The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

September 29, 2012

Mules' air attack too much for Missouri Southern

By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor

WARRENSBURG, Mo. — Whether it was short, intermediate or deep patterns, Missouri Southern had no answer for Central Missouri’s Colter Smith and Ronrei Lloyd.

The combination hooked up for 197 yards and two touchdowns through the air as the Mules downed Missouri Southern 35-10 Saturday afternoon before 10,279 fans on Family Day at Walton Stadium.

Smith, 6-foot-5, 240-pound junior, hit 20-of-31 passes for 299 yards, two below his season high against Northwest Missouri State on Sept. 8. Fourteen of the Mules’ 18 first downs came on pass completions.

Lloyd, 6-3, 190 junior, made eight receptions for the 197 yards, far exceeeding his previous best of 92 yards two weeks ago against Lindenwood. Among his eight catches, two went for touchdowns, five picked up first downs and the other gained 12 yards, one yard short of the first-down marker.

Smith found Lloyd down the right side, and Lloyd eluded a defender for a 77-yard touchdown strike that put the Mules (4-1) ahead to stay 14-7 with 10:17 left in the first quarter.

Two possessions later Smith hit Lloyd on consecutive plays for 16 and 21 yards to set up LaVance Taylor’s three-yard touchdown run for a 21-10 lead early in the second period. Smith hit Lloyd one final time for a 16-yard TD that made it 28-10 in the last minute of the third quarter.

“We had a couple of safeties out,” Lions coach Daryl Daye said. “We get some guys back (next week) who will help us there. Credit to those kids (in the secondary), they went the whole game. They didn’t have any backups.”

The Lions (3-2) were able to get some pressure on Smith, but he was sacked only one time.

“He was getting it off quick,” Lions defensive end Ryon Phillips said. “We still got a lot of stuff to fix. There’s no such thing as being too good.”

The Lions displayed their best passing attack of the season, including their first touchdown pass of the season. That 63-yard strike from Kellen Cox to Landon Zerkel early in the first quarter surpassed the Lions’ passing total in any of their first four games.

“That’s always been there,” Daye said. “We had some more opportunities to do that, and it made some big plays.”

Cox completed 5-of-12 attempts for 131 yards, TD and three interceptions, and backup Jay McDowell had a 37-yard completion to Jawan Davidson in the final minute.

Zerkel caught four passes for 150 yards, the last one a 38-yard gain from Ne’Ronte Threatt.

 While the passing game was productive, the Lions’ rushing game was limited to a season-low 151 yards on 55 carries.

McDowell, who called signals in the last three series, broke a 37-yard keeper on the last drive and finished with 40 yards on five attempts. Bryant Venson gained 37 yards on three carries, and Cox netted 26yards on 28 carries, halting his string of three 100-yard games.

The Lions also were penalized a season-high eight times for 55 yards. A holding penalty erased Travis Hurd’s 11-yard touchdown late in the first quarter, and a false-start penalty in the second quarter lengthened a 21-yard field goal attempt to 26 yards, and it was wide left.

“Again we cannot be a first-and-15 offense,” Daye said. “It happened again today, and it was obvious when we were first-and-10, we moved the ball. But beyond that, we don’t move the ball as well.”

Down 7-0 early, Missouri Southern tied the game when Cox found Zerkel wide open down the middle of the field for a 63-yard touchdown strike. But on the first play after the kickoff, Smith hit Lloyd for the 77-yard TD strike and a 14-17 lead with still 10:17 left in the first period.

The Mules had a chance to expand their lead after defensive end Adrian Perricone intercepted Cox’s tipped screen pass and was tackled at the 4. But on first down, Lions cornerback Devon Dace picked off Smith’s pass in the left side of the end zone for a touchback.

The Lions turned the takeaway into points as Dallas Herndon kicked a 23-yard field goal with 2:19 left in the first period. The 13-play, 74-yard drive saw the Lions’ Ne’Ronte Threatt pick up a first down on a fake punt on fourth-and-inches from the 29, the Mules jump offsides on fourth-and-4, and Cox hook up with Zerkel for completions of 32 and 17 yards.

“We tried to be aggressive, and I put our defense in bad situations,” Daye said. “They got some short fields and some scores they wouldn’t have had. So I take the majority of the blame.”

The Lions have their homecoming game next Saturday against South Dakota Mines.