Neither Northeastern State nor Central Oklahoma are destined for the Division II national playoffs. Both will also be left out in the cold when it comes to bowl games.
That leaves only one thing left to play for: the President’s Cup.
Well, and pride, of course.
The RiverHawks and Bronchos will square off Saturday at Doc Wadley Stadium as the in-state rivals are set to close out their victory-deprived campaigns.
“Obviously, being the last game of the year, you want to finish strong,” said UCO head coach Nick Bobeck, whose club will be going for the 600th victory in program history.
“We want to get the kids motivated heading into winter conditioning.”
For the RiverHawks (1-9, 1-8 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association), it’s another week of trying to harness a high-powered offense. NSU will have the unenviable task of shutting down UCO running back Josh Birmingham and wide receiver Marquez Clark.
“They’re a pretty impressive offensive team,” NSU head coach Kenny Evans said.
Evans uttered the same words about Lincoln last week, and the RiverHawks followed by allowing 42 points and 464 yards of offense in a loss to the Blue Tigers.
However, where Lincoln lacks in having a dangerous pass-catching threat, the Bronchos deploy Clark, who is second in the nation in all-purpose yards (225.7 yards per contest).
“The junior college wide reciever is one of the best wide receivers in the league,” Evans said of Clark, a transfer from Navarro Junior College.
That’s high praise for Clark, considering the MIAA features other prominent receivers, such as Southwest Baptist’s Derwyn Lauderdale, Emporia State’s Ray Ray Davis, Central Missouri’s Ronrei Lloyd and Pittsburg State’s John Brown — a guaranteed Harlon Hill Trophy contender.
And when the Bronchos (2-7, 2-7) aren’t throwing to Clark, they’re handing off to one of the best tailbacks in Central Oklahoma’s history.
“Birmingham has been one of the best in the Lone Star Conference and the MIAA in the last four years,” Evans said of Birmingham, who is 199 yards shy of the all-time rushing record at UCO.
In seven of NSU’s 10 games this season, the RiverHawks have allowed at least 464 yards of offense. Last week, Lincoln’s Morris Henderson and Jacob Morris both rushed for at least 102 yards.
Unless NSU can find a quick remedy for its defensive ills, UCO is likely be among those with 450 yards of total offense — or more.
“They do some things that’ll give us some problems,” Evans said. “We’ll need to play as well as we’re capable of to try and shut them down.”