Coming home won’t be easier

Junior Korie Henry reaches for the goal line as he is tackled by a Pittsburg State defender. PSU won the game 21-14 after a last-second touchdown.

Junior Korie Henry reaches for the goal line as he is tackled by a Pittsburg State defender. PSU won the game 21-14 after a last-second touchdown.

Andrew Ford

If fans and players want to mourn last week’s controversial loss to Pitt State, they’re probably better off to wait a little longer.

While last Saturday the Lions were within 16 seconds of forcing an overtime against the No. 7 Gorillas, they’ll face a larger obstacle tomorrow against fifth-ranked University of Nebraska – Omaha.

Though the Mavericks are new to the MIAA, they are expected to contend for the conference title and were voted second in the preseason conference coach’s poll.

This will be the first meeting between the Lions and UNO, though the Mavs are familiar with the MIAA heavyweights PSU and Northwest Missouri State. UNO has faced them 36 times.

The Mav’s have lined up and come out on top 19 times (with one draw) for a winning percentage of .528.

Not bad against two teams that typically compete for the MIAA title.

The Lions’ defense will have to play lights-out to stop what was last year’s fourth-best rushing offense in the country.

Similar to PSU, the Maverick offense has transitioned from being a run-heavy offense to one that is more balanced and led by talented senior quarterback Zach Miller.

Though this is Southern’s first contest against the Mavericks, Lions Head Coach Bart Tatum faced UNO while an assistant coach at Northwest Missouri and says the Lions will be prepared.

“They do what they do,” he said. “We know what they do. So It’s not an overwhelming concern about getting tricked or not being prepared.

“We’ll have a good idea of what they’re going to do, the challenge is to slow them down.”

Through the air, Miller transitioned well last year to becoming a passing threat and completed more than 60 percent of his passes for more than 1,553 yards.

In UNO’s game against Emporia State last week, Miller was a efficient, throwing 20-29 for 239 yards and no interceptions.

“They’re more committed to the running game but they’re productivity is pretty even, which is scary,” Tatum said. “It will be a tremendous challenge for our defense to try and contain him and slow him down a little bit.”

Still, the mobile Miller is quick for 230 pounds and will likely tuck and run much of the game as he averages 8.3 yards per rush.

“We have to contain him you know and try and get some pressure on him,” junior strong-side linebacker Rudy Mascaro said. “Hopefully we can get a couple hacks on him through out the game and try and stir up his head a little.”

The Lions will likely find motivation this week in beating a top-five opponent, which would be the football program’s first.

“Any team like this that we would beat would put us on the map,” Mascaro said. “We’ve had a lot of close games against tough opponents but sometimes we just can’t get it.

“A win against UNO would be huge for our team.”