MYRTLE BEACH — Northwestern coach Kyle Richardson was worried about his team’s travel schedule for the first year of the Derrick Law Firm Kickoff Classic.
Either bring his team down a day early and put them in the middle of a top vacation spot. Or drive down the day of the game and risk rust caused by an extended period in the bus.
The Trojans went with the former, and then made quick work of Conway. Northwestern beat the Tigers 55-19, proving last week’s huge win over Gaffney was no fluke.
“This is the first time we’ve gone on the road and kept them overnight before a game,” Richardson said. “We didn’t want to get off the bus on a Saturday after a four-hour drive and play the game. We were all concerned putting 60 kids on the bus for a ride to the beach – lot of distractions.
“When we got to the field, it felt like any normal road game.”
And, as it turned out, another ho-hum lopsided victory.
The “Air Raid” offense put up just shy of 600 total yards against Conway, doing nearly all of its damage in the first three quarters. By the last period, the Trojans had built such a sizable lead against a team with several future college players on the field that it was able to rest its own stars.
Starting quarterback Mason Rudolph completed 18-of-25 pass attempts for 250 yards. Receiver Rontavius McClure topped the 100-yard plateau with a seven-catch, 105-yard outing . And tailback LaThomas Long needed just 12 carries to reach 179 yards and three touchdowns.
“We spread out a lot. Teams prepare and empty the box a lot to cover all our receivers,” Rudolph said. “So we’ll take advantage of that with LT.”
Long’s 80-yard run toward the end of the second quarter all but put Conway away. The points themselves were nice, but just as importantly, it helped Northwestern take advantage of a key Tiger turnover.
Conway quarterback Mykal Moody was attempting to punch in a short touchdown run with a little more than 1 minute left in the opening half when he fumbled on the one-yard line. The ball went into the end zone, where Northwestern players jumped on the fumble.
On the next play from scrimmage, Long went up the middle nearly untouched, broke it to the side and it put Northwestern up 34-12.
“At that point, we were just trying to get into the half with the lead that we had,” Richardson said. “It just happened to pop out the other end.”
It all but ended what many thought was going to be a two-way track meet. The Northwestern defense made sure that didn’t happen.
In addition to the fumble at the end of the first half, the Trojans defense also intercepted three passes, one from Moody and two more from Tiger back-up Ethan Smith. It prevented the Tigers from getting any sort of offensive momentum.
Meanwhile, Northwestern’s offense continued to score points in bunches.
“I have learned the whole thing yet,” Rudolph said of the scheme. “But that’s the kind of explosiveness you get with ‘Air Raid.’ That’s put us in this position.”
NW – LaThomas Long 30 run (Foy Sully kick)
NW – Long 2 run (Sully kick)
C – Mykal Moody 7 run (PAT missed)
NW – Rontavius McClure 25 rec from Mason Rudolph (Sully kick)
C – Moody 44 run (PAT missed)
NW – Rudolph 22 run (Sully kick)
NW – Long 80 run (PAT failed)
C – Bryan Edwards 14 rec from Ethan Smith (Jordan Sawyer kick)
NW – DuPree Hart 33 rec from Rudolph (Sully kick)
NW – Hart 47 punt return (Sully kick)
NW – McClure 9 rec from Rudolph
Rushing: NW – LaThomas Long 12-179, Mason Rudolph 6-56, DuPree Hart 4-16, Weston King 1-1, Andre Gaston 8-45. C – Jaquail Crosland 13-87, Tyreke Phillips 6-37, Mykal Moody 12-104.
Passing: NW – Mason Rudolph 18-25-0, 250 yards; Weston King 1-3-0, 8 yards; Matthew Worley 2-2-0, 30 yards. C – Mykal Moody 13-17-1, 163 yards; Ethan Smith 2-7-2, 11 yards.
Receiving: NW – Dupree Hart 3-75, Mustafia Love 5-57, LaThomas Long 2-14, Hamp Wright 2-26, Rontavius McClure 7-105, Andre Gaston 1-8, O’Darryl Davis-Douglas 1-8. C – Malcolm Green 7-98, Sawyer Jordan 1-25, Bryan Edwards 3-27, Malik Frazier 1-5, Crosland 2-25, Tyreke Phillips1-4.
Records: Northwestern 2-0; Conway 1-1