By BEN JOHNSON
Northeastern State has suffered through some tough times through five weeks thus far. None have been worse than what the RiverHawks endured in Maryville, Mo., last week.
NSU was embarrassed by Northwest Missouri State, 66-6, as the RiverHawks fell to 0-5 to start the 2012 campaign.
"It was a culmination of a lot of things," NSU head coach Kenny Evans said of his team's game against the Bearcats. "...It reminded us of last year's game at (Nebraska) Kearney. But it's not an indication of the kind of team we have."
With that said, things don't get much easier for NSU this week during a nightmarish stretch to open the season. The RiverHawks return home to take on Missouri Western, who is 5-0 and ranked fifth in the nation.
"What is really big about their team is they're starting nine seniors on offense," Evans said of the Griffons.
The biggest weapon for Missouri Western on offense is Michael Hill. The senior tailback is one of the nation's top runners, averaging 176 rushing yards per game.
"We'll have to load up the box some," Evans said. "...Probably the biggest thing is we have to make tackles. We counted up 22 missed tackles last week. That's something we can't do against a running back of (Hill's) caliber."
Not making things any easier for NSU is Missouri Western's defense is only allowing opponents to score 13.2 points per game.
"They have a solid defensive line," Evans said. "We have to have some sort of running game. Our receivers can't drop passes, and we have to have some big blocks down the field when our running backs get free."
Missouri Western at Northeastern State
Where: Doc Wadley Stadium.
Radio: Game will air live locally on KTLQ, AM-1350.
Nicknames: Northeastern State RiverHawks; Missouri Western Griffons.
Coaches: NSU (Kenny Evans, 16-34, fifth season); Missouri Western (Jerry Partridge, 117-62, 16th season).
Records: NSU 0-5 (0-5 MIAA); Missouri Western 5-0 (4-0).
Rankings: NSU is not ranked in NCAA Division II football; Missouri Western is No. 5 nationally.
Series record: Missouri Western leads, 2-0.
Last week: NSU lost 66-6 at Northwest Missouri State; Missouri Western beat Central Oklahoma, 45-23.
Last meeting: In 1995, Missouri Western beat NSU, 44-7, in Tahlequah.
News to know: NSU's Langston Jones leads the MIAA in tackles per game with 10.4. He's also 26th in the nation in that category. ... This will be Missouri Western's longest trip for a road game during the regular season this year. ... The Griffons have never started 6-0 under Partridge.
Players to watch
NSU: Johnny Deaton (QB).
— The RiverHawks' quarterback has thrown more interceptions (nine) than touchdowns (six) though five games this season. His completion percentage has also slipped to 47.8 percent.
Missouri Western: Michael Hill (RB).
— Hill, a 5-foot-11, 205-pound tailback, is second in Division II in rushing yardage per game with 176. Hill has rushed for more than 100 yards in every game this season, with 143 last week against Central Oklahoma being his season-low.
Looking ahead: Northeastern State will be off on Oct. 13, while Missouri Western will return home to face Missouri Southern.