Northwest Mississippi too much for RCTC

The Mississippi Bowl started badly forRochester Community and Technical College on Sunday and never not much better.

RCTC quarterback Nick Rooney flips the ball to Devin Robinson for a short gain under pressure from Quondarius Qualls of Northwest Mississippi.

BILOXI, Miss. — The Mississippi Bowl started badly for Rochester Community and Technical College on Sunday and never got much better.

Top-ranked Northwest Mississippi (11-1) scored a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage and went on to defeat No. 2 RCTC 66-13 in the NJCAA national championship game on a humid and 70-degree Mississippi day.

"The first two quarters, I thought I was going to throw up after every play," RCTC receiver Jalen Esters said. "It took awhile to adjust to the heat."

The Yellowjackets (11-1) didn't have time to adjust as Northwest Mississippi put on a dominating display. The Rangers, a Division I scholarship junior college, used stellar line play on both sides of the ball and a strong set of skill players. The Rangers rolled up 694 yards of offense while holding RCTC to a season-low 247.

"They just wore us down," RCTC defensive coordinator Joe Ties said. "They're so big and strong up front."


Northwest Mississippi also started with a flurry as Justin Crawford ran 58 yards down the sideline for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. Crawford added a 10-yard TD run in the second quarter. He entered the game with more than 1,400 yards rushing and finished with 147 more on just 15 carries.

"It's big, coming here to play with all these good players and coaches," Crawford said.

He was named the game's offensive MVP even though Rangers quarterback Gardner Minshew threw five TD passes and was 23-for-30 for 432 yards.

"It was tough," said RCTC linebacker Cody Stanger, who finished as the Yellowjackets defensive MVP for the game.

RCTC figured it had to play a near perfect game to have a shot at winning. The Yellowjackets were unable to come close to perfection, but the play of Northwest Mississippi played a major factor.

"We had to play really crisp, and we didn't," said Esters, who finished with eight catches for 90 yards.

"We never gave up," RCTC quarterback Nick Rooney said. "I thought the game was just a play here or there. We missed a lot of opportunities. We were so close a lot of time, but I missed out on some plays."

Rooney entered the game with 4,111 yards passing and 55 touchdown passes, both tops in the nation, and the touchdown total was the best single-season ever for a junior college quarterback. But he was held to a season-low 220 yards passing and two touchdowns. Both touchdowns, to Esters, came in the fourth quarter. RCTC trailed 35-0 at the half and 45-0 going into the final quarter.


"Their defensive line was tough." Esters said. "They have three guys going D-I."

Rooney was sacked four times, but he thought the RCTC offensive line gave him enough time to throw.

"Our offensive line play was awesome," said Rooney, who closes with 57 TD passes for the season and 105 for his career, both JUCO records. "I thought they played their best game of the year. They did a great job of giving me time to throw."

Rooney completed passes to nine different receivers, but the Rangers rarely gave up a big play. Rooney's longest throw was for 17 yards and Patrick Bolton, who entered with 63 catches and 18 TDs, was held to two catches for nine yards.

RCTC was also unable to establish a ground game, finishing with 27 yards rushing on 18 attempts.

"We didn't capitalize on the plays we needed to," RCTC coach Bill Quistorff said. "Momentum is huge in this game and we couldn't keep it on our side."

The Yellowjackets received interceptions from LaKye Altson and Billy Kellogg, but couldn't covert those turnovers into points. Andre Jacobson did recover a fumble punt in the fourth quarter to set up RCTC's first touchdown, but by that point the score was 52-0.

Most of the game Minshew was able to carve up the Yellowjackets with big chunks of yardage. The QB had nine completions of 20 or more yards, three of which went for touchdowns. Jacob McCray had nine catches for 150 yards and caught a pair of TD passes.


The Rangers finished with 497 yards passing and 197 rushing.

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