By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
It’s been a busy week of preparation for Missouri Southern’s defense, thanks to Lindenwood’s quarterback changes in recent weeks.
Ben Gomez, last year’s California junior college player of the year, threw for 1,693 yards and 14 touchdowns in Lindenwood’s first five games, including a school-record 480 yards against Nebraska-Kearney. But he was injured in the first series against Fort Hays State and remains sidelined.
Taylor Jasin, the backup quarterback, threw for 285 yards and a TD against Fort Hays State, then completed 14-of-38 passes for 171 yards and four interceptions in a 13-0 loss at Emporia State.
Dillon Miller, a true freshman from Eugene, Ore., made his first start last week and was 9-of-19 for 132 yards and one interception in a 19-16 loss. Miller, the son of former NFL quarterback Chris Miller, is expected to start again today.
“It looks like three different offenses, so it is hard to prepare for three different teams at one time,” MSSU coach Daryl Daye said. “We are not 100 percent sure what they’ll feature. We know this: They are very athletic and they are playing with a lot of confidence.
“They have been throwing more, and in this past game, they even got in some three-back looks in the gun. It even looked like a wishbone formation out of the shotgun. We actually liked it.”
Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. today for the battle between Lions. Both teams are 5-3, so today’s winner secures a winning season.
Lindenwood has the most victories among the four new schools in the league this year. Northeastern State, Central Oklahoma and Nebraska-Kearney have one victory apiece.
Washburn beat Lindenwood with a touchdown with 23 seconds remaining, and Central Missouri broke a 28-28 tie with a touchdown with 3:02 to play for a 35-28 victory.
Lindenwood has held its last three opponents under 20 points. It ranks fifth in the conference in scoring defense (22.2 points per game) while Missouri Southern’s offense has averaged 23.5 points.
“Very athletic, similar to teams like Central Missouri,” said Daye, describing Lindenwood’s defense. “They run to the ball very well. They tackle good, and they have some excellent athletes on the back end.”
Lindenwood’s secondary includes Pierre Desir, a transfer from Washburn who has 44 tackles and six interceptions this season.
Missouri Southern’s rushing offense is second in the league at 267 yards per game, led by quarterback Kellen Cox’s 632 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Lindenwood’s defensive ends aren’t as big as most in the league, but that doesn’t necessarily make the offensive line’s task any easier.
“In this offense, it’s the timing of when you need to be there,” offensive guard Austin Wolfe said. “I don’t think it really matters how big they are or how quick. You just have to do your job and execute.”