By CEDRIQUE FLEMMING
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – The best part of Saturday’s 54-10 loss at No. 6 Missouri Western State? The Northeastern State football team is done playing the juggernauts in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association.
The RiverHawks (0-6, 0-6 MIAA) fell to the undefeated Griffons (6-0, 5-0 MIAA) in a contest that was over after the first quarter. MWSU opened up a 31-7 lead after the first 15 minutes and cruised to victory.
“It’s not what we thought would happen here today. We had a great week of practice and showed up to play, but we had some letdowns in every area,” NSU Coach Kenny Evans said. “You can’t do that against a team of this caliber that’s ranked No. 6 in the country.”
Northeastern State turned the ball over four times after not having committed a turnover in back-to-back games for the first time since 1998.
The Griffons rattled off 547 yards of total offense, which included 311 yards on the ground. NSU responded with 306 yards, which was the second-highest total of the season.
Sophomore quarterback Thor Long returned from his recent concussion, and he finished the day 17-for-33 passing for 143 yards and two interceptions. Junior running back Terrance Dixon scored for the fifth time in five games and rushed for 61 yards.
Nine different receivers recorded a reception, six being freshmen.
“We had a lot of young guys who stepped up and made some plays,” Evans said. “Some of those young players were seeing their first game action.”
For the Griffons, quarterback Travis Partridge was 18 of 28 for 219 yards passing and a touchdown. Raphael Spencer, the MIAA’s leading rusher, finished with 115 yards and two scores on the ground. Kicker John Schmiemeier got a lot of work in, making 2 of 3 field goals (including a 54-yarder) and 6 of 7 extra-point attempts.
Northeastern State’s first six opponents of the 2013 season entered the week with a combined 29-1 record, and five are currently ranked inside the top 25 in the national polls. The schedule lightens considerably, as none of the final five opponents currently have a winning record. NSU returns home to face Eastern New Mexico at 2 p.m. Oct. 19 at Doc Wadley Stadium.
“We’re fighting for our first win, and that’s going to be hard to come by because of the injury situation,” Evans said. “But we’re going to go out there and battle.”