MIAMI, Okla. –– It had all of the makings to be a chippy affair.
From that aspect, it didn't disappoint.
The Northeastern Oklahoma A&M athletics website released a game preview Wednesday afternoon that was headlined "(NEO) looks to continue its domination of Arkansas Baptist College," alluding to the 10-2 record the Norse had over the Buffaloes heading into Thursday's clash.
Arkansas Baptist assistant coach Ashdone Bailey tweeted a screenshot of the headline and commented "#AddedFuel" a little later in the day. Several ABC supporters and players replied to the tweet and condoned its message.
The Golden Norsemen, however, got the final say in a 47-0 season-opening win Thursday night at Red Robertson Field.
"This is college football and you're going to feel disrespected," first-year NEO head coach Zach Allen said to his players after the game. "The eye gouging, late hits, name calling –– that all comes with it. You might have felt disrespected tonight, but you know what? I think a 47-0 win is pretty disrespectful, too."
No. 8 NEO scored in every quarter and erupted for 423 yards of total offense in the triumph.
By the latter stages of the second quarter, wideout Marcheenan Hair had the home stands jumping.
NEO took a three-score lead into halftime thanks to his circus catch on a 38-yard touchdown pass with four minutes showing in the second quarter.
Quarterback Clayton Sims aired the ball out to a streaking Hair on the sidelines, and even though the Arkansas Baptist defender got a hand on it, Hair managed to snag the deflection with one hand as he fell backwards into the end zone.
"I knew it was one-on-one coverage and all I had to do was beat him," Hair said. "I beat him but he knocked the ball in the air, and I was just trying to play the tip. After that, my reflexes just came in and the rest was history."
It was just one of the offensive highlights in a game that was ultimately themed by NEO's suffocating play on the defensive side.
The tone of the game was set on a 41-yard touchdown run by Darran Williams on the Norse's first play from scrimmage. But from there, the offense went through a lull before it could put more points on the board midway through the second quarter.
But as NEO's offense tried to find its rhythm, its defense kept the Buffaloes at bay.
In the first half alone, the Norsemen generated two turnovers and forced four punts. Both takeaways occurred inside the red zone.
"I knew we had some good team speed and we had a good scheme for these guys," Allen said. "They've been running some of the similar stuff that we've seen over the past several years. We prepared for it not knowing exactly what we'd see, but (defensive coordinator) Zach Crissup and the coaches had our guys rolling."
Arkansas Baptist finished with 140 yards of offense and turned the ball over seven times.
"We knew this would be a good test," Allen said. "Arkansas Baptist is a much-improved team.. . (Their head coach) does such a great job and he's put his life into that program. But tonight we caused them a lot of disruption with our takeaways.
"It was a huge emphasis for us. We had a great defense last year, but our takeaways were not where we wanted them to be. Every single day you hear our defense emphasizing takeaways, ripping the ball out, going up for balls and being rewarded with turnovers. We were able to do some of those things we've been doing in practice."
Williams finished with 122 yards and two touchdowns on the ground while fellow running back Carl Garmon chipped in 56 yards and two touchdowns. Micah Cooper scored the final touchdown of the game with a five-yard carry midway through the fourth quarter.
Sims went 12-for-22 passing with one touchdown and one interception in his starting debut. Backup QB Guy Myers also threw for a touchdown on a 50-yard heave to Christopher Potts on NEO's final drive.
The Norse are home again on Sept. 8 to play No. 15 Georgia Military Academy.