But it was the final 13 yards that broke Northwest's back and allowed East Mississippi to earn a 12-10 victory and snap the Rangers' 17-game win streak in the series. The Lions earned their first win against Northwest since the 1987 season.
Lion quarterback Drew Harper tossed a 13-yard pass to receiver Steven Black with 2:19 remaining in the contest to move each team's record to 1-2 overall and 1-1 in the MACJC north division.
Northwest had a chance to put the game away with just over three minutes remaining, but those plans went awry.
The Ranger defense held the Lions on fourth and goal at the Northwest three-yard line and took possession of the ball holding a 10-6 advantage. The Rangers moved the ball to the 13, but were forced to punt.
Northwest punter Joey Johnson of Horn Lake picked the wrong time to get off the worst of his eight attempts. Johnson shanked a 27-yarder and set up the East Mississippi offense at the Ranger 40-yard line.
Seven plays later, the Lions moved to the ball to the Northwest 13 and scored the game-winner on third down. East Mississippi was also helped out by a questionable pass interference penalty against the Ranger secondary.
The Rangers got the ball back with 2:12 left in the game, but quarterback Larry Henderson of Hernando was stripped of the ball at the Northwest 34-yard line and ended any chances of a comeback.
"Offensively, it was just a matter of our sustaining a drive and running the final three minutes off the clock, but we were unable to do that." said Northwest Head Coach Randy Pippin. "It seemed like we couldn't generate any offense at critical times tonight."
Northwest led 3-0 after the first quarter thanks to a 43-yard field goal by placekicker Billy Bishop of Raymond.
East Mississippi countered in the second period with a five-yard touchdown run by tailback Tony White, but the Lions botched the PAT.
Ranger quarterback Henderson capped a 57-yard, nine play drive by diving across the goal line with 18 seconds left in the half to give Northwest a 10-6 lead at intermission.
For the third consecutive game, the Rangers rushed for 200 or more yards led by freshman tailback Bryan Fitzgerald of Southaven who carried the ball 12 times for 148 yards. Tailback Terrance Jackson of Senatobia totaled 37 yards on 12 carries.
Northwest will host the Coahoma Tigers Thursday, Oct. 13 in Senatobia. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m., at Ranger Stadium/ Bobby Franklin Field.