By BEN JOHNSON
Northeastern State’s six-game losing streak to begin the season now seems like a distant memory.
The RiverHawks continued their recent run of success last week with a 22-17 victory at Southwest Baptist.
“We’re starting to get over the hump,” NSU head coach Kenny Evans said. “Younger guys are starting to play better, so hopefully that leads to bigger and better things down the road.”
NSU’s first venture through the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association continues Saturday when the RiverHawks host Lincoln at Doc Wadley Stadium at 2 p.m. And for the first time this season, the RiverHawks (2-6, 2-6 MIAA) will be taking on a team that is looking up at them in the standings.
“They’re a very athletic football team,” Evans said of Lincoln (1-8, 1-8). “They’ve been in some close games.”
Well, kind of.
The Blue Tigers have had some reasonably close final scores, but Lincoln has been outscored 254-105 in the first half.
One challenge Lincoln will have against NSU is running the ball. The Blue Tigers have are only averaging 116.9 yards rushing per game, and this weekend they’ll take on a RiverHawk club that has been stingy against the run. NSU has only allowed 31.5 yards per game against Central Missouri and Southwest Baptist.
“The No. 1 thing you want to do is stop the rush,” Evans said. “We weren’t as good at that early in the year, but now we’re not giving up the big plays. We’re always going to strive to stop the rush and make the opponent one-dimensional. We’ve been getting better and better at that.”
Meanwhile, NSU’s Joel Rockmore continues to be the league’s second-best running back behind Missouri Western’s Michael Hill. Rockmore was NSU’s workhorse against Southwest Baptist last week, recording 38 carries for 169 yards and three touchdowns, which matched a season high.
“He rushed the ball well and credit also goes to the guys up front for blocking,” Evans said. “And that could have been the best defense we’ve faced all season.”
Rockmore’s only problem at this point is fumbling. In two of the last three games, Rockmore has coughed up the ball three times, losing the ball twice.
“You don’t want to overly talk about it,” Evans said, when asked about Rockmore’s fumbling tendency. “We just told him to put it behind him.
“You can sit and dwell on it and that’ll hurt you.”
The RiverHawks put an early losing streak behind them. Now Rockmore will have to do the same.
Lincoln at Northeastern State
When: Saturday at 2 p.m.
Where: Doc Wadley Stadium.
Radio: Game will air live on KTLQ, AM-1350.
Nicknames: NSU RiverHawks; Lincoln Blue Tigers.
Records: NSU 2-6 (2-6 MIAA): Lincoln 1-8 (1-8).
Rankings: Neither team is ranked in Division II.
Coaches: NSU (Kenny Evans, 18-35, third season); Lincoln (Mike Jones, 2-18, second season).
Series record: First meeting.
News to know: NSU has held its last two opponents (Central Missouri and Southwest Baptist) to a combined 63 rushing yards. ... Lincoln hasn’t won on the road since 2008 (at Haskell).
Looking ahead: NSU will finish the season at Central Oklahoma on Nov. 10, while Lincoln will be at Southwest Baptist.