TAHLEQUAH — Let it be said that the Northeastern State University RiverHawks didn't flinch when a powerful team was scheduled on their traditional October homecoming weekend.
An winless, injury laden NSU football team needed a miracle when it took the field Saturday against third-ranked Northwest Missouri State with alumni honorees and homecoming royalty in attendance.
A miracle was not to be found as the Bearcats posted a 40-12 victory which was efficient if not spectacular, and RiverHawks head coach Kenny Evans said he saw a bit of upside in the loss.
"I liked the fact that we didn't quit and played for four quarters," Evans said. "We didn't have a lot to lose in this game. One thing I didn't like was that we gave up some big plays."
The Bearcats, 4-0 and 3-0 in the MIAA, punctured the NSU defense for six plays in excess of 20 yards, and three more for 19 yards each. Northwest also blocked an NSU extra point attempt which was returned by cornerback Brian Dixon for two points.
"We managed to score early and establish some confidence," said Northwest head coach Adam Dorrell. "Our defense played well. We would have liked to run our quarterbacks more, but NSU schemed that well. We did get some mileage out of our fly sweeps. That blocked extra point was our fifth blocked kick of the year. There were a lot of penalties by both teams. I think it could have been a cleaner game. But overall, this was a good performance by our players."
Northeastern, 0-5 in league play and overall, was only outscored in the second half 7-6, but both teams seemed intent on giving players game experience after halftime, when the Bearcats led 33-6.
With yet another new starter, Cory Meaders, at the devastated signal calling position, the RiverHawks were conservative on offense. Many of Meaders' pass attempts were quick reads or sideline routes. He finished 12-of-26 for 115 yards and a touchdown.