Week 2 of the MIAA schedule was a memorable one. Fort Hays’ Shaquille Cooper rushed for 263 yards to send upset-minded Northeastern State home with a 13th-straight loss after a two-hour weather delay. Brent Wilson carved up the Central Missouri secondary for 446 yards and five touchdowns in a game that started Thursday and finished Saturday after being suspended due to weather. Central Oklahoma lost to Missouri Western to open 0-2 after going 8-3 last season.
No. 3 Northwest Missouri State (2-0) at Central Missouri (1-1)
It’s easy to see Northwest, which is now the third-ranked team in the nation, has had an easy two opening games. Missouri Southern and Nebraska-Kearney likely are to finish in the bottom three of the MIAA..
The Bearcats did not allow a single point for the first 116-plus minutes of the season, a 5-yard run allowed in a 48-7 win against Missouri Southern.
Central Missouri’s start has been much of the opposite. The Mules pulled out a late Week 1 victory against Missouri Western. After a 24-24 tie at half against Emporia State last Thursday, the game was suspended until Saturday due to storms. Upon their return to Emporia, the Mules were 5 yards from a 38-31 lead. Instead, the Hornets recovered a fumble and won 45-34.
UCM gave up an uncharacteristic 446 passing yards to Emporia’s Brent Wilson after the Mules allowed under 250 per game last season. The Mules also were fourth nationally with 24 interceptions but have forced just two through two games.
After two games, they have the worst pass defense in the league.
Bearcats senior quarterback Brady Bolles has played well against sub-par defenses while the defense has recorded championship-quality numbers, but this will be the first real test of Adam Dorrel’s fifth season. Don’t expect the Bearcats to come out and commit 11 penalties like last week in what should be a defensive matchup.
That’s what was expected last year when the Mules went to then-No. 1 Northwest and fell 37-15.
Prediction: Northwest moves to 3-0 with a 28-14 victory.
Emporia State (2-0) at Central Oklahoma (0-2)
What a start for senior quarterback Brent Wilson, who was injured in Week 4 last year and missed the playoffs in 2013. Arguably the league’s best quarterback, Wilson’s numbers are among the best in the country at completion percentage (73.2), passing yards per game (388) and passing touchdowns (8). He did throw two picks in the season opener but carved out 446 passing yards and five touchdowns against Central Missouri.
Central Oklahoma started the season picked third in the MIAA by the coaches and received votes in the AFCA polls. Two weeks later, they are still looking for their first win of 2015. Turnovers have been the story early, as the Bronchos have lost four fumbles while throwing three interceptions. This is the same team with a majority of returners around the ball that led the MIAA in turnover margin last year.
Neither UCO’s or Emporia’s defense has played well, as both ranked in the bottom third in the conference, so if the Bronchos can cut down on turnovers and complete drives this has potential to be a shootout. Otherwise, the Hornets should have many opportunities for Wilson to spread it around and put up numbers.
Prediction: It took a year, but it seems like the Bronchos have come down off their high horse. Emporia continues to roll and hands UCO an 0-3 record with a 38-21 victory.
Missouri Western (1-1) at Northeastern State (0-2)
The Griffons put together an impressive Week 2 performance picking off three passes in a win against Central Oklahoma, a game in which they lead 26-0 just one week after squandering a late lead on the road to fall by one point to Central Missouri. The story for their early-season success has been the rush defense, as the Griffons are allowing under 100 yards per contest on the ground. Sophomore Skyler Windmiller has completed under 50 percent of his passes this season and the offense has not looked rather impressive but the Griffons hope to build on the 201 rushing yards they accumulated last week.
Northeastern State went on the road to Fort Hays in Week 2 and did not trail until the late in the game, even leading 13-6 at halftime. In the end, the RiverHawks were unable to capitalize on three Tigers turnovers or stop the run as they fell to 0-2.
The RiverHawks 30-0 to the Griffons last season when they had seven turnovers.
Prediction: The Griffons find their groove on the road with a 31-7 victory.
Nebraska-Kearney (0-2) at Missouri Southern (0-2)
This a battle of the two worst offenses in the MIAA and two of the three worst scoring defenses. Both teams have lost to Northwest Missouri, while Kearney’s second loss came against Washburn. Missouri Southern lost to Emporia in Week 1.
The woes for Missouri Southern start under center. After having the worst passing offense in 2014, Missouri Southern is second from the bottom with 116 yards per game with a league-high four picks thrown. The Lions made the move from Ty’Quan Hayes in Week 1 to TJ Fleeton in Week 2, but the sophomore completed just 33 percent of his passes and threw three picks.
Hopes were high for the Lopers Bronson Marsh in his senior year, but the quarterback has completed just 23 of 60 passes for one touchdown and three interceptions while rushing for just 44 yards. The Lopers have rushed for a league-low 88.5 yards per game.
Each team has struggled on both sides of the ball. Nebraska-Kearney has faced two tougher defenses and could give them an edge heading into Joplin, Mo.
The Lopers disappointed with a 34-17 home loss in 2014.
Prediction: The Lions take care of business, winning 28-24.
Washburn (1-1) at No. 4 Pittsburg State (2-0)
Besides a dismal fourth quarter against Lindenwood, the Ichabods have looked rather average to start the season. The offense is in the bottom-third in yardage despite putting up 34 points last week. The ’Bods have yet to eclipse 150 rushing yards or 250 passing yards, but their defense has been above-average thus far.
Washburn will need all the defense it can get to stop the Gorillas. Coming off of huge defeats against Northeastern State and Lindenwood, Pitt State picked up right where it left off with Anthony Abenoja, as John Roderique has been a perfect fit coming over from Sam Houston State. With a 78.4 completion percentage, he has been Division II’s most accurate passer thus far, throwing for 163 yards per game and three touchdowns with zero interceptions. But his legs are what has haunted opponents, as he has rushed for 175 yards and five touchdowns. Michael Rose has added three more touchdowns at tailback.
Defensively, the Gorillas have the most interceptions (5) in the conference, along with a league-high nine sacks. With a strong rush defense, it will take precision in the air and keeping the ball safe to maneuver the Gorillas. They have allowed 291 yards per game through the air, though teams have been forced to throw facing huge deficits.
Washburn’s 4-7 season last year hit a low point with a 42-0 home loss to Pitt State.
Prediction: The Gorillas head to Hays with a chance to avenge their only regular season loss in 2014 as an undefeated team. Gorillas win, 35-17.