COPPELL – Any time that Coppell unleashed a barrage of blitzes or defensive pressure in the face of Marcus senior quarterback Garrett Nussmeier on Friday night, the LSU pledge used his legs to keep the play alive.
Nussmeier either took off running for a big gain or threw for a big gain to one of his star wide receivers.
Nussmeier went on to complete 30-of-44 passes for 433 yards and four touchdowns with one interception as the state-ranked Marauders cruised to a 38-24 victory at Buddy Echols Field.
It's a performance that comes one year after Coppell used the same formula to limit him to 195 pass yards.
“It was a real disappointment to me on how the game went last year,” Nussmeier said. “We scored only seven points in regulation. I took that hard. I knew this year that we were going to make things different. Coming out here and scoring 38, almost 40 points is pretty good. We’re improving every week. I’m excited to see where it can take us.”
Cal pledge J. Michael Sturdivant was Nussmeier’s favorite target, catching nine balls for 185 yards. Four different Marauders caught passing touchdowns. Tyler Schott also broke the century mark with 104 yards on six receptions with one score. Dallas Dudley had 77 receiving yards and one touchdown. Connor Vaughn also had a touchdown reception.
“They do a great job of finding space and get to me when I’m scrambling,” Nussmeier said. “I feel really comfortable with them. I know that they trust me and that I trust them with everything.”
The last two meetings between Coppell (4-2 overall, 2-1 in 6-6A) were decided by a combined nine points. The Marauders (6-0, 3-0) won last season’s game in overtime. The Cowboys escaped with a one-point victory in 2018. Friday’s meeting was nowhere near as close.
Marcus scored on three of their first five drives and held Coppell to a field goal until late in the third quarter.
The field goal by the Cowboys was the first score of the game.
With Marcus’ defense taking away Coppell outside receivers Anthony Black and K.J. Liggins, the Cowboys used nine straight running plays on their opening drive. Nic Radicic booted a 26-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead at the 7:11 mark of the first quarter.
Coppell senior Jason Ngwu rushed for 41 of his team-high 105 yards on the Cowboys' first drive. Senior quarterback Ryan Walker gained 41 yards on 13 carries.
But, Marcus' defense put the clamps on Coppell's offense. The Cowboys entered Friday's game having thrown for 1,338 yards on the season. Coppell totaled just 37 yards through the air in the first half.
“People should know everything about our defense, because we get the clout right now on offense,” said Kevin Atkinson, Marcus head coach. “But, defense wins championships. We’re looking to win a championship this year. That starts with the district championship and then bi-district. You need a hard-nosed, phenomenal defense, and we’ve got that.”
Coppell's defense, meanwhile, was dealt a significant blow to its secondary. Senior cornerback Zach Stricker left the game with an ankle injury on the third play from scrimmage.
Marcus took advantage.
After going three-and-out on their first drive, the Marauders scored on three of their next four drives.
Nussmeier threw a dart to senior Schott for a 34-yard touchdown pass with 6:26 left in the first quarter for a 7-3 Marcus lead. The score was set up by a 49-yard kickoff return by senior Christian Espinoza.
Nussmeier was Houdini in the pocket on the next Marauder drive. With Marcus facing third-and-16 from the Cowboy 38, he scrambled to his left avoid pressure and found plenty of green grass in front of him for a 20-yard gain. Three plays later, Sturdivant caught an 18-yard touchdown pass between three Coppell defenders for a 14-3 lead.
That advantage grew to 17-3 after a 19-yard field goal with 3:32 left in the first half.
Coppell’s offense finally showed signs of life on the ensuing drive. The Cowboys got four first downs to move the ball to the Marauder 27. But, a sack by Marcus junior Bryson Barber pushed Coppell back 6 yards. The Cowboys were held to minus-2 yards on their next two plays.
Nussmeier’s third touchdown was a 7-yard completion to Dudley in the third quarter as the Marauder advantage grew to 24-3.
“They’re obviously good about throwing the ball and they’ve got some playmakers,” said Mike DeWitt, Coppell head coach. “Losing Zach, he’s a starter back there. He’s a captain. You’re already thin depth-wise. Him getting injured hurt us. But, I’m really proud of the way the guys played.”
Coppell’s passing game finally got on track late in the third quarter. Black hauled in an 8-yard pass. Liggins had touchdown receptions of 9 and 30 yards in the fourth quarter.
Walker came alive in the second half to finish with 185 passing yards. Liggins finished with 89 yards on eight receptions. Black had five receptions for 58 yards on 22-of-36 through the air.