Ian Carlson

A Couple Upsets in Week 2, and an Intriguing Week 3

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After an opening week that went chalk for the most part, we had a much more exciting second week. Two big upsets went down, and four of the six road teams won their games in Week 2. Here’s a quick rundown:

Nebraska Kearney 31
Central Oklahoma 27

In the first of the two upsets, the Lopers found themselves 2-0 for the first time as members of the the MIAA after winning a tough, back and forth game against the Bronchos. Luke Quinn scored the game winning touchdown with 1:11 left in the gam and after allowing two quick UCO completions that put the ball on the UNK 28, the Lopers held their ground and turned the ball over on downs to clinch the game. Unlike many games in previous years, UNK answered every UCO score in the second half with one of their own, and the defense did just enough to win. UNK QB Alex McGinnis had a nice day, going 6 for 8 for 166 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions, while adding another 58 yards on the ground for the league’s best rushing team through two games.The Bronchos find themselves in yet another hole, and the schedule gets pretty tough for awhile.

Northeastern State 10
Central Missouri 62

The Mules suffered a big blow to their Championship hopes when QB Brook Bolles went down with an injury in the third quarter of the opening loss to Fort Hays. Going forward, it’s “next man up” for the Mules, as Bolles is done for the season. Backup QB Kyle Bradley struggled in relief for Bolles last week, but got the start against the Riverhawks. He split time with Jeremy Hunt and the two QBs were able to help the team generate 608 yards of offense and 34 first downs. Bradley still had some struggles, going just 5 of 13 for 126 yards; 86 of those came on a catch and run by Kyrion Parker on the last play of the first quarter for one of Bradley’s two touchdown passes. Hunt also had two TD passes, and was a little more efficient, completing 11 of 15 passes for 175 yards. The Mules ran for 294 yards on the ground and the game was effectively over after Parker’s touchdown.

Northwest Missouri State 38
Washburn 17

This game was a real battle for about 3 quarters, and then the Bearcats pulled away in the 4th, scoring the game’s last 24 points. Washburn QB Blake Peterson connected on two nice touchdown passes in the first half that gave the Ichabods a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter, but NWMSU QB Braden Wright tied the game up on a 27 yard touchdown run a little later, and each team had 14 at the half. Washburn took their last lead on their opening drive of the third quarter, and after that, the Ichabod defense wore down. Wright ran for another touchdown to take the lead for good at 21-17 about halfway through the third, and the Ichabods couldn’t solve the Bearcat defense the rest of the way. Wright, the MIAA Offensive Player of the Week, finished with 233 yards and one TD through the air to go with his game leading 118 yards and 2 TDs on the ground, and overall Northwest finished with 276 yards rushing. After allowing slightly over 210 yards per game a year ago, the Bearcat defense has allowed over 300 total yards to both of their opponents this year (347 to MWSU and 326 to WU), but the improvement on offense is making up for the drop-off thus far.

Fort Hays State 13
Missouri Western State 23

The defending MIAA champions, ranking fifth in Division II coming into the game, rolled into Spratt Stadium fresh off a dramatic come from behind win against UCM in Week one and a thirteen-regular-season-game win streak. Jacob Mezera threw for 338 yards and the Tiger defense held Dom Marino to just 78 yards passing. In fact, the Griffons only gained 15 first downs on the game, and were outgained in total offense 370-302. Knowing these facts would lead one to believe the Tigers’ MIAA winning streak reached 14 games, but that obviously did not happen. MIAA Defensive Player of the Week Jabbar Miles picked Mezera off twice, and MIAA Special Teams Player of the Week Brandin Dandridge also got a pick in addition to averaging almost 30 yards on his three punt returns. All three of Mezera’s picks were in or near the Griffon end zone, and Missouri Western rang the victory bell for the first time this season.

