The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

September 4, 2012

Kellen Cox right at home as MSSU's quarterback

Apparently for Kellen Cox, playing quarterback is similar to riding a bicycle.

Once you learn, you never forget how to do it.

Cox, a quarterback at Mount Vernon High School, switched to receiver when he arrived at Missouri Southern three seasons ago. But the Lions’ new coaching staff installed a triple option offense, and Cox  was moved back to quarterback for his final season.

Cox won the starter’s job during preseason drills and took most of the snaps in the Lions’ 25-20 season-opening victory last Thursday at Central Oklahoma.

“I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I was going to be,” Cox said. “I don’t know if it was because my family and my faith have been really important to me and that kind of got me through it. My teammates are incredible. Kyle (Webster) came in, and he is super supportive of me, and when he’s in I’m trying to be as supportive to him. We have a lot of support on this team. The coaches and my teammates believed in me, so it made it easy coming in.

“A lot of people didn’t know that I played quarterback in high school. I really felt at home being back under center again. I love it. I’m so blessed, I’m so fortunate that these coaches gave me an opportunity to be in that position.”

Cox, 5-foot-10, 160-pound senior, netted 89 yards on 20 carries against UCO and scored on a two-yard keeper early in the second quarter to put the Lions ahead to stay. He also completed 4-of-8 passes for 43 yards.

The Lions, after seeing a 25-7 lead cut to 25-20, took possession at the 35-yard line with 2:12 left. Needing one first down to clinch the victory, Cox gained four yards on first and second down, one yard on third down and two yards on fourth-and-1.

 “Yes, we had a little pressure on us, but we had a lot of confidence in the huddle,” Cox said. “We knew we could get it done. The offensive line did a good job, and we got it done.”

Lions head coach Daryl Daye never entertained any thoughts about punting on fourth down.

“Scared money don’t make money,” Daye said. “If you’re scared to put it down, you sure aren’t going to make it. It could have been the worst call, and it could have been the best call. We were fortunate that it was the best call.

“It makes you look smart when the kids make you look smart, and that’s what they did. They were not going to leave without that win.”

The Lions finished with 249 rushing yards and 298 total yards. They gained 157 yards on the ground in the second half when fullbacks Javonte Edwards, Anthony Thayer and Giresse Forchu picked up good yardage on first down.

“What we want to do is establish the fullback, and they immediately took that away,” Cox said. “They were in a 60 defense, and that took (the fullback dive) away from us, so we had to go outside and get on the perimeter. We were able to make a few adjustments, bring the tight ends in and we were able to kind of mess them up on their defense a little and were able to establish the fullback in the second half.

“That’s our game. That’s what we’ve been practicing since January when these coaches got here. We have to stick to what we know. The inside game is for us, and when they take that away, we’ll react and go outside.”

The Lions’ quickest scoring march came at the beginning of the second half when they covered 75 yards in just five snaps. Cox gained six yards on first down but had to exit after losing a shoe. Webster entered and gained six yards for the first down, then handed off to Edwards for 23 yards to the UCO 39. Cox came back in and picked up 30 yards off the right side, and Travis Hurd scored from the 9 on a toss play to the left.

The Lions had possession for 40 minutes — twice as much as UCO — and had fewer turnovers 3-2. One of the Lions’ turnovers was a Hail Mary interception to end the first half.

The Bronchos’ 57 plays were the fewest against the Lions since Central Missouri had 50 snaps in the 2011 opener.

“Overall I thought the clock management was the key to the game,” Daye said. “For the first game, running the triple option and having a lot of new players, to not turn the ball over (a lot) and to control and manage the game pretty good, I was pretty pleased. But we have a lot of room for improvement.”

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