Tahlequah Daily Press

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September 21, 2013

RiverHawks routed at home by Washburn

bjohnson@tahlequahdailypress.com

Northeastern State's first trip across midfield came by way of a penalty. It also came in the third quarter.

That was the RiverHawks' night in a nutshell at Doc Wadley Stadium.

No. 22 Washburn scored on offense, defense and special teams and coasted to a 48-3 rout of NSU on Gable Field.

"Everybody knows that we were banged up," NSU head coach Kenny Evans said. "We have eight starters — or players who were starters at one point — out, and we probably lost three during the game."

While Northeastern State's defense did its best to thwart Washburn's offensive efforts, the RiverHawks' offense could not generate any production on the ground or through the air. NSU finished with 159 yards of total offense on 72 plays — good enough for a 2.2 yard-per-play average.

Certainly not what Evans and Co. had in mind.

"This is a good offensive line; against Missouri Southern, we were able to block them up front and run the football," Evans said of his shaky offensive unit, which has scored only 23 points through three games.

"...We had some dropped passes, and two of them were touchdowns. We just have to make plays where they're available. If you don't capitalize on the things that people give you, then it puts you in a tough situation and you're behind in downs. And that's tough to recover from."

NSU quarterback Thor Long — making his second straight home start after the RiverHawks' season-opening quarterback Johnny Deaton suffered an injury at Pittsburg State — flung the ball all over the field while completing only 29.4 percent (10 of 34) of his passes. Long finished with 106 yards through the air, while also tossing three interceptions.

Washburn (3-0, 3-0 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association) wasn't much better in the ball-control department. The Ichabods threw five interceptions, but only one led to points — which came on a 30-yard field goal by Drew Patton in the third period.

Despite a modest 370 yards of total offense, Washburn faced little resistance in its second road victory of the year.

The Ichabods' Justin Linn put the visitors in front for good with a 40-yard field goal with 6:42 left in the opening quarter.

Washburn would carry a 3-0 edge into the second quarter, where the Ichabods erased any doubt about the final outcome with 24 points. Donnie Lockhart III scored on runs of 4 and 27 yards in the span of 23 seconds early in the second period. Bryce Atagi followed with a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown, and Linn capped off the quarter with a 21-yard field goal.

Patton's field goal broke the shutout in the third frame, and then Washburn went right back to scoring touchdowns.

Jamie Myers logged a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown with 4:09 left in the period.

"That's big when you can score in all three phases," Washburn head coach Craig Schurig said. "We had some points in the game where we struggled offensively, and when we did, our defense came up with a big play. Then in the second half, the punt return was big because it seemed like the momentum had shifted."

In the fourth quarter Tore' Hurst caught a 26-yard touchdown and Brad Gourley hauled in a 3-yard score for Washburn.

Northeastern State's best opportunity for a touchdown came early in the fourth quarter when wide receiver Steffon Herd dropped a pass along the left boundary. Beating his defender already 35 yards down the field, Herd let Long's pass slip through his hands.

Three points was the fewest points NSU had scored at home since a 6-0 loss to Tarleton State in 2009.

Without running back Joel Rockmore, who is out with a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament, NSU's ground game yielded only 53 yards on 38 carries. Terrance Dixon was limited to 23 yards on 17 carries — a 1.4 yards-per-carry average.

"Terrance just wasn't as effective tonight," Evans said of his junior tailback from Sand Springs.

The few bright spots there were for NSU were Dylan Beers, who averaged 35.8 yards on 11 punts, and the RiverHawk defense, which collected five interceptions — the most in NSU's time in Division II football.

"A lot of the points weren't against our defense," Evans said. "There were some things (our guys) did well. I thought Kyler Harris played a good game."

Harris snagged two interceptions and logged a team-high and career-high total in tackles (13).

For Washburn, Lockhart churned out 92 yards on 12 carries. Quarterback Mitch Buhler was inefficient in the passing game, completing only 10 of his 30 passes for 168 yards. He was one of three Washburn pass throwers to toss an interception.

Northeastern State will continue MIAA play on Saturday when it goes on the road at Emporia State, while Washburn will welcome Central Oklahoma to Topeka, Kan.

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