Lions lose second straight


Willie Brown, The Chart

Senior quarterback Kellen Cox rolls out to pass during a Sept. 22 loss against Southwest Baptist at Fred G. Hughes stadium. This week, Missouri Southern had more passing yards than rushing yards in a game for the first time all season. Landon Zerkel was the biggest beneficiary of the new passing attack, gaining 150 yards on just four catches, most of those coming on a 63-yard touchdown reception.

The Missouri Southern football team went into Warrensburg Saturday night looking to get the season back on track, but the Central Missouri Mules were too much to handle.

The Lions were able to hang with the Mules early, but 21 unanswered points starting late in the first half brought the team its second straight defeat.

In the loss, however, the team showed a bright spot, finally opening up the passing game that had been sorely missing all season.

“It’s just something, again, that was available,” Head Coach Daryl Daye said. “They had their safety down at times a little bit too shallow, and that gave us an opportunity to get the ball behind them.”

Landon Zerkel, senior wide receiver, improved his standing on Southern’s all-time catches list. He’s now only 64 catches from tying Colin Bado for first on the list.

Senior quarterback Kellen Cox hooked up with Zerkel four times for 150 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

Cox didn’t throw all the passes, however, as freshman Jay McDowell took his first snaps of the season in place of the injured Kyle Webster.

“Kyle’s elbow is still an issue,” Daye said. “He can’t fully extend it yet. I’m not going to put a guy on the field who can’t protect himself.”

This week is Homecoming on campus, meaning the Lions are under more pressure than usual to put on a good show.

South Dakota Mines, a team with a paltry 1-4 record, will be in Joplin this weekend looking for a second consecutive victory.

“We’re prepared for this team to come in here and give us a heck of a ballgame and it to come down to the fourth quarter again,” Daye said.

The Hardrockers feature a diverse offense that has seen some success both in the air and on the ground.

In fact, the team has two rushers with over 230 yards this season, both of whom are averaging over five yards per carry.

The Lions come into the game with the ninth-ranked run defense in the country, thanks in large part to stars on the defensive line, including Brandon Williams.

Williams, a senior and pre-season All-American, didn’t make much noise in last week’s game against the Mules, but he had a good excuse for the abnormal output.

“You guys have to understand, [Williams] had a child at four in the morning the night before and drove all the way up and got there two hours before the game, so it’s not an excuse, but I also just want to say congratulations to him,” Daye said.

Williams went into the game against Central just half a sack away from tying the all time record at Missouri Southern.

He came up short, however, and will have a chance to break the record at home on Saturday.

The Rockers usually throw the ball about 20 times a game, meaning Williams will have plenty of opportunities. This also means the secondary will have plenty of opportunities to make big plays.

“You’ve just got to be prepared like Coach [Daye] talks about,” Devon Dace, senior cornerback, said. “Practicing hard every day and not wasting a rep, so when the opportunity comes, you’ve made the play over and over in practice so in game time it’s easy.”

Practice has been successful for the Lions this week, hopefully meaning they’ll come away with their fourth win of 2012 Saturday.

“The concentration was good, the intensity was good, there’s focus there, you know,” Daye said. “We didn’t make a lot of mistakes, we didn’t turn the ball over in practice. Those things that we were trying to improve on were improved [Tuesday], so we plan on maintaining that [Wednesday] and getting better as well. This is no different for us than any other conference game.”

Homecoming activities will get started at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow with an alumni brunch, followed by the homecoming parade at 11 a.m.

The game will kick off at 2 p.m. at Fred G. Hughes Stadium.