The Lions take the field Sept. 26 for their Homecoming match with Nebraska-Omaha as Lucy the Lion looks on.

The Lions take the field Sept. 26 for their Homecoming match with Nebraska-Omaha as Lucy the Lion looks on.

Jordan Larimore

Coming off a tough Homecoming loss, it would only seem fair that things got a little easier for the Missouri Southern football Lions.

They won’t.

Tomorrow, the Lions will be matched up against another MIAA powerhouse in the Pittsburg State Gorillas. Southern lost 44-36 last week to the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

PSU will roll into Joplin riding a three-game losing streak, all three losses to conference opponents.

“Our guys are excited about having a really good Pittsburg State team come over this week,” said Lions’ Head Coach Bart Tatum. “We’re excited to play in front of a big crowd and play top-level competition which is what our people are accustomed to every week.”

When they take the field against the Gorillas tomorrow, the Lions may be doing so without starting quarterback Colin Howard, who suffered an injury to his knee late in the game against UNO. His status is day-to-day.

Their 0-3 start to MIAA play has PSU ranked No. 8 in the conference going into the Annual Sonic Miner’s Bowl.

Last week, the Gorillas were bested by the No. 18 team in NCAA Division-II football, the Missouri Western Griffons. The previous week they were upset by the UCM Mules, ranked No. 12 at the time. In only their third game of the season, the Gorillas faced Northwest Missouri State in the Fall Classic at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, losing by a score of 30-10.

But Tatum and his team do not believe the Gorillas’ record reflects their talent.

“We don’t talk about it a whole lot,” Tatum said. “I think they understand Pitt’s losses are to three Top-15 programs. So our people understand what kind of program we’re dealing with, what kind of tradition we’re dealing with. We just show up and go to work. Its just like any other opponent.”

While he prepares for PSU the same as any other opponent, Tatum recognizes the program’s historical success.

“I’ve been competing with them as a coach for 16 years,” Tatum said. “Early on they were very, very physical on defense. You knew you were in for a blood-bath every time you played Pittsburg.”

Southern will be looking to end PSU’s stretch of success in the Miner’s Bowl in recent years.

The Lions have been defeated in the annual match-up 14 years running, their last victory over the Gorillas coming in 1993. That losing streak is Southern’s longest against any conference opponent.

However the Lions have come closer to knocking off their biggest rivals in the past two years. Last season, they finished the game down by just a touchdown, 21-14. In 2007, the Gorillas nipped Southern 31-28.

“It kind of leaves you with a bittersweet taste in your mouth,” said senior running back Toderick Hunt. “Sweet because you were so close and bitter because you didn’t pull it off.”

The Lions could easily have thrown in the towel against the UNO in their Homecoming game Sept. 26. The Mavericks’ first play from scrimmage was a 41-yard touchdown pass, putting Missouri Southern in an immediate 7-0 hole.

Rather than allow the Mavericks to end their Homecoming celebrations early, the Lions responded with two scores in a row. Senior Johnny Johnson caught a short pass from Howard, and on the very next drive, again scampered across the goal line on a 42-yard touchdown run.

For the remainder of the first half, the Lions’ defense held UNO to field goals while the offense kept chipping away. After trading scores, the Mavericks went into halftime up 23-21.

Pat Behrns’ offensive squad broke a 60-yard screen pass for a touchdown early in the second half, giving the Mavericks a 30-21 lead.

As the game got later, Southern seemed to fade and two fourth quarter scores sealed a Homecoming heartbreak at the hands of UNO.