Remember what Washburn did

Jesse Cordova - Assistant Sports Editor

Jesse Cordova – Assistant Sports Editor

Does anyone remember what Washburn University did a few years ago?

The Ichabods, fresh off another losing season, came into the 2004 campaign with a purpose. They took everyone by surprise with an 8-4 record and a 36-33 victory in the annual Mineral Water Bowl. All this a year after the Ichabods finished 5-6.

A 5-6 record the season before. Sound familiar?

In 2005, a young but talented Washburn football squad won an MIAA championship and made an appearance in the national playoffs. Now a defensive tackle with the Atlanta Falcons, Trey Lewis was a junior that coaches said showed a lot of promise. Last year, he was a NCAA Division II All-American.

Young and talented. Sound familiar?

On offense they were paced by a wide receiver named Sam Sissom and quarterback Jordan Brill. Sissom led the MIAA in touchdown receptions. Brill was an honorable mention All-MIAA pick.

A stud wide receiver and an All-MIAA quarterback. Sound familiar?

The Missouri Southern Lions marched into the 2007 campaign looking to make a statement. That statement came through loud and clear with a 51-0 victory over Haskell University last Thursday.

The message: The 2007 version of the Southern football team comes complete with a new attitude.

Second-year head coach Bart Tatum has done a superb job of weeding out the players that weren’t serious about becoming the next big thing in the MIAA. The players on this team know they have the talent to compete at a high level.

For the first time in a very long time, the team is walking tall. They carry a chip on their shoulders after being picked to finish in the lower half of the conference yet again.

One of the biggest problems the team has had in recent years is the defense. They used to be a sad combination of slow and soft. Now this is a defensive unit that swarms to the ball on every play. And they get there in a hurry.

During the public scrimmage, the defense routinely frustrated redshirt freshman Renard Johnson, sophomore Toderick Hunt, and junior Ronnell Newman by not giving them any daylight. Nearly every play ended the same way. Handoff, two steps to the line of scrimmage, THWOP! And it didn’t stop with one hit like in years past. One could blink after the first contact and when their eyes opened again, there were four, five, even six defenders driving the ball carrier backward, absolutely refusing to give an inch. The runner might get a few yards if he fell forward, but almost never more than two or three.

And folks, these runners are no slouches. Johnson, who played at high school powerhouse Tulsa Union, had eight carries for 148 yards in the team’s opener last week. Hunt carried 19 times for 109 yards and a score.

The defense, which allowed just 115 yards of total offense, seven first downs, and zero points last week, was stout and, maybe more importantly, mean. This is a defense that isn’t taking anyone’s crap. A defense that is sick and tired of being run over, around and through. A defense that is finally ready to step up.

For the last three seasons, offense has been the hallmark of this team. In 2007 the defense is good enough to prove the old saying:

“Offense sells tickets. Defense wins Championships.”