By BEN JOHNSON
Sean Seefeldt made his field goal. Drew Patton didn't.
Seefeldt, a sophomore kicker for Missouri Southern, booted a 31-yard field goal to end the first half, and both the Lions and Northeastern State were scoreless in the second half, resulting in a 17-14 triumph for Missouri Southern at Doc Wadley Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Seefeldt's go-ahead field goal — his second of the season — capped off a 14-play, 65-yard drive that ran 8 minutes and 11 seconds off the clock for the Lions (2-0, 2-0 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association).
That would be the final scoring play that the 2,710 in crowd would witness.
"Our defense was able to step up, and I was so glad to see that," Missouri Southern head coach Daryl Daye said. "Because, we've been struggling with a lot of new guys, a new coach, a new mentality, and we've just been trying to get them to settle in."
The Lions did just that. The visitors from southwest Missouri issued 143 yards of total offense in the second half, but the yardage was not accompanied by any points.
NSU (0-2, 0-2) had scoring opportunities after halftime but came up empty.
Patton had a chance to knot the game up at 17 but missed a 38-yard field goal wide right with 9:02 left in the third quarter. From there, it became a punting fest until the fourth quarter commenced.
In the final period, NSU marched to Missouri Southern's 17-yard line at the midway point of the quarter. On second-and-6, NSU quarterback Thor Long was intercepted by Gaige Washington in the end zone.
"The pressure caused him to throw the ball," Daye said. "It was just a little bit under-thrown...Gaige was free, and boy, he made a nice play on that thing. He read the quarterbacks' eyes and popped open and made an excellent interception."
Long finished the day 7 of 16 for 85 yards and a touchdown.
"(Tight end Marco Renteria) was open; he just hesitated too long," Northeastern State head coach Kenny Evans said of Long's late interception. "We also had a wide-open receiver on the backside, and those are things you learn through experience. He's just got to see those things and go from there."
After forcing a Missouri Southern punt, NSU would again cross into Missouri Southern's territory. The RiverHawks reached the 40-yard line when they were faced with a decision on fourth-and-9: punt or go for it?
NSU opted to go for it, and the Lions halted Long on a 4-yard run around the left side.
"The time was running at that point," said Evans, whose club would never get the ball back after Missouri Southern picked up two first downs on its final drive. "With (Missouri Southern's) type of offense, you don't know how much time you're going to have. We weren't in field goal range ... so we felt like that's what we needed to do at that point."
Missouri Southern stuck with only three defensive lineman and dropped everyone else back into coverage.
"We rushed three on that one and dropped everybody," Daye said. "He had no place to throw the ball, and he scrambled. We knew he wasn't a scrambler, and we were able to catch him down on the backside."
The first half followed a different script.
Both teams scored touchdowns on their first two possessions. Nick Whitlow hauled in a 6-yard touchdown pass from Long, and Missouri Southern's Giresse Forchu followed with a 9-yard touchdown run. The RiverHawks would retake the lead late in the first quarter on Terrance Dixon's 4-yard run, and the Lions would knot the game up again early in the second quarter on Jay McDowell's 1-yard touchdown run.
Navigating out of the triple option, Missouri Southern collected 243 yards on 54 rushes. Forchu paced the Lions with 81 yards on 19 carries.
Joel Rockmore was the centerpiece of NSU's offense, tallying 145 rushing yards on 22 carries.
"Got to get the W — that's the main things," Rockmore said. "Overall, I have to say, the offense looked pretty smooth. Thor, he definitely looked good back there. We just have to fix some mistakes."
NSU football notebook: Kenny Garrett moves from defense to offense for RiverHawks
Northeastern State was unable to keep Pittsburg State's defensive line at bay in the opening week of the season, so head coach Kenny Evans opted to make a change.
The RiverHawks' Kenny Garrett was moved from defensive tackle to right tackle. Garrett took over for Buck Spurger, who was shifted to a reserve spot at right guard.
