By Mark Schremmer
• Believe it or not, the Emporia State Hornets are sitting atop the MIAA standings. The Hornets are 7-0 and are putting up 34.3 points per game.
• Emporia State has a good chance at improving to 8-0 as it travels to face the 4-3 Truman State Bulldogs on Saturday.
• After that, things get difficult. Real difficult. Division II’s 18th-ranked Hornets’ final three regular season games will be at home against No. 16 Missouri Western, at No. 5 Northwest Missouri State and at Washburn, who is tied with ESU at No. 18 in the nation. Emporia State’s final three opponents have a combined record of 18-3.
• Emporia State’s first seven opponents have a combined record of 10-38. Take out last week’s opponent, Lindenwood, and the record drops to 5-36.
• However, give credit to coach Garin Higgins and his staff credit for getting their team ready to win the games they should win.
• And sometimes an easy early-season schedule can build confidence and lead to achievements that no one would have expected. (Think about the 2007 Kansas Jayhawks and how they ended up winning the Orange Bowl after gaining momentum from a regular season schedule that didn’t include Oklahoma or Texas).
• Emporia State isn’t the only MIAA team that will be having challenging games late in the season. No. 7 Pittsburg State will be facing its third consecutive ranked opponent when its hosts No. 16 Missouri Western at 2 p.m. Saturday at PSU’s Carnie Smith Stadium.
• Pitt State and Missouri Western both enter the game with plenty to of motivation from the previous week. The defending national champion and then-No. 1 Gorillas had a 14-0 lead on Northwest Missouri before allowing 21 fourth quarter points and falling 31-21. The then-No. 4 Griffons were upset 31-30 by Missouri Southern.
• The Gorillas and Griffons both desperately need a win as there is a logjam with four one-loss MIAA teams, and the regional rankings come out after Week 9.
• Can Pitt State sophomore quarterback Anthony Abenoja bounce back from throwing two interceptions to Northwest?
• Can Missouri Western recover from the sting of being upset in the final minutes?
• No doubt there will be thousands tailgating at Carnie Smith on Saturday morning in anticipation of those answers.
• Missouri Southern hopes lightning can strike twice as it hosts No. 5 Northwest Missouri State a week after upsetting the No. 4 team in the country.
• The Lions’ Kellen Cox has shined in his first year at quarterback. The senior has rushed for 596 yards and nine touchdowns this season.
• Daryl Daye also has been successful is his first year as Missouri Southern’s coach. He has made several gutsy calls this year, including a fourth-and-1 in Lions’ territory that Missouri Southern converted in the win against Missouri Western.
• Former Missouri Western kicker Greg Zuerlein was 2-for-5 on field goal attempts as his St. Louis Rams fell 17-14 at Miami on Sunday.
• Former Pittsburg State punter Brian Moorman returned to practice Wednesday with the Dallas Cowboys after sitting out last week with a groin injury.