Pittsburg State 34
Emporia State 13

Going into Week 2, this game and the NWMSU/WU game were the most intriguing to me, and just like the other game, this one was a tight one through three quarters. In fact, this game also had the road team scoring the game’s final 24 points, as the Gorillas shut the Hornets out in the second half after trailing 13-10 at the break. For the second time in three games against each other, PSU QB John Roderique passed for more yardage than ESU QB Braxton Marstall, and the Gorilla defense shut Marstall down in this one. The Hornets were able to run for 181 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per carry, but Marstall completed only 7 of his 24 passes for just 72 yards. The Gorilla defense wore down the ESU defense in the second half, finishing the game with touchdown drives of 98 and 42 yards sandwiched around a 56 yard TD pass from Roderique to Brenner Clemons in the fourth quarter to give the Gorillas a three touchdown margin. Through two games, the PSU defense leads the league, allowing 243.5 yards per game.

Lindenwood 51
Missouri Southern State 13

The lone Saturday game in Week 2 was another one that was close at the half before the road team pulled away late. Lindenwood jumped out to a 20-0 lead early in the second quarter and then Southern scored on three straight drives to get within a touchdown going into the second half. LU Head Coach Jed Stugart must have had a heck of a halftime speech, as his team responded with four touchdowns in the third quarter to blow the game open. Missouri Southern ran for 231 yards, with running back Caleb Batie gaining a game-high 151 yards, but MSSU QB Sean Kelly gained just 33 yards through the air on 11 of 24 passing. He also threw an interception, which was returned for the second of the four third quarter Lindenwood touchdowns. LU QB Cade Brister completed 20 of 33 passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns while adding another 57 on the ground. Erik Henneman caught 8 passes for 74 yards, and half of those receptions were touchdowns, and Lindenwood racked up 488 yards of offense.

Ranking the Teams

After two weeks, there are just 3 undefeated teams. Two of those teams have enjoyed many seasons atop the MIAA standings through the years, with NWMSU and PSU enjoying a lot of success on the national stage in their respective storied histories. The other, who has also enjoyed success atop their conference standings in the past, has never been in this position as members of the MIAA after two weeks. The UNK Lopers were perennial contenders in the RMAC before joining the premier conference in 2012, but this year is new territory for the program. Meanwhile, half the conference sits at 1-1, and the other three teams are 0-2. Obviously, a lot is going to happen over the next few weeks and teams will separate themselves over that time, but part of the fun of covering this league is ranking the teams, even if the sample size is far too small to get a completely accurate feel. With that in mind, here is how I have the teams ranked after the first two weeks:

1. PSU-best defense early on and always a tough offense to stop
2. NWMSU-clearly better on offense than last year, but also not as dominant on defense
3. UCM-an injury away from being ranked on top, in my opinion
4. FHSU-yes, they lost to MoWest, but I don’t believe Mezera will have another three-redzone-INT game
5. MWSU-if Marino can improve his accuracy, this team will be a very tough out
6. UNK-a bruising running game and a tough defense is usually a good recipe for success-even in today’s college football-but can they sustain it?
7. WU-can pass and defend the pass decently, but having troubles running and defending the run
8. ESU-How is a Brandon Marstall-led offense ranked 11th in passing?
9. LU-ranked 3rd in defense, but haven’t faced a top tier unit yet
10. UCO-10th in offense and 9th in defense—graduation losses from last year are hurting
11. NSU-all the offseason roster turnover hasn’t helped as of yet
12. MSSU-two lopsided losses against 3-8 and 4-7 teams from a year ago.

Week 3 Previews

Barring some strange circumstance that forces a change, the rest of the regular season games are on Saturdays from here on out. Week three is interesting for a couple reasons: four of the six games look to be pretty competitive on paper (the other two games are undefeated teams against winless teams), and we have our first Homecoming game of the year taking place in Kearney, Nebraska. Here’s how I see them going:

Missouri Western State (1-1) at #19 Central Missouri (1-1) 1PM
Family Day

For the second straight week, the first game to kickoff is also my Game of the Week. These two teams have played some really good games over the past few years, with no game being decided by more than four points from 2011-2016. Even last year’s 66-44 win by UCM was within a single score with under five minutes to play before disaster struck for the Griffons. UCM Head Coach Jim Svoboda is 4-4 against the Griffons, and his teams have won the last three in the series. The season is still very young, but through two games, it sure seems like the Griffons are in the midst of reversing their downward trend since 2017.

