The irritating sounds of a broken record have been emphatically loud for Northeastern State through three games.
The RiverHawks have repeatedly been atrocious in losses to Emporia State, Central Missouri, and most recently a 58-3 loss at Pittsburg State last week.
It starts with the offense, and it’s a repeating cycle.
It lacks big plays.
It can’t sustain drives.
It can’t score points.
The offense really hasn’t done much of anything.
They can’t get a grip on what head coach J.J. Eckert calls ‘The Big Mo’.
“We’ve got hit in the mouth with some real real severe adversity and we have not been able to do anything systematically to try to get the Big Mo back on our side,” Eckert said.
Just a hint of momentum would be a breath of fresh air.
If Eckert is distraught, he doesn’t show it. He was gleaming with positivity on Thursday afternoon, just two days in front of NSU’s matchup with Missouri Western State at Doc Wadley Stadium.
“Our players have worked really hard this week as far as having a chance to go out and put a positive product on the field this week,” he said. “We got better on Tuesday, we got better on Wednesday, and hopefully it gets a chance to show up on Saturday.”
The stagnant starts have been magnified. It’s the first thing Eckert points to.
The RiverHawks have been outscored 65-7 in the first quarter. To go a step further, they’ve been outnumbered 162-7 over the first three quarters.
“It’s been our Achilles heel thus far,” Eckert said. “Whenever you get down to three games, we’re getting outscored 65-7 in the first quarter. Anytime you’re 65-7 in the first quarter that’s unheard of. We’ve haven’t had a lead at all, and that’s the quarter you’re going to develop a lead in because you’re able to go put the ball in the end zone and have a chance to go play some really solid football.
“When you go back and look at that [Pittsburg State] game, you look up and it’s 7-0 after a three-and-out, and then you look up and it’s a punt return to the 5-yard line after a three-and-out, and then you look up and it’s a punt block for a touchdown after a three-and-out. I mean whenever you start talking about three three-and-outs and you’re down 21-0 after 22 plays, that’s not a good situation. Offensively we did nothing to flip the field. It makes it tough when you’re behind the eight ball like that.”
The RiverHawks have punted 27 times, 18 of those coming after three-and-outs, and they have just three plays that have produced 20 yards or better.
Staying away from negative plays and turnovers would be a start in the right direction. The RiverHawks have had 24 offensive snaps result in either negative yards or a no gain, and seven turnovers.
There has to be a change, right?
Indeed there is.
Eckert will try something new on Saturday.
Anything to jumpstart an offense that hasn’t been able to move together in a straight line.
Redshirt freshman Jacob Medrano will get his first career start at quarterback. Medrano, who was a standout at Muskogee High School, took over in the second quarter last week after a sour performance by senior starter Jake Pruitt and completed 6 of 11 passes for 42 yards with two interceptions.
“Jacob came in and did some things,” Eckert said. “As far as just coming in and moving the chains and making some simple plays, and obviously doing some things that you expect a guy at the quarterback position to do, he came in and did some things that ultimately helped and gave us a chance to convert some first downs and move the football a little bit.”
Medrano’s only other appearance was short-lived when he came in for a series in the season opener at Emporia State.
But it isn’t just the quarterback position. It’s wholesale.
No NSU running back has reached 100 yards rushing through three games. The leading rusher is receiver Kobe Bryer with 64 yards.
No receiver has over 100 receiving yards. Mark Wheeland leads with 85 yards, and Bryer leads in receptions with eight. Wheeland has been silent since week one when he had 76 yards on five grabs with a score.
The offensive line has allowed nine quarterback sacks.
The unit that is supposed to score points has 568 total yards in three weeks, is averaging 3.2 yards per play, and is 8 of 43 on third down conversions.
Eckert’s just looking for any solution he can to change what’s been a dismal three weeks on the offensive side of the football.
Maybe Tuesday was a start when Eckert put his team through a controlled scrimmage for a second straight week.
Can it transfer to Saturdays?
“This week we’ve kind of taken the same thing but it was kind of emphasized more with like here’s the first quarter, let’s go find a way in the first quarter,” Eckert said. “You’re going out and you’re trying to simulate a lot of the same things. We’ve got to continue to learn how to play the game in those moments where maybe we can get some momentum and we can build off that momentum, and if we lose the momentum, how can we find a way to get it back? How can we make a play to be able to get that situation back?”
Those are questions Eckert hopes are answered soon.
Preferably against Missouri Western on Saturday.