Call it a step forward.
One week after a disappointing loss to Southwest Baptist, the Missouri Southern Lions bounced back with a 21-14 win over the Central Missouri Mules on Saturday night at Fred G. Hughes Stadium.
It was the Lions’ first win against the Mules since 2006.
“Overall, the effort was outstanding,” Missouri Southern coach Daryl Daye said. “They were emotionally into it. They were tuned in, and they believed. I felt a little change in them tonight, which is good. I felt them believe a little more. That’s a quality MIAA team right there ... a formidable foe. To get that win is huge for us.”
Lions quarterback Jay McDowell rushed for 225 yards and a touchdown, becoming MSSU’s first quarterback to run for 200 yards in a game since Josh Chapman in 2002.
Missouri Southern (4-1, 4-1 MIAA) gained 496 yards of total offense and limited a Central Missouri team that was averaging 446.5 yards to only 200 yards.
“We just did our assignments,” Missouri Southern junior defensive back Jason Brown said. “We just did what the coaches told us to do. We game-planned hard during the week. We did our assignments, and the rest did itself.”
Central Missouri (2-3, 1-3) entered the game scoring 34.5 points per game and passing for 332 yards per game, which was 11th most in NCAA Division II.
The Lions’ defense held Central Missouri to 174 yards through the air.
“We just did what we were told,” said Missouri Southern linebacker Gatlin Ridgway, who led the Lions with eight tackles and one sack. “If you do the things you’re supposed to do, you’re going to be unbeatable. We just capitalized on their mistakes.”
But Central Missouri’s offense looked good early.
On the Mules’ second possession, quarterback Hayden Hawk hit a streaking Ronrei Lloyd down the middle of the field for a 54-yard gain. Four plays later, Hawk found Sean Gorman open for a 6-yard touchdown pass to give the Mules a 7-0 lead.
Hawk completed 6 of 8 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter. But he was only 10 of 24 for 75 yards over the final three quarters.
A week earlier, Missouri Southern allowed SBU quarterback Willie Tindal to pass for 399 yards and three touchdowns.
Daye said they were able to install several new looks to the defense this week.
“Last week, we were having to stay real bland,” Daye said. “We didn’t think the kids were ready to take the next step in this defense. New defense, new coordinator, new everything ... This week we made a commitment and we probably put in 12 new defenses that were out of this 3-3-5 package. The kids committed to it.”
Offensively, Missouri Southern was able to find success with the option. The Lions rushed for 427 yards.
A 63-yard run by McDowell put MSSU in position for its first score. Two plays later, McDowell tied the game at 7 with a 2-yard touchdown run.
The Lions scored touchdowns on their next two possessions as J.J. Jones reached the end zone on runs of 2 and 3 yards. Missouri Southern took a 21-7 lead at the 7:11 mark of the second quarter.
Central Missouri wasn’t able to score again until Hawk hit Ray Harris for a 7-yard touchdown pass with 8:09 left in the game. Runs of 49 and 22 yards by McDowell and Chris Barnwell allowed Missouri Southern to the run the clock out on its final possession.
McDowell said the win was a big confidence builder.
“It was a very big deal,” McDowell said. “Last week, we got upset by SBU. We just wanted to come out and get this win today. We know UCM is a top team. They are going to beat a lot of teams in this conference. We just gave it our all, and came out with the W.”
Call it a step forward.
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Three things coming your way in Saturday’s Joplin Globe.
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