Emporia State, ranked #10 in Divison II football, squad suffered their first loss at the hands of DII powerhouse Northwest Missouri State Bearcats, 48-21. This game was one of the biggest in school history giving the winner at least a share of the MIAA title and ensuring a playoff birth. After the first quarter, the Hornets were up 7-6 but things went south in a big way the last three quarters.
Brent Wilson, sophomore quarterback, was brought down seven times behind the line of scrimmage by a Bearcat defensive line that showed their dominance from the opening minutes. Wilson was thrown off of his game in a big way, he has made a living making plays seemingly out of nothing at times the thing that has defensive coordinators around the league baffled but Saturday he had no time which affected his passing rhythm. Garin Higgins, head coach, said Wilson was pretty uncomfortable in the pocket.
“They’ve got a good defensive line. They’re fast, physical and aggressive,” Higgins said. “We tried to do some things to get Brent (Wilson) protected up, but we weren’t real consistent with our protection. He was uncomfortable. When you’ve got a defensive line coming at you, it’s kind of like blood in the water for sharks.”
As far as how this affected things moving into next week’s Turnpike Tussle matchup with Washburn, which has big post-season implications, the team’s attitude still seemed pretty confident.
“We’ve just got to pick it up and get ready for Washburn,” said Ray Ray Davis, senior wide receiver and business major. “Hopefully, the polls vote us in but we just got to go out and win next week.”
After the 7-6 start, Northwest Missouri scored twice to make it 20-7 going into halftime.
Coming out of the half, ESU received the second half kickoff only to have an interception at their own 18-yard line and let the Bearcats score three plays later. Making it 27-7 and looking all but over for the deflated Hornets, mid-way through the third Jordan Sanders, senior defensive back got a fumble recovery for ESU and that led to a score a few plays later and things were looking up only to have a Bearcat touchdown on the next drive and the momentum went right back on the visiting sideline.
“Our defense played great for who they went up against, and certainly we thought momentum was headed our way after the touchdown, but you got to give respect to them,” Wilson, sophomore business major said. “They are a great football team”
If there is a silver lining in all of this, it is that the Turnpike Tussle means more now than it has in several years and not only do the Hornets still have a good shot to make the playoffs but they get to beat Washburn to do it. The Hornets are set to play Washburn 1:00 Saturday at Welch Stadium.