The Hornets suffered their second loss this season, 55-10, against the Northwest Missouri Bearcats on Saturday in Maryville, Miss.
“It was a punch in the gut,” said Head Coach Garin Higgins. “Momentum is vitally important playing on the road, and it was a huge factor.”
The Hornets set up a 43-yard field goal for the freshman kicker Eli Kuhns with just under seven minutes to go in the first quarter. The score put Emporia State up 3-0 for their first and only lead of the game. But five seconds later, Jordan Simmons of the #4-ranked Bearcats took an 85-yard kick return for their first score of the game to put the Bearcats up 7-3 over the #20-ranked Hornets.
Simmons ran in another score before the end of the quarter, this one coming off a 1-yard run to put them up 14-3.
The Bearcats opened with a field goal with 12 minutes to go in the half to put them up 17-3. Within two and half minutes, James Franklin scored two quick touchdowns to continue the Bearcats offensive showing.
Just before the half, Simmons ran in another 1-yard score, pushing the score to 38-3.
After a 45-yard Bearcat field goal, senior quarterback Tyler Eckenrode led the offense to the Bearcats’ 4-yard line, trying to put a touchdown on the board. But Eckenrode was denied and intercepted in the end zone.
Coming off an interception, the Bearcats went 80 yards and struck again on the scoreboard with another Simmons run.
Eckenrode connected on all three of his passes for 70 yards as he marched the Hornets down on a 75-yard scoring drive, which resulted in a 5-yard direct snap-rushing touchdown for Ray Ray Davis, junior receiver.
That was the only touchdown of the game for the high octane offense of the ESU Hornets.
Eckenrode threw for 267 yards off of 34 pass attempts as he surpassed Tad Hatfield for the record of most passing yards in a season with 3,075 and counting.
“All those stats are great, but at the end of the day, the only stat I care about is wins and losses,” Eckenrode, a management information systems major, said.
Davis had a season high nine catches for 138 yards on top of his touchdown. Josh Taylor, senior cornerback, led the way for the Hornets defensively with 15 tackles, while Chris Poston, junior defensive back, gained his third interception for the season.
Despite dropping their second straight game, the Hornets are still ranked #25 in the nation and have a possibility of making the playoffs. Their record now stands 8-2.
But before they can do anything in the playoffs, they must first win their final regular season game on the road in the Turnpike Tussle against Washburn.
“It’s Washburn week, time to put the screws down,” Higgins said. “We have an opportunity – this is where we wanted to be at the end of the year, (and) now it’s time to execute.”
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. Saturday in Topeka.