The Noble Bears took care of Piedmont 30-10 in a game marred by penalties.
Although the result was a loss for Piedmont, head coach Drew Gossen sees improvement in the Wildcats.
Quarterback Noah Ellis runs for a big gain against Noble.
“It was a heck of a lot better,” Gossen said of the team’s performance. “Our guys are really starting to come together and we’re starting to see their resolve, their resilience in the midst of all kinds of stuff that’s going on around us…We’re starting to see those guys build some chemistry and I’m proud of them for that.”
The Wildcat offense saw drastic improvement from its first two contests. Quarterback Noah Ellis completed 18/31 passes for 174 yards with no interceptions. The running game added 84 yards, including 75 yards from tailback Quinn Cooper. Piedmont recorded 258 yards of total offense – more than tripling its total offense in its first two games combined – and 14 first downs.
The Noble offense put up 481 total yards and 21 first downs while wearing down the Wildcats defense. Quarterback Baehler Buol had a solid performance, completing 22/34 passes for 328 yards and throwing for three touchdowns and no interceptions. The Bears also rushed for 153 yards, including two touchdowns from tailback Caleb Black.
The game was also plagued with yellow laundry. There were 24 penalties on the night, totaling to 204 yards. Piedmont committed 10 penalties for 75 yards. Noble was set back 129 yards on 14 penalties, three of which negated touchdowns for the Bears.
The Bears offense started fast, scoring on its first offensive play. Buol threw a bubble screen to receiver Michael Murphy who ran 69 yards for a touchdown with 9:57 remaining in the first quarter, giving Noble a 6-0 lead.
Piedmont marched down the field on its next possession. The drive eventually stalled in the redzone, and kicker Butch Hampton converted a 34-yard field goal to cut the deficit in half with 1:52 left in the first quarter. The field goal proved to be the only points the Wildcats would score until late in the fourth quarter.
And by then, the game was out of reach. Buol found receiver Casey Harris for a 19-yard passing touchdown to put the Bears up 12-3 with 8:15 to play in the second quarter. Just 2:22 later, the Piedmont defense forced a crucial turnover when Cody Winkle recovered a fumble inside Noble’s 30-yard line.
The fumble was one of two forced turnovers by Piedmont in the game.
“Forcing turnovers obviously is a huge deal,” Gossen said. “It’s something we really want to focus on as a defense, and they did a great job of it…they gave ourselves opportunities to go and get some points on the board.”
However, the Wildcats squandered the opportunity. After Piedmont’s offense was aided by a defensive pass interference penalty, the Wildcats turned the ball right back over 30 seconds later due to a high snap.
Noble went on to extend its lead to 18-3 after Buol hooked up with Harris again for an 18-yard touchdown reception.
Just before halftime, the Wildcats entered the redzone. Piedmont picked up a 38-yard gain when Ellis completed a 23-yard pass to receiver Hunter Chism and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Noble added 15 more yards. But again the drive stalled, and the Wildcats turned the ball over on downs.
The redzone woes were the Achilles’ heel for Piedmont. The Wildcats turned the ball over on downs three times inside the Noble 20-yard line.
“That’s something we’re definitely going to have to look at,” Gossen said of Piedmont’s redzone offense. “You never want to be in that position where you don’t put it into the endzone. We had a lot of opportunities, just kind of came up dry on a few. It’s all little mistakes and things that are fixable.”
Black rushed for his two touchdowns in the third quarter, putting the Bears – who missed all five point-after tries (three two-point conversions and two extra-point field goals) – up 30-3.
Late in the fourth quarter, Cooper rushed for a 26-yard touchdown to give Piedmont its first offensive touchdown on the season and bring the game to its final score of 30-10.
There was also a scary moment in the first half that diminished the importance of the game.
Midway through the second quarter, Piedmont’s Kohl Francis started to walk off the field while clutching his chest. He was seated by the training staff just within the field of play, where he remained for the next 30 minutes. While he appeared conscious, Francis was eventually helped off the field by stretcher and taken to an ambulance.
“[It’s] undetermined right now,” Gossen said of the Francis injury. “We’re just praying for him and hoping for the best.”
The coaching staff thinks Francis may have been suffering from concussion symptoms, but the actual injury is unknown at this time.
Piedmont (0-3) will try to earn its first victory of the season on the road against Deer Creek on Sept. 25.