.
The biggest play of the day for Moya came to cap the third quarter scoring on a 71-yard run to push the lead to 49-7.
“We have had Jamar at slot receiver for most of the year and now with Davonte out, he has stepped up at running back,” Hohensee said. “We can throw to him out of the backfield, he got that touchdown today, and also you saw that he can lay the boom when he’s running through the holes too with the speed.”
Northwest added a Cole Lammel field goal and a Robert Rawie touchdown in the fourth quarter for the final margin of victory.
The Bearcat defense didn’t allow a point in the game and held Northeastern State to just 101 yards of total offense and six first downs.
Northwest finished the game with 648 yards of total offense and 32 first downs.
The Bearcats will look to keep the momentum going next week when they host Nebraska-Kearney. The two teams are tied atop the MIAA with one loss each.