The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


January 19, 2014

MSSU football program following university's positive tone

On a day when most of the campus is vacant because of a heavy snow from the day before, Missouri Southern football coach Daryl Daye is in his office balancing time between watching film and taking calls from midseason transfers.

But the Louisiana native seems more than content on this blustery afternoon in Joplin. You see, Daye’s Lions are coming off its second consecutive winning season, and Daye believes the best is yet to come.

“It’s an exciting time to be a Missouri Southern Lion,” Daye said. “Everything about the university is so positive right now. Whether it be football, basketball, baseball, track ... everything is so positive.

“We have a great athletics director in Jared Bruggeman and a great university president in Dr. Alan Marble. We have the new end zone facility, and we’re getting a new baseball stadium. There’s just a lot of positive things going on at Missouri Southern.”

Missouri Southern’s football program has been moving in the right direction since Daye was named the head coach two years ago. Daye has led the Lions to a 13-8 record the past two seasons. MSSU finished just 14-28 over the previous four seasons.

This past season, the Lions’ triple option attack rushed for 368.4 yards, which was a school record and No. 2 in the nation. Missouri Southern (7-3, 5-3 MIAA) was No. 1 in NCAA Division II in time of possession with an average of 35:14.

Maybe most importantly, the Lions ended the season on a high note by beating rival Pittsburg State 35-21 at PSU’s Carnie Smith Stadium. The win snapped a 19-game losing streak to the Gorillas that dated back to 1993. It was Missouri Southern’s first win at Carnie Smith since 1983.

Daye said he can feel the Lions’ fanbase building.

“There’s such incredible support,” he said. “People now recognize you who didn’t before. There’s an entirely different vibe to it now.”

The Lions hope all of this benefits recruiting as national signing day on Feb. 5 draws closer.

Missouri Southern already has added Northeastern Oklahoma A&M running back Elliot Hawkins (5-foot-10, 200 pounds) and Fort Scott Community College offensive lineman Spencer Gatewood (6-4, 300), according to their respective colleges.

The Lions will be looking for a mix of junior college transfers and high school seniors. Since Daye was hired so close to signing day before the 2012 season, MSSU was unable to bring in as big of a class as it would have liked that year.

Missouri Southern will likely use junior college transfers to pad what is now the junior class.

The good news for the Lions is that they don’t lose a lot from last year’s seven-win team. MSSU returns all-MIAA quarterback Jay McDowell, as well as all-MIAA fullback Chris Barnwell, and all-MIAA linemen Caleb Benner and Austin Wolfe. All of Missouri Southern’s starters at the skill positions are expected to be back.

Defensively, the Lions return three all-MIAA performers in linebacker Dalvin Taylor and defensive backs Gaige Washington and Johnquavious McBride. However, the Lions do graduate all-MIAA linebacker Gatlin Ridgway and strong safety Demon Haire.

Linebacker and defensive line will likely be an area of emphasis for the Lions in recruiting.

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