The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

November 10, 2012

Lions look to snap streak against Pitt State

By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor

— As Missouri Southern and Pittsburg State prepare for today’s Sonic Miner’s Bowl, area football fans wouldn’t be surprised to learn that one team has broken its single-season rushing record.

However, they would be shocked when they discovered it was the Lions and not the Gorillas.

The Lions rushed for 409 yards in last week’s 34-10 victory over Truman State, giving them 2,827 yards for the season. The previous mark of 2,689 yards was set in 1996.

The Lions have 542 rushing attempts this season, and they need only 22 today — 32 less than their game average for the season — to break the record of 563 carries in 1975 when they gained 2,485 yards in their first season in Fred G. Hughes Stadium.

And, unless there has been a complete offensive overhaul during practice this week, the Lions also will break the single-season mark for fewest pass attempts. In 1987 the Lions completed 45-of-143 passes, and this season they are 44-of-103. The Lions’ mark for fewest yards passing is 498 in 1986, and they have 758 this year.

But the number the Lions would most like to break is 18. Missouri Southern has lost 18 consecutive games to the Gorillas since a 20-3 home victory in 1993.

“Obviously Pitt is the rival, and it is a great rivalry our guys get to play in,” Lions coach Daryl Daye said. “But they have dominated that rivalry. We are going to do our best to try to change that.”

Kellen Cox, who played receiver in his first three years with the Lions, was moved to quarterback during spring drills. After winning the starting job in fall camp, he’s rushed for 849 yards and 13 touchdowns, ranking fourth in the MIAA at 84.9 yards per game. He is the first quarterback to lead the Lions in rushing since Josh Chapman in 2002, and his 13 TDs are the most by a Lion since quarterback Brad Cornelsen had 18 in 1996.

Running backs Ne’Ronte Threatt, who gained a career-high 172 yards last week, Bryant Venson and Travis Hurd have combined for 1,014 yards and fullbacks Javonte Edwards, Anthony Thayer and Giresse Forchu have totaled 624 yards in the Lions’ triple-option offense.

The Lions have averaged 25.2 points this season, and they’ve been the most productive in the second quarter with 107 points. They tallied 27 points in the second period of last week’s 34-10 victory over Pittsburg State.

“With our offense, you never know what your are going to get defensively each week,” Daye said. “Some teams will totally abandon what they are doing defensively to stop it, or they will adapt their defense to stop it.

“It usually takes about a quarter or so to figure out what they are doing and try to adjust to it. Of course, we prepare for them based off what we think they are going to do, and if they come out in what you have prepared for, you have a chance to be successful against it. If not, you have to evaluate what they are doing and make the changes and make the right calls from there. Credit our offensive coaches. They communicate well on the phones, and they figure it out pretty quick.”

Pittsburg State, the defending national champion, won its first five games, but since September the Gorillas have lost three of four games. They allowed 138 points in their losses to Northwest Missouri State, Missouri Western and Lindenwood.

“A lot of that is field position, if you look back,” Daye said. “Their defense has been put in a lot of short fields the last couple of games, but also contribute that to playing pretty good football teams. Obviously Lindenwood is a little better than everybody gave them credit for being.

“They are a complete football team. They have a good quarterback, big physical back, good size on the offensive line, outstanding talent at receiver. Defensively they have big, physical guys up front. They run well in the secondary and they have excellent linebackers. The last couple of games they have stubbed their toe here and there, and (the game) could have gone either way. But they are a good football team.”