Navarro's Bulldogs knew they were facing a formidable task in their home opener Saturday night, lining up against No. 18 Blinn without their starting quarterback.
But they showed toughness and resilience and backup QB Dodge Delozier had a strong performance in his first start for Dawgs.
But Navarro simply couldn't stop Blinn's Brock Landis, who led the Bucs to a 38-33 victory that left the Bulldogs staring up at an 0-3 start.
Landis spent most of the night burning Navarro's secondary and when he threw his fifth touchdown pass that lifted Blinn to a 38-24 lead with 7:56 left in the third quarter it was too much for Delozier and the Dawgs to overcome.
Delozier, a freshman who started because Navarro's Parker McNeil is out with an injury he suffered in Kilgore a week earlier, played well, completing 26-of-38 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns. Delozier also ran for a 1-yard TD.
It's a difficult task (if not impossible) to replace McNeil, who led the NJCAA in passing a year ago and was leading the nation again when he left the Kilgore game in the third quarter. The Dawgs trailed Kilgore, which is ranked No. 2 in the nation, 28-26 at the time McNeil left.
But replacing the quarterback isn't Navarro's only problem. Since McNeil's departure, the Bulldogs defense has given up 55 points in a little more than five quarters of play.
Blame Saturday's problems on Landis and Danny Gray, who hooked up all night in Tiger Stadium to spoil Navarro's home opener. Gray caught 14 passes for 202 yards and scored three times. He scorched Navarro for a 95-yard TD to open the second quarter and give Blinn a 10-7 lead, and after Will McDaniel kicked a 20-yard field goal to knot things at 10-10, Gray caught a 10-yarder that gave the Bucs a 17-10 cushion and Blinn never trailed again.
Landis hit Trea Scropshire with a 2-yard TD pass less than two minutes later to complete a 28-yard drive that started after Blinn recovered a Bulldog fumble.
Delozier answered, scoring on a 1-yard keeper with two minutes left in the half to keep it close, but Landis connected with Xavier Hutchinson for a 74-yard TD to start the second half to bump the lead back up to 14 points.
Delozier kept the Dawgs in the game with a 16-yard TD pass to Alex Washington, who led Navarro's receivers with six receptions for 85 yards, but Navarro couldn't keep Blinn out of the end zone, and Landis' fifth TD pass, a 1-yarder to Gray, made it a 38-24 game.
Gray and Hutchinson, who caught eight passes for 135 yards, combined for 337 yards and four touchdowns.
Landis finished the night throwing for 463 yards, completing 31-of-42 passes, for a Blinn offense that piled up 614 yards and improved to 2-1 and 1-1 in the conference race after being upset (27-24) last week against Tyler.
The Bucs were picked to win the conference in the league's preseason polls and it was easy to see why Saturday.
Navarro wanted to improve its running game and saw results as Isaiah Robinson, whose 3-yard run gave Navarro a 7-0 lead early, rushed for 110 yards on 16 carries, and Keaton Dudik ran for 77 yards on 11 carries.
The Dawgs came back and outscored Blinn in the fourth, closing to 38-26 when a high snap on a Blinn punt sailed out of the end zone for a safety, and Delozier hit Troy Edwards with a 4-yard TD pass with 2:20 left in the game.
The loss means the Bulldogs are looking up from an 0-2 record in the conference race and face Tyler at home Saturday back at Tiger Stadium. Tyler will be the first opponent the Dawgs play that is not nationally ranked.