By BEN JOHNSON
Northeastern State knew life in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association would be rough — especially on the road.
But last Saturday’s game in Joplin, Mo., against Missouri Southern was worse than ever imagined. Well, actually, getting there was the issue.
The RiverHawks arrived in southwest Missouri roughly a hour and a half later than anticipated, due to issues with one of the charter buses that NSU supposed to take.
“It’s just one of those deals where I’m scrambling,” NSU head coach Kenny Evans said. “We even considered some players driving to the game in their own cars.”
Luckily Tahlequah Public Schools stepped in and provided one of its charter buses, allowing the RiverHawks to travel as a team for their first MIAA road game.
However, NSU’s presence on the field against the Lions suffered a 90-minute delay, too. The RiverHawks trailed Missouri Southern 21-7 at halftime and never could catch up.
“I think we finally showed up after a hour and a half,” Evans said. “It was a long day with a lot of breakdowns.”
One facet of NSU’s game that failed to appear was the running game. The RiverHawks scraped together only 52 yards on 24 carries.
“A lot of that is to (Missouri Southern’s) credit,” said Evans, whose team was led by Terrance Dixon’s 33 yards on the ground. “We weren’t able to knock the defensive line off the ball like the week before [against Pittsburg State].”
It’s not likely to get any better against Washburn this week. The Ichabods are ranked ninth in the country and have breezed to a 2-0 start.
Washburn’s strength thus far has been disposing of opponents in the first half. The Ichabods have outscored Fort Hays State and Nebraska-Kearney by a combined total of 52-7.
Not exactly stellar news for the RiverHawks, who have allowed long scoring drives to start both games against Pitt State and Missouri Southern.
“That’s been our nemesis,” said Evans, who has seen his team allow 86.5 yards on drives by opposing teams to start the game.
“Both teams have had long drives to start the game. That’s definitely been an emphasis for us this week. Our guys have to relax and focus in faster; they can’t get caught in the moment at the start of the game.”
Asked if NSU wins the coin toss — rather than deferring to the second half — Evans said, “unless the wind is crazy, we want to start with the football.”
NSU at Washburn
When: Saturday at 6 p.m.
Where: Yager Stadium.
Records: NSU 0-2; Washburn 2-0.
Coaches: NSU (Kenny Evans, 16-31, fifth season); Washburn (Craig Schurig, 74-44, 11th season).
Series record: Tied 1-1.
Last meeting: In 1988, NSU beat Washburn 35-30.
Notes: NSU strong safety Kyler Harris is out for the season with a knee injury. Evans said Harris had “a cyst on his knee and it was eating away at the bone.” Harris missed most of his senior year of high school after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament. ... Taking Harris’ spot is linebacker Cayle Shambaugh, who played safety in 2011. ... With Shambaugh moving to safety, NSU’s starting rotation at linebacker will consist of Langston Jones, Chris Dinkins and Jack Gray. ... Terrance Leach returns this week for NSU after missing last week’s game due to a death in the family. ... The RiverHawks will add kicker Drew Patton to the special teams rotation. Evans was unsure if Patton will be the place kicker right away. Daniel Bond has been the kicker for the first two weeks.