Already leading 7-3, the 11th-ranked Vikings began a 27-point blitz on sophomore Keith O'Neal's 66-yard touchdown run on the second play after action resumed, pulling away for a 47-10 non-conference victory over the defending KCAC champions.
"I think I was a little surprised" by the final margin, admitted MVC head coach Paul Troth. "I thought we controlled the game most of the time."
Despite some drops and misfires, sophomore quarterback Lorenzo Dennard threw for 192 yards and directed an offense than amassed 486 total yards in his Valley debut.
"I came out with a little jitters," he confessed. "My teammates told me to settle down and do what I do everyday in practice."
Meanwhile, the Vikings' defense shut down what was a year ago one of the NAIA's most explosive offenses, limiting No. 12 McPherson to 132 net yards and one tainted touchdown.
"We had to take it to them," remarked Valley senior Richard Wick, an all-American defensive end. "Our defense and offense came together."
After a pair of three-and-out series, the Vikings got going after freshman Nijel Daw converted a third down with an 18-yard run. Dennard hit junior Chris Owens with an 16-yard pass and Valley scored on Dennard's 5-yard keeper.
A tipped ball was intercepted by junior DeMarcus Trotter to give the Bulldogs the ball on the MVC 18, but they couldn't move and freshman Nick Kouth booted a 32-yard field goal.
When Valley got the ball back, play was stopped, but as soon as it resumed O'Neal took a simple off-tackle hand-off and dashed down the left sideline for a score.
Junior Jake Snodgrass got McPherson's offense going with a 22-yard pass to senior Joe Middleton, but an illegal chop block call stalled the drive and Kouth came up short on a 43-yard field goal try.
Dennard connected with senior Gary Taylor for 37 yards and found freshman Chris Smith for 32 yards and a touchdown for a 20-3 lead.
It could have been more after sophomore Tyler Davis intercepted a pass at midfield with under four minutes remaining in the half and senior Gareth Brown took a 13-yard pass to the McPherson 6. However, two penalties and a sack in the final minute pushed the Vikings back and the half ended on an automatic 10-second clock run-off on an infraction.
"We've got to be a little bit smarter about some of those things," Troth said about Valley's penalties, 13 flags costing 152 yards -- including two excessive celebration calls after touchdowns. "I want the guys to be excited."
Excitement wasn't a problem for Valley, especially after watching Davis return a punt 54 yards for a TD midway through the third quarter.
Another Davis pick led to a four-play, 29-yard drive capped by O'Neal's 10-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 34-3 early in the final frame.
Senior Travon Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 74 yards, but the Vikings' defense was hit with two pass interference calls, the second on a fourth-down throw into the end zone which sailed well over the head of a receiver who ran into a defensive back -- giving McPherson first and goal from the 2-yard line. Snodgrass ran it in from there.
Valley answered with two touchdowns in the final nine minutes. Dennard hooked up sophomore Travis Thornton for 31 yards to set up Daw's 17-yard scoring run and a 22-yard pass from junior Taylor Beasley to junior Daniel Gray resulted in a 5-yard TD run by sophomore Rahfee McClee.
The Bulldogs (0-1), third in the NAIA with 347.5 passing yards per game a year ago, were limited to 70 yards on nine of 27 attempts and were 0 for 14 in third-down conversions.
"Our defensive backs were covering them all day," Wick noted. "Our defensive line had no problem getting in."
The Vikings (1-0) racked up 486 yards in total offense, O'Neal rushing for 117 yards and Daw gaining 101, but Troth thinks they "have to be a little more consistent."
"The O-line did a great job and the running backs hit the holes," Dennard said. "That opened up the play-action pass."
Valley will need all their weapons next week, when third-ranked MidAmerica Nazarene visits in a match-up of the two teams forecast to compete for the HAAC title.
"It's going to be big in the conference," Wick declared. "It will be a good test for our team in general."