MIAA report: UNO looks to snap losing streak

The Mavericks (3-2, 2-2 MIAA), which is on a two-game skid for the first time since the opening weeks of the 2002 season, return to Al Caniglia Field for their Homecoming game against Missouri Western (2-4, 1-3 MIAA).
UNO has suffered from a bit of the turnover bug — losing the ball 10 times in its last three games to negate the gains of the MIAA’s second-ranked squad in total offense (408.2 ypg).
No. 5 Northwest Missouri State (5-1, 4-0 MIAA) is the last team without an MIAA loss, and for the third straight week will have to take on a nationally-ranked conference foe away from the confines of Bearcat Stadium.
The Bearcats will go to Warrensburg Saturday (Oct. 11) to face No. 17 Central Missouri (5-1, 3-1 MIAA) at Walton Stadium. It is the fourth time the schools will meet with both ranked nationally — Northwest won two of the previous three.
The MIAA’s top two scoring offenses — Northwest at 43.0 ppg and UCM at 37.0 ppg — will be on display and both teams have generated an average of 400 yards on offense through six games in 2008.
The Mules defense, ranked ninth in the conference at 390.5 yards allowed per game entering the week, will get a big test. They held Emporia State scoreless until the fourth quarter in their 42-14 win last week.
Northwest has won the last four meetings with Central Missouri, with last year’s 28-26 victory the closest.
Pittsburg State (5-1, 3-1 MIAA) will try to bounce back from its third straight loss to Northwest in the Fall Classic at Arrowhead as the Gorillas return home to take on Truman (3-2, 2-2 MIAA).
PSU was held to 86 rushing yards in the loss to Northwest, and just 228 yards total offense.
The Bulldogs are coming off of their first win over a nationally-ranked squad since 2005 — a 26-20 Homecoming triumph in double overtime against then-No. 16 Nebraska-Omaha.
It was an opportunistic Truman defense which scored a pair of touchdowns off UNO turnovers — including the game-winner in the second overtime. The Bulldogs lead the MIAA (and are tied for eighth in Division II) with an average turnover margin of +1.60.
Western jumped out to a 21-0 last week against Fort Hays State thanks to short fields earned through a partially-blocked punt and an interception returned to the FHSU 4-yard line. The Griffons had to hold off a late Tigers charge to come away with a 31-28 win — Western’s only second-half TD was on an interception return.
FHSU (2-4, 1-3 MIAA) comes back home to host Missouri Southern (3-3, 1-3 MIAA) after suffering its 16th straight road loss last week at Western.
The Tigers were breaking in a new quarterback against the Griffons, as sophomore Anthony Smith moved under center from his wide receiver spot to replace an injured junior Mike Garrison.
Smith needed time for adjustment, accounting for 106 of his 197 yards of total offense and both of his TDs in the fourth quarter in his first start.
The Lions had trouble getting into enemy territory during their 23-0 shutout loss to Washburn. Southern only crossed the 50 three times against the Ichabods, the deepest penetration being the WU 27 late in the game.
Sacks on two of the next three plays sent the Lions back to the WU 41, where the drive ended on downs.
The Ichabods (4-2, 2-2 MIAA) host the Emporia State Hornets (3-3, 1-3 MIAA) for their Homecoming game as the longest active series between NCAA Division II schools is renewed for the 105th time.
Washburn’s defense was the majority of its offense in the win over Southern, as the Ichabods returned two interceptions for touchdowns. WU is plus-6 on turnovers during the last two games — both wins. The Ichabods have recorded less than 300 yards of total offense in three of their last four games.
ESU was down to playing its third-string quarterback in the loss to UCM due to injuries, but true freshman Sheldon Smith came through. He accounted for both touchdowns for the Hornets on TD passes of 39 and 67 yards in the fourth quarter.

The MIAA had schools ranked 3-4-5 in the initial ranking for NCAA Division II Super Region 4 released Monday (Oct. 6).
With undefeated schools West Texas A&M (6-0) and Abilene Christian (Texas) (5-0) in the top two spots, Northwest was ranked third, followed by Pittsburg State and Central Missouri. Midwestern (Texas) State was sixth, with Central Washington at No. 7.
Texas A&M-Kingsville and Tarleton (Texas) State were eighth and ninth, while Truman was the MIAA’s fourth representative at No. 10.
The top six schools in the super region ranking at the end of the regular season advance to the playoffs.

When Truman junior FS Demetrius Lavant picked off a pass in the second overtime vs. Nebraska-Omaha and returned it for a touchdown, he etched the Bulldogs in MIAA history.
Truman became the first MIAA team to win an overtime game with a defensive score since the rule was enacted in 1996.

There have been 13 interceptions returned for touchdowns this season in the MIAA — and last Saturday (Oct. 4), the “pick-six” business was booming.
Washburn had two in its win over Missouri Southern, while Missouri Western and Fort Hays State traded interception return TDs in the third quarter of their game.
Truman rounded out the quintet of lottery picks with its history-making, game-winning INT in the Bulldogs’ double-OT win over Nebraska-Omaha.