Despite the injury to Brook Bolles, the Mules lead the league in total offense and sit at #2 in total defense. Sure, they are coming off a blowout win at home over the Riverhawks, but they still gained over 500 yards of offense against the Tigers in week one. With Bolles out, the Mules may not be quite as explosive through the air, but they are churning out the yards on the ground so far this year, ranking second in the league after two games. The Griffons just happen to have the league’s second best run defense in the early going, so it will be interesting to see which team wins the line of scrimmage when the Mules have the ball. Looming large, however, is the fact that the Griffons have allowed the most passing yards so far this year, and if there is one thing Svoboda likes to do, it is to advance the ball through the air. Still, with backs like Devonte Turner and Koby Wilkerson, the pressure on the QBs should be lessened a bit.

If the Griffons are going to pull off a second straight upset, they are going to need a big game from Dom Marino, and he is probably going to need to have the success he did in the first half of the game against NWMSU through the air throughout the whole game against the Mules, unless Shamar Griffith has some sort of record breaking day. I’m just not sure the Griffons have the horses on the offensive side of the ball to be able to outscore the Mules, and unless they can force multiple turnovers and/or get some big kick returns again, I don’t think they will be able to stay with the high powered UCM offense, even sans Bolles.

UCM 30

Missouri Southern State (0-2) at #3 Northwest Missouri State (2-0) 1:30 PM
Family Day

Time will tell if the Bearcats are truly back to being amongst the nation’s elite teams, but the big question in this matchup is, how long can the Lions stay in the game? The closest games in this series this decade were 24 point margins in 2012 and 2016, and most games have been over by halftime. Even last year, a decidedly down year for the Bearcat program, was a 63-0 drubbing at Bearcat Stadium. Things have not gone well for the Lions thus far on either side of the ball, and the Bearcats have shown some improvement on offense while not being as ridiculously dominant on the defensive side of the ball they have been over the previous four campaigns. One thing is pretty likely, though, and that is the Lions will probably not have much success in running the ball. Even though NWMSU has given up some yardage through the air in the first two games (ranking 11th through the first two games), they are once again leading the conference in rushing defense. The Lions must absolutely get more than 33 yards through the air to at least keep the game competitive. I think they do the former, but the latter is not likely.


Emporia State (1-1) at Nebraska Kearney (2-0) 2PM

The Lopers are undefeated going into their Homecoming game for the first time since the 2011 season, their last season in the RMAC before joining the MIAA in 2012. They were 3-0 going into that game (a 55-14 win over Western State), and, oddly enough, the second game of that season was a 65-10 win over Northeastern State, who finished the 2011 regular season 7-4 and was the last non-MIAA team to play the NSIC in the Mineral Water Bowl (they also joined the MIAA the next year). Fast forward to the 2018 season, and the Lopers are still looking for their first Homecoming victory in the MIAA. In fact they haven’t beaten too many teams in the MIAA since joining, but one of the teams they have a win against is ESU (42-40 in 2014). Head Coach Josh Lynn has the Loper program trending up from the Josh Lamberson era before him, although that’s not saying a lot considering they went 1-21 in those two years. Still, there is no question they are even better than last year’s 3-8 team, with the league’s best rushing attack and the fourth best defense through two games.

Emporia had been one of the better offenses in the league the past few years, but they have had a bit rougher go of it so far this year, especially in the passing game. After having a very good string of QB play from Tyler Eckinrode to Brent Wilson to Braxton Marstall this decade, Marstall is leading the second worst pass offense through two games. The bright side is that Marstall and running back Landon Nault (who leads the MIAA in rushing) are getting it done on the ground, but the Lopers will have the best rush defense they have seen so far this season. This should be a very good game where I won’t be surprised by either team winning, but with UNK trending up and ESU seemingly trending down, I’m picking the home team in this one.

ESU 20
UNK 21

Washburn (1-1) at #16 Fort Hays State (1-1) 7PM

In-state rivals with each team headed by coaches with ties to another Kansas school in Pittsburg, this is another intriguing game. FHSU Head Coach Chris Brown took over the Tiger program in 2011, and the Ichabods have been a bit of a thorn in his side. Even though the Tigers have improved in every year since he got there through last year, he has only beaten WU Head Coach Craig Shurig twice (2015 and 2017). I keep mentioning that there have only been two games so far this season, but it’s still worth mentioning that, after finishing with the conference’s #2 defense last year, the 2018 FHSU defense is ranked ahead of just Northeastern State and Missouri Southern. Of course, one of those two games was against the Mules and Brook Bolles before the Tigers knocked him out of the game, but, like the aforementioned Bearcat defense, it seems like they’ve taken a preliminary step back compared to a year ago.

