Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

September 6, 2013

After some acceptance

Northeastern State in search of MIAA recognition while opening against Gorillas.

bjohnson@tahlequahdailypress.com

Winning has become a staple of the Pittsburg State football program. In fact, no other Division II school has registered more victories since the Gorillas began playing football 105 years ago.

On Saturday night at Carnie Smith Stadium, Pittsburg State will be after its 664th win of all time.

Northeastern State will merely be after its fifth victory in Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association play. The RiverHawks, in their second year in the league, will attempt to derail Pittsburg State’s pursuit of No. 664 while also aiming to get some recognition in a league where they’re viewed as nothing more than mere outcasts.

What better opportunity is there for NSU to make a name for itself than in Pittsburg State’s own backyard?

“Anytime that you can play against a team with the kind of tradition that Pittsburg has — I think they’re the winningest team in Division II football’s history; anytime you can play against a team of that caliber and do something good, then it could be a statement game,” Northeastern State head coach Kenny Evans said. “At the same time, we’re not putting all of our eggs in one basket. It is just one of 11 games in the season, but as of right now, it’s the only game for us.”

As it embarks on another trek around the MIAA, NSU enters the 2013 campaign after posting a 4-6 mark in 2012. The RiverHawks dropped their first six contests before reversing their course and collecting four wins to head off into the offseason.

Last season’s six-game slide all started at the hands of Pittsburg State.

The Gorillas waltzed out of Doc Wadley Stadium with a 41-20 triumph. They did so because of the RiverHawks’ propensity to turn the ball over — primarily through the air.

Evans said the goal in this year’s opener is to avoid such costly mishaps.

NSU wants to make the “fewest mistakes,” Evans said. “That’s what we’ve been preaching, and I think we’ve got the people that can play. If we can not turn the ball over, not get penalized and have the fewest mistakes, then we’ve got a great chance to come out on top.”

Despite such a discrepancy in the final margin last season, Pittsburg State head coach Tim Beck said NSU still presents a difficult task in Week 1.

“Northeastern State has a lot of good players on both sides of the ball, and they showed that several times last year,” said Beck, whose team went 7-3 in 2012 — a year after winning the national title in 2011.

“There’s no doubt, it will be a great test for our football team.”

If NSU passes the exam, perhaps it will have the league’s attention.

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