Southern football burned by Washburn


Senior cornerback Martice Buckley wraps up a Nebraska-Kearney receiver in the Hall of Fame Game at Fred G. Hughes stadium on Sept. 18, 2015. The Lions won the game 24-14 for their first win of the season. The Lions have defeated Neb-Kearney in back-to-back seasons, outscoring the Lopers 58-31. Quarterback TJ Fleeton rushed for two touchdowns and passed for another. 

The Missouri Southern football team was looking to make it back-to-back victories when it took on conference opponent Washburn on the road last Saturday. Southern is coming off a 24-14 victory over Nebraska-Kearney on Sept. 19 to notch the Lions’ first win of the season.

“When you work hard, you get rewarded. It’s a little bit easier going back to work,” said head coach Denver Johnson following his first-ever win as Southern head coach.

Washburn came into the matchup riding high after a 28-21 victory over then-No. 4 ranked Pittsburg State, a win which junior wide receiver Chad Nolan thought Washburn clearly deserved.

“They’re a physical team and they held their own,” said Nolan. “I don’t think their win was a fluke. In this conference on any Saturday, anything can happen. They got the better of [Pitt State] on that Saturday.”

The matchup against Washburn was pivotal for Southern after their first win of the season the week before. For Washburn, it was pivotal because the team wanted to prove that last week’s win over Pitt wasn’t a fluke—not to mention, it’s conference matchup.

Both teams traded touchdowns in the first quarter as quarterback TJ Fleeton tied the game with a 3-yard touchdown run. In the second, Washburn scored a touchdown in a drive that only took six plays and 59 seconds. The Lions trailed 13-7 going into half.

The third quarter was all Lions. The Lions scored 14 unanswered in the third quarter. Running back Will Gregory put the Lions up 14-13 with a 2-yard touchdown run. Nolan then put the Lions up eight with his 6-yard touchdown reception. The Lions took a 21-13 lead into the fourth quarter.

Washburn got the ball in the fourth quarter down eight, with 5:35 left. Washburn scored on a 4-play 75-yard possession that took 51 seconds. The Lions’ lead was now cut to two, 21-19. Washburn got the ball back with 3:31 left in the game. Again, Washburn drove down the field and scored another touchdown. Washburn took the lead, 21-27 with 1:16 left. The Lions got the ball on their own 25-yard line to begin the comeback drive. The Lions drove 66 yards down the field, and nine seconds remained on the clock. A last-second pass went through the hands of Chad Nolan in the end zone and Washburn escaped with a 27-21 victory.

“To fight like we did and not come away with a victory, it cut deep,” said junior defensive lineman Chris Williams.

“I felt like our offense didn’t step up on a few drives and really put the game away,” said junior wide receiver Jordan Morrison. “We let them comeback in the game instead of taking the game ourselves.”

Fleeton went 23-42 in the game for 239 yards and one touchdown. Michael Nelson had six catches for 99 yards. Morrison had seven catches for 82 yards.

Defensively, EJ McKenzie had a pair of interceptions for a loss of 26 yards, while making eight stops, including two behind the line of scrimmage. Ricky Green had seven stops, six solo, including 2.5 for a loss and an interception.

The Lions will be back in action next Saturday as they travel to Warrensburg to take on the Central Missouri. Kickoff is set for 1:30 pm.