Strangely enough, after having some incredible running backs in recent years in Shaq Cooper and Kenneth Iheme, the Tigers are the least productive rushing team through two games. Despite that, I look for that too change a little this week, as the Ichabods are giving up almost 200 yards per game on the ground. If Tiger RB Charles Tigner can get things going, that should open things up a bit for Mezera and Co. in the air. It seems like Washburn is a better road team than they are in Yager Stadium of late, and while I think that will help them keep the game close, I think the Tigers rebound from last week and defend their home field.

WU 17

Central Oklahoma (0-2) at Lindenwood (1-1) 7PM
Family Day

This series is the second longest road trip in the conference (behind UNK and LU), and UCO has pretty much owned the Lions, with their only loss in the series coming in the 2016 season opener. Any shot at getting to the playoffs for the Bronchos is likely gone, unless they run the table. They have shown they can string a lot of games together, but nine in a row in this league is probably asking too much….especially with the teams looming on the Bronchos’ schedule after Lindenwood. Still, they have dug themselves out of holes before to get to bowl games, and fig they are going to pull that off again this year, this game is a must win. Meanwhile, the Lions are trying to win consecutive games against a combination of teams other than MSSU and UNK since 2013.

The UCO offense has not been near as dynamic in 2018 as they have been in the past. With a new quarterback, that isn’t a complete surprise when it comes to the passing game, but considering the success they’ve had rushing the ball in the past, their current position at #9 in the MIAA is a bit eye widening. Conversely, even when Connor Harris was tackling everyone under the sun at Lindenwood, I don’t believe they were ever ranked as high as third in the conference in total defense (yes, through two games…I know). The Lions are particularly tough against the pass in the young season, and they also have been pretty good at getting off the field on third down. Considering the Bronchos are next to last in converting third downs, I think the Lions put the Bronchos into a hole too tough to get out of.

UCO 21
LU 27

#14 Pittsburg State (2-0) at Northeastern State (0-2) 7PM

In Week 3 of 2016, the Riverhawks came into the Jungle with a 1-1 record and came oh so close to a big upset, losing 38-37 in overtime after electing to go for two for the win and falling short. At the time, it looked like NSU Head Coach Rob Robinson had the Riverhawks going in the right direction after going winless in his first year in 2014 and 3-8 in 2015. Unfortunately for the NSU faithful, that game seemingly broke the spirit of the team, and they finished with just one more win in 2016, and last year the only win was against winless MSSU. Meanwhile, the Gorillas have enjoyed a bit of a resurgence after starting last year 2-4 and then running the table. They are 2-0 for the first time since 2015, and are looking to be 3-0 for the first time since 2014. Considering the 2016 contest was the only close game of the series since NSU joined the MIAA and the Gorillas have dominated the Riverhawks, the Gorillas will walk into Doc Wadley Stadium with a mental edge. Of course, they also likely have a physical edge, as they are better statistically than the Riverhawks in just about every category. The Gorillas are near the top in the league and the Riverhawks near the bottom almost across the board. I seriously doubt that changes in this game, and that divide only widens. Barring an injury to Roderique, this game is probably over early.

PSU 52
NSU 14

(Last week: 4-2)
(Season: 10-2)

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please post below! You can also follow me on Twitter @IanD2FMIAA

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Updated 09-11-2018 at 07:26 PM by Ian Carlson

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  1. Predatory Primates's Avatar
    Nice work. Thanks for doing it.
  2. mtxe's Avatar
    Call me stupid, but I don’t understand your pick!
    You pick Pitt as #1, ESU goes toe to toe with them for 3 quarters, gives up 3 big players in the 4th to lose. Hope I don’t jinx us for the UNK game.
    It’s your blog though...Thank You for what you do.
  3. RollChos's Avatar
    A little disrespect toward UCO, however, after the way we played the first two weeks, maybe we deserved it
  4. Ian Carlson's Avatar
    Disrespect, how? Because I picked them to lose? In that case I disrespect half the league every week.

    I don’t believe that to be the case.