Based on what he saw, Evans was pleased with Garrett's performance on the offensive side of the ball in a 17-14 loss to Missouri Southern at Doc Wadley Stadium.
"Garrett made some mistakes, but he did do a great job," NSU head coach Kenny Evans said. "I think that was evident with how we were able to knock them off the ball. They had to load the box, and we still knocked them off the ball."
Cruz suspended for home opener
Northeastern State was without one of its starting wide receivers on Saturday. Louisiana Tech transfer Cruz Williams was suspended for one game for violating a "university rule," a source told the Tahlequah Daily Press prior to the game.
Evans was asked to address the suspension following the loss to the Lions.
"It's a university decision, and he was suspended," Evans said. "We didn't know about it until Friday afternoon, and unfortunately, I have to live with those decisions."
No details were provided on what Williams did to get suspended.
Instead of starting three wide receivers, the RiverHawks went with Jordan Robinson and Prince McJunkins as their pass catchers. Nick Whitlow (fullback), Logan Andrews (tight end), Thor Long (quarterback) and Joel Rockmore (running back) were NSU's other starters not on the offensive line.
Northeastern State continues at home when it hosts Washburn on Saturday at 6 p.m. Missouri Southern will go back to southwest Missouri and host Lincoln.
- NSU's Langston Jones had 21 tackles while trying to stop Missouri Southern's triple option. The senior linebacker had five solo tackles and 16 assists.
- The game was broadcast on the MIAA Network. It was NSU's only game on the network this season, while Missouri Southern will be on it for a second straight week when it hosts the Blue Tigers this Saturday in Joplin, Mo.
- With six seconds left in the game, Missouri Southern opted to punt from inside NSU's territory. Dominick O'Neill booted the ball inside the RiverHawks' 5-yard line before it rolled out of bounds. By the time the play had ended, the final seconds had ticked off the clock.
- NSU running back Joel Rockmore had 217 all-purpose yards. He picked up 145 yards on the ground, 54 on kickoff returns and 18 yards on one catch.
- Missouri Southern scored on all three of its possessions in the first half. In the second half, the Lions punted on all six of their drives.
Missouri Southern 17, Northeastern State 14
Mo. Southern 7 10 0 0 -- 17
Northeastern St. 14 0 0 0 -- 14
NORTHEASTERN STATE — Nick Whitlow 6-yard pass from Thor Long (Drew Patton kick), 11:05.
MISSOURI SOUTHERN — Giresse Forchu 9-yard run (Sean Seefeldt kick), 6:04.
NORTHEASTERN STATE — Terrance Dixon 3-yard run (Patton kick), 0:41.
MISSOURI SOUTHERN — Jay McDowell 1-yard run (Seefeldt kick), 9:56.
MISSOURI SOUTHERN — Seefeldt 31-yard field goal, 0:00.
First downs 15 18
Rush 12 11
Pass 2 5
Penalty 1 2
Rush-yds 54-243 39-218
Pass comp 3 7
Pass att 5 16
INT thrown 0 1
Pass yds 38 85
Total yds 281 303
Punt-avg 6-40.0 3-36.7
Fumble-lost 1-0 1-0
Penalty-yds 7-64 4-35
Missouri Southern: Giresse Forchu 19-81, Jay McDowell 14-62, Chris Barnwell 11-50, Michael Nelson 6-35, JJ Jones 2-14, Ejay Johnson 2-1.
Northeastern State: Joel Rockmore 22-145, Terrance Dixon 13-35, Prince McJunkins 2-28, Thor Long 2-10.
Missouri Southern: McDowell 3-5-0 38.
NSU: Long 7-16-1 85.
Missouri Southern: Terrance Allen 1-18, Jocqui Davis 1-11, Josh Jones 1-9.
NSU: McJunkins 2-35, Marco Renteria 2-17, Rockmore 1-18, Dixon 1-9, Nick Whitlow 1-6.