Navarro’s Bulldogs have to look at football a little differently this week.
That’s what playing Northeastern Oklahoma A&M is all about.
If you follow the Dawgs you probably still can’t understand what happened a year ago when Navarro, which had the best passing game in the NJCAA and an offense that was putting up points like a video game, lost to the Norsemen 10-9.
That’s right, nine points.
It was the first time since Oct. 2, 2010 that the Dawgs didn’t reach the end zone.
Parker McNeil, who led the NJCAA in passing a year ago, and leads it again this season, completed just 16-of-31 passes for 161 yards.
McNeil has thrown for 910 yards and 11 touchdowns in just his last two games, but that’s no guarantee he will light up the scoreboard Saturday when he faces NEO on Bulldog Hall of Fame night at Tiger Stadium, where Navarro will honor its first class into the Bulldog Hall of Fame.
That’s what playing NEO is all about — finding a way to score.
“They run a three down scheme on defense,” said Navarro coach Scott Parr, who knows better than anyone how different it is playing NEO.
“It’s very unique,” he said. “You don’t see it a lot. They represent a big challenge to identify and target to block guys.”
The Norsemen are 0-2 in the conference, but they held Kilgore to 28 points in a 28-21 loss last week. They’ve lost three in a row, but are still a dangerous team to face, despite Navarro’s recent success.
The Bulldogs have bounced back from a tough start against three nationally ranked teams and have won two in a row, and are in the thick of the conference race at 2-2, because every team has at least one loss.
Believe it or not, this is the stretch run for the Bulldogs, who have only two conference games left after Saturday.
The schedule and the logjam in the standings (Kilgore and TVCC are 3-1 and Blinn is 2-1) with Navarro hanging on to the fourth spot gives the NEO even greater significance. A victory means the Bulldogs have an open door to finishing in the top four and reaching the postseason.
“For us the clock is ticking,” Parr said. “We still have a chance to control our own destiny, and that’s been our goal. But it’s the sixth game of the year, and we can’t afford any slip ups.
“Are we going to be mentally prepared? Are we going to be able to mentally step up and win football games in our conference?”
The Dawgs have been more than resilient, and bounced back after losing McNeil to a rib injury for 1 1/2 games. He returned and has completed 55-of-78 passes for a remarkable 70 percent and the Dawgs have put up 93 points in their last two games.
You want some wacky numbers? Try these: NEO has scored a total of 29 points in the last three games (all losses). Navarro scored 31 points in the first half last week.
Still, the Dawgs have to find a way to go over or under or around NEO’s stingy defense.
McNeil, who threw for 508 yards and six TDs last week, completed 18 passes to two receivers when Shaheed Ahmed caught nine for 180 yards and Quinton Lee caught nine for 146 yards.
Those numbers are scary, but what’s really up in the air is the question: Can the Dawgs score against NEO?
“The key for us is to be able to make adjustments,” Parr said, referring to NEO’s rare defensive alignment. “This is a big game for us. You want to get to the end of the season and have things in your hands. We can control our destiny with a win on Saturday.”