By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Controlling game tempo is a key to success usually heard from a basketball coach.
But when Missouri Southern entertains Southwest Baptist tonight, the teams want their offenses to operate as contrasting rates of speed.
The Lions have averaged 68 plays per game — seven more than their opponents. The Lions average 37 minutes in time of possession, and seldom will the Lions snap the ball with more than five seconds on the 40-second play clock.
Southwest Baptist averages 74 plays a game, one more than their opponents. The Bearcats’ average time of possession is 26 1/2 minutes.
“They will hurry up to the line of scrimmage and try to snap the ball in a hurry-up offense,” Lions coach Daryl Daye said. “We are going to do the opposite.”
The Lions overcame five turnovers to win 21-14 at Lincoln last Saturday. The Lions are 3-0 for the first time since 2006, and they have won three straight games by a touchdown or less for the first time since the 1993 MIAA championship run included victories over Southwest Baptist 21-15, Truman State 41-37 and Missouri Western 30-28.
In the first two games, Central Oklahoma and Northeastern State scored with approximately two minutes left to pull within one score, but the Lions’ offense ran out the clock. At Lincoln the Lions mounted an 18-play drive that consumed almost the entire last 10 minutes. The drive ended with a blocked field goal, but Lincoln’s last hope ended with a Ryon Phillips quarterback sack.
“Just getting the ‘W,’ ” free safety Demond Horsley said, “that’s the only thing that really matters is that we get the win in the end.”
“Defensively I think we did some outstanding things throughout the game,” Daye said. “At the end of the ball game when the defense had to get it done, they did. And the offense maintaining that drive to kind of seal the game ... give credit to our kids. They got it done when they had to.”
The Lions are second in the MIAA and ninth in Division II at 289.7 rushing yards per game, but they are 14th in the league with 45.3 passing yards per game.
Quarterback Kellen Cox has 330 yards on 53 carries and five touchdowns to lead the Lions’ ground attack. He’s 9-of-21 through the air for 105 yards with zero touchdown passes and four interceptions — three of them last week.
Running backs Javonte Edwards, Travis Hurd and Ne’Ronte Threatt combine for almost 110 yards rushing per game.
Defensive tackle Brandon Williams has team-high 18 tackles, two more than linebackers Alex Wong and Brian Rodgers. Williams and Phillips each have four tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
The Bearcats, unlike the Lions, rely on the passing game. They average 164.7 yards through the air and 66.3 yards on the ground.
Quarterback Dan Connors has completed 58-of-112 passes for 428 yards, three TDs and six interceptions. Derwyn Lauderdale has 23 catches for 191 yards, and Justin Duhaney has caught 15 for 106 yards.
“They throw the ball around the yard a lot,” Daye said. “They have some big, physical offensive linemen, some good wide receivers and a good-looking quarterback with a live arm. So they are going to put the ball in the air a lot and try to get as many hurry-up snaps as they can.”
“Every game is a workout,” Horsley said. “We know they are going to come out and try to throw because we have a good run defense.
“I think the secondary is prepared. We just can’t give up the big play. We have to eliminate that. We know that as a secondary we gave up some big plays, but we are going to improve.”