Lions looking for second win

Sophomores+Beau+Bounus+and+Brayden+Prough+run%C2%A0+blocking+drills+at+practice+last+week.+The+Lion+offensive+line+will+play+a+more+important+role+this+season+than+in+recent+years+due+to+a+new+option+offense+installed+by+first+year+Head+Coach+Daryl+Daye.%0A

Willie Brown, The Chart

Sophomores Beau Bounus and Brayden Prough run  blocking drills at practice last week. The Lion offensive line will play a more important role this season than in recent years due to a new option offense installed by first year Head Coach Daryl Daye.

Nathan Mills, Sports Editor

The Missouri Southern football team kicked off the season with a win against Central Okla., and they’ll try to secure two wins in the first two weeks of the season for the third time in five years as they take on Northeastern State University.

In last week’s 25-20 win over, the Lions looked like a completely different team than in years past, thanks in large part to new Head Coach Daryl Daye and his new systems.

More importantly than the play-book, though, is the way the team’s entire culture has changed.

“We’ve all just meshed really well,” Ryon Phillips, sophomore defensive end, said. “Really quickly, right at the beginning of camp, you know, we got together and hung out a lot, not only on the field but in the dorms or just at somebody’s house hanging out or going and doing stuff together. It’s a lot more close-knit than it was last year.”

Phillips likened the strengthened bonds with his teammates to that of a family, and that family spirit will need to be on full display tomorrow night, particularly for the defense.

The Lion defensive line, known as one of the best in the league and sporting an NFL prospect in Brandon Williams, will go up against a large offensive line that protects a high octane attack.

Last week against defending national champions Pittsburg State, the Riverhawks were able to put up nearly 250 yards passing while gaining well over 100 on the ground in a season-opening loss.

The Lions will counter that attack with a defense that ranks first in the MIAA and no. 26 nationally in total defense, but Daye wants to keep that defense on the sidelines.

“Controlling the clock, that’s one thing,” he said. “Having the ball as long as we did (against UCO), keeping the defense off the field, we got to run 57 plays. If we can do that each game, we’ll be in the game in the fourth quarter with a chance to win, and that’s all we can ask.”

On offense, the Lions bring a top-ranked rushing offense thanks to Daye’s new triple-option attack.

Quarterback Kellen Cox leads that charge with 89 yards rushing and a touchdown so far this season, but he wasn’t the only one running the ball.

Eight other players carried the ball for a total of 249 rushing yards, making this rushing attack the best in the MIAA so far this season, something Daye says isn’t going to change when the Riverhawks come to Joplin tomorrow.

“We’re going to hang our hat on what we do, and that’s being physical, running the ball, shortening the game, and then firing out on defense, causing turnovers …,” he said.

The Lions and Riverhawks have met 16 times in the past, including in Southern’s first game as a four-year institution in 1968. The Riverhawks lead the all-time series 10-6, but Southern has won 6 of the last 9 meetings between these teams.

The two teams last met in 2003 in a game the Riverhawks won 15-10.

“I don’t think about last year or 20 years ago,” Daye said. “That means nothing to us, what’s happened in the past. We are what we are. We’re going to continue to improve and try to close in on the things we need to do to improve.”

The Lions will get to demonstrate it’s changes in tomorrow night’s game at 6 p.m. in Fred G. Hughes stadium.