Missouri Southern senior QB Adam Hinspeter had 147 yards of total offense in the Lions’ 23-0 loss to Washburn, but it was enough to move him into sixth place on the MIAA’s career list.
With 8,141 yards, he pass Northwest Missouri State’s Josh Lamberson (2002-05 — 8,064) for sixth place on the MIAA’s career total offense. Washburn’s Tyler Schuerman (2000-04 — 8,315) is next on the list.

Team-by-Team Notes

Nebraska-Omaha: The last time the Mavericks lost back-to-back conference games was in 2001 — as part of a five-game slide which included a playoff game vs. PSU and the first two games of 2002… UNO is ranked fourth in Division II rushing offense (249.2 ypg)… Senior WR/KR Troy Kush is tied for ninth D-II with a punt return average of 14.5 ypr… Western is the second school the Mavericks will play their first game against in 2008 (Southern was the other).
Central Missouri:
The Mules last win over Northwest Missouri State came in 2003, a 52-24 victory in Maryville… Sophomore TE DeMarco Cosby (121) and senior RB Glenn Milner (114) logged their first career 100-yard receiving games vs. ESU… Milner need two more TDs to become the fifth player in UCM history to score 30 in a career… Junior QB Eric Czerniewski needs two completions to move into seventh place on the school’s career list (he has 270).

Emporia State:
The Hornets last defeated Washburn in 2003, a 35-28 overtime win, but still holds a 51-47-6 lead in the previous 104 meetings… ESU’s 18.4 average on punt returns is fifth-best in Division II this week… Senior WR Sean Partridge needs 74 more yards to match his best season total of 385 set in 2007… With his three catches for 119 yards vs. UCM, freshman WR Xavier Smith surpassed his season yardage total entering the game (118).

Fort Hays State:
The Tigers are 1-1 against Southern since joining the MIAA, winning the 2006 meeting in Hays by a 10-0 score, but losing, 6-0, in Joplin last season… FHSU did not allow a sack vs. Western, the first time that has happened in the last 25 games… The Tigers lead the MIAA in rushing defense (93.2 yapg), but they’ve allowed 127.5 ground yards in MIAA games… Junior K Nathan Rausa missed his first field goal of the season vs. Western.

Missouri Southern:
The Lions lead the series with FHSU, 11-9-1, and have won seven of the last eight games going back to 1983… Southern is 16th in Division II pass defense with a rating of 99.89… Senior DB/KR Jordan Patton remains 10th in Division II with his average of 31 yards per kickoff return… Southern had just 20 rushing yards in the loss to Washburn… Junior LB Jared Brawner has recorded double-figure tackles in three straight games.

Missouri Western:
The Griffons will meet Nebraska-Omaha for the first time… The win over FHSU snapped a four-game slide for Western… After missing most of the Washburn game due to injury, junior WR Cedric Houston had three catches for 39 yards and a TD vs. the Tigers — he still maintains the MIAA receiving yardage lead (78.3 ypg)… Senior K Dustin Strickler has made 52 straight point-after kicks, matching the school record he set last season.

Northwest Missouri State:
The Bearcats have won five of the last six against Central Missouri, and have a 50-34-2 lead in the overall series… Of the three previous times Northwest and UCM have played as ranked foes, the Bearcats were the lower-ranked team… Senior WR Kendall Wright had a career-high 11 receptions for 157 yards vs. PSU… Northwest had 127 unanswered points over four games before the Gorillas scored in the second period.

Pittsburg State:
PSU has a 23-14-1 lead in the series, and has won the last 20 games played since 1989… Four of the 20 were shutouts, including last season’s 40-0 win in Kirksville… Three of the wins came after PSU losses to Northwest… Sophomore P Jared Witter slipped to second in the Division II punting ranking (45.6 ypp)… Senior QB Mark Smith is ninth in Division II passing efficiency (172.23 rating), as are the Gorillas as a team (169.53 rating).

The Bulldogs’ last win over Pittsburg State came in 1980 at the Moila Shrine Bowl in St. Joseph, Mo. — Truman’s last win in Pittsburg was in 1969 (14-13)… Junior DB Derek Rodriguez set a Truman record with his 93-yard fumble return against UNO… All four of the Bulldogs’ overtime wins have come at Stokes Stadium… Truman has three interception return TDs this season — tied with Missouri Western for most in the MIAA.

The Ichabods have won the last four meetings against the Hornets and five of the last six… Senior RB Brandon Walker needs 61 yards to become the sixth player in school history to reach 2000 career rushing yards… Junior LB Zach Watkins needs one more tackle to be the fifth Ichabod to reach 300 for a career… Head coach Craig Schurig is two wins shy of tying Ernest Bearg (1918-19, ’29-35) for third on the school’s coaching victories list.