NMCC's defense checked in its best performance of the season, giving up just 138 yards. The offense also had a breakout game, scoring six touchdowns, averaging seven yards a carry. "The effort has been there all year," said NMCC coach Steve Rogers. "Tonight, we had better execution. We got back to a little bit of Eagle football. There was some popping going on and we made some big plays. All 37 played and we didn't have any significant injuries. It was a good night."
Caruthersville suffered a tough blow when standout Chris Springer went down with an ankle injury on the Tigers' first series. Springer entered the game as the top scorer in the SEMO Conference with 62 points.
"When he went down, I think our intensity went down a little bit," said Caruthersville coach Jackie Johnson. "Our kids have got to realize that there's more players on the football team. When one of our excellent players goes down, they have to step up and play. We didn't do that tonight."
Springer is expected to return to the lineup for Friday's game against St. Vincent.
For the third consecutive week, NMCC opened the game with a touchdown. Mack Kimble broke loose for a 51-yard run, setting up a 1-yard TD plunge by Lawrence Smith to make it 7-0. In the second quarter, Lawrence Smith sparked the Eagles with two huge defensive plays.
On Caruthersville's longest drive of the game, he intercepted a Rogers VanAusdall pass. The Eagles quickly capitalized on the turnover as Edgar Givens scored on a 54-yard run to make it 14-0.
On Caruthersville's next possession, Smith recovered a fumble on the Tigers' 38. Again the turnover led to a touchdown as Kimble scored from 20-yards out. The PAT failed, making the score 20-0.
"Lawrence is one of three seniors that has played four years," said Rogers. "You expect a lot out of those guys. He's been playing well for us at linebacker all year, and he had an exceptionally good game tonight."
The Tigers were able to put points on the board in the final seconds of the first half. Caruthersville linebacker Aleric Mullins picked up a fumble and rambled 62 yards to paydirt with 14 seconds left on the clock. VanAusdall then ran in the two-point conversion to make it 20-8 at halftime.
In the third quarter, NMCC defensive lineman Josh King recovered a fumble and returned it 41 yards to the Caruthersville 8.
"We've been giving up a lot of rushing yardage," said Rogers. "Tonight, it was significantly less than what it has been. We got people to the football and we tackled a lot better. The defense reminded me of some of our defenses in the past. We had a lot of penalties, but it was from being overly aggressive. I'll take those."
The play set up a one-yard TD run by Bryan Williams to make it 27-8.
On NMCC's next possession, quarterback Remond Willis hooked up with Kimble for a 35-yard TD pass, increasing the lead to 34-8.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Caruthersville got two points on a botched punt attempt. After the ball was snapped over Fields' head, he picked up the ball and ran out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
NMCC added one more touchdown in the fourth quarter as Williams scored from 15 yards out to make it 41-10.
"We didn't play worth a darn," said Johnson. "We were prepared, offensively, defensively and on special teams. But we didn't come out and play. The kids need to start understanding that you've got to play for four quarters."
Caruthersville standout Jimmy Jackson was held to 80 yards on 30 carries. Williams led NMCC on the ground with 96 yards on 10 carries. Kimble gained 86 yards on 10 attempts.
"We've been waiting for it to come together," said Rogers. "Some nights, the offense played good and the defense didn't play so well. Some nights the defense played a little better, but the offense would sputter. It was nice to kind of get it all clicking."
NMCC (2-3) will travel to Sikeston in Week 6, while Caruthersville (1-4) hosts St. Vincent.