Kenny Evans shied away from using the word “embarrassing.” Immediately following Northeastern State’s season-opening, 45-6 loss at Pittsburg State, NSU’s head coach still found some rays of sunshine amid a miserable monsoon.
“No, I wouldn’t use embarrassing at all,” Evans said on the field at Carnie Smith Stadium in southeast Kansas. “That team (Pittsburg State) right there has embarrassed people, and you see 50- to 60-point games all the time in this league — even against good teams.”
If the RiverHawks were grasping for positives following the lopsided loss to the Gorillas, they would have been hard to come by. However, NSU did not turn the ball over against Pittsburg State, and the RiverHawks had a 36.4-yard average on seven punts.
But, when punting becomes a plus, the overall picture is likely to be quite bleak.
One glaring area that Pittsburg State dominated in against NSU was running the football. The Gorillas logged 354 yards on 46 carries, good enough for 7.7 yards per carry.
That’s not welcome analysis for the RiverHawks, who will see a heavy dose of the running game when Missouri Southern rolls into Tahlequah on Saturday at 2:37 p.m. for a MIAA Network-televised contest.
The Lions, who led the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association in rushing offense last season, will offer up a three-headed rushing attack, spearheaded by quarterback Jay McDowell and tailbacks Chris Barnwell and Giresse Forchu.
“They go with the flexbone (formation),” Evans said of the Lions, who ran for 241 yards in a 52-38 thumping of Central Oklahoma in Week 1.
“They have a new quarterback, who actually threw the ball real effectively against UCO.”
McDowell did in fact complete 10 of his 11 passes against the Bronchos for 232 yards and two touchdowns.
Because of that, NSU will not be able to bring every defender up near the line scrimmage in an attempt to slow down the Lions’ running game.
“We can’t just stack up on the run,” Evans said. “...They do have some other weapons at receiver, ... so we’ll have our hands full there.”
Evans stressed an importance on grabbing an early lead against Missouri Southern, who knocked off the RiverHawks, 27-21, in Joplin, Mo., last season.
“(UCO) fell behind early, and if you can get that flip-flopped and get up on a Missouri Southern — a team that would really rather run the football — you’re odds are a lot better,” Evans said. “They’re not a catch-up team; they don’t have the sophisticated passing game.”