BRENHAM, Texas — Quarterback Brock Landis threw six touchdown passes to lead No. 20 Blinn College football to a must-win victory in order to clinch a playoff spot. The Buccaneers defeated New Mexico Military Institute, 58-35, in the final game of the regular season on Saturday at Cub Stadium.
"Our backs were against the wall and we knew that this game was going to make or break our season," said Ryan Mahon, Blinn head coach. "I couldn't be more proud of these kids and how they played on offense, defense and special teams for answering the call."
The Buccaneers concluded the regular season with a 6-3 overall record and a 4-3 conference record. Blinn claimed the No. 3 seed in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference and will face Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College on Saturday, Nov. 3, in Miami, Okla.
Landis led the offense by completing 20-of-29 passes for 481 yards and six touchdowns.
"It feels great to get the win and put these kind of numbers up today," Landis said. "The offensive line helped give me time in the pocket, Carlos Grace and Devin McAdoo picked up blitzes, and with the speed our receivers have, we were able to make big plays."
Corey Smith led the receivers with 137 yards for three touchdowns. Keric Wheatfall followed with 119 yards for one touchdown, Xavier Hutchinson tallied 100 yards for one touchdown and Eric Peterson caught one touchdown pass for 48 yards.
"Brock and I have been practicing on getting our connection and timing down, so when we came out today it was there, and we executed," Smith said. "The team knew the situation and that we had to play a great game and win, so now we are going to prepare for playoffs."
Grace led Blinn's rushing game with 109 yards on 19 carries.
Freshman kicker Emerson Garcia accounted for Blinn's first nine points. A 28-yard field goal gave the Buccaneers a 3-0 lead with 6:57 left in the first quarter. Following a touchdown by New Mexico Military Institute, Garcia kicked an 18-yard field goal for Blinn to trail 7-6 with 1:46 on the clock in the first quarter. After a field goal allowed the Broncos to lead 10-6, Garcia kicked a 19-yard field goal for Blinn to narrow in 10-9 with 2:45 remaining in the first half.
"For Garcia to kick three field goals in a row and keep us going was a big deal," Mahon said. "We were down and we didn't flinch, so I am proud of this team for putting it together today."
In the final 1:35 minutes of the first half, the Buccaneers secured a 23-10 lead after Landis threw two touchdown passes. Landis connected with Hutchinson with an 86-yard touchdown pass for Blinn to lead 16-10 with 1:35 on the clock. Landis found Smith in the end zone with a 26-yard touchdown throw for the Buccaneers to lead by 13 points with 8.6 seconds left.
New Mexico Military Institute opened the second half with a 40-yard field goal, but continued to trail 23-13 with 9:44 left in the third quarter. Landis continued to impress with two big touchdown passes in the third quarter for Blinn to lead 37-21 heading into the final quarter. First, Landis and Smith linked up with an 83-yard touchdown pass with 6:31 showing on the clock. Then, Landis found Wheatfall in the end zone with a 62-yard touchdown pass with 4:48 remaining. The Broncos scored with a 15-yard touchdown pass and two-point conversion with 2:01 remaining in the third quarter.
In the final quarter, Blinn pulled ahead 58-21 after scoring three touchdowns in two minutes. Landis and Smith connected for a third time, on a 14-yard pass with 14:53 left, Marco Domio returned an interception with 13:43 on the clock and Landis threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Peterson with 13:06 remaining.
New Mexico Military Institute scored the final two touchdowns, both on 12-yard runs, with 9:47 and 6:11 on the clock in the fourth quarter.
Blinn has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and captured 38 NJCAA national championships since 1987.