Tahlequah Daily Press

NSU Sports

November 9, 2012

NSU going for 3rd straight President’s Cup

Steve Turner’s official reign as president at Northeastern State is barely more than a month old. But his football coach, Kenny Evans, will be trying to claim a belated welcome gift for him this weekend.

The President’s Cup.

That’s what will be up for grabs when Northeastern State takes on Central Oklahoma at Wantland Stadium in Edmond when the two rivals meet at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

“I’d like to win the trophy for Dr. Turner,” Evans said, “for his first year in office here.”

If the RiverHawks (3-6, 3-6 MIAA) do snag the President’s Cup, it’d be their third in three years. NSU beat the Bronchos 39-28 in 2010 and then 35-7 last year.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to keep (the President’s Cup) here,” Evans said. “When you’re on the winning side, it’s much nicer.”

Goal No. 1 for NSU against the Bronchos will be the same as it has been the past two seasons: stop Josh Birmingham. UCO’s running back is a dual threat on offense (849 rushing yards, 241 receiving yards) while also racking up 359 yards on kickoff returns.

“It seems like he should have graduated a couple of years ago,” Evans said of Birmingham, a junior from Luther who took over as UCO’s starting running back as a freshman.

“He’s definitely one of the top players we’ve played against. He’s the guy we have to key on.”

Against a Southwest Baptist’s defense — which Evans proclaimed as one of the best in the league after his RiverHawks played in Bolivar, Mo. — last week, Birmingham racked up 171 yards on 29 rushes.

“He’s a guy that we can’t miss tackles on when we have an opportunity,” Evans said of Birmingham. “He was one of the best players in the Lone Star Conference and now he’s definitely one of the best in the MIAA.”

If NSU limits Birmingham’s production, that could force Broncho quarterback Adrian Nelson to try and beat the RiverHawks. Nelson — prone to turning the ball over with 10 interceptions this season — leads a UCO club that is minus-10 in turnover margin this season.

“That’s a big key to this game: us not turning the ball over and taking the ball away,” Evans said.

Nelson, though, has been productive this season. The Houston native, a junior, has completed 51.7 of his passes for 1,371 yards and seven touchdowns.

“He’s a scary quarterback,” Evans said. “He was highly recruited out of Navarro Junior College. We know how talented he is, but we have to keep him off balanced and keep him guessing.”

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