Northwest Missouri taught Emporia State a lesson about MIAA supremacy on Saturday, one that started up front and ended with the Bearcats’ 48-21 win in a battle of undefeated teams at Welch Stadium.
“You look at (Northwest Missouri) and that’s where we want to be,” Emporia State coach Garin Higgins said. “We’d get some things going offensively, then they’d put the pressure on us to back us up.”
The win claimed at least a share of the MIAA title for No. 2 Northwest Missouri (10-0, 9-0 MIAA) and the Bearcats can win the title outright with a win over Missouri Western in next Saturday’s regular-season finale.
Emporia State (8-1, 8-1) needs a win over Washburn in their finale next Saturday to stay in playoff contention.
“We’re like everybody else in that we set our goals back in January,” Northwest Missouri coach Adam Dorrel said. “And to be in Week 10 and still have all your goals intact, and to take a big step, that feels pretty good.”
The Hornets were able to hang with in for most of the first half. After the Hornets stopped the Bearcats on fourth-and-goal at the ESU 2-yard line on their first drive of the game — a 7 1/2-minute drive — the Hornets held the ball for only 35 seconds before getting a punt partially blocked and setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by Trevor Adams for a 6-0 Northwest Missouri lead with 5:21 left in the first quarter.
ESU answered back on its next drive with a 45-yard touchdown pass from Brent Wilson to Kavaski Ervin and a 7-6 lead. But in that same period, defensive starters for the Hornets were dropping like flies. Linebacker Tariq Allen, cornerback Gary Fortune and All-MIAA safety Chris Poston all left the game with a variety of injuries and didn’t return.
“You lose guys like that, that’s tough,” ESU linebacker Deshawn Dinwiddie said. “You try to fill in the gaps, but that’s a lot of important players to lose.
The Hornets were never in the game after that — mainly because of the domination of Northwest Missouri’s offensive and defensive lines. Adams went 24-of-25 passing for 291 yards and five touchdowns and had all day to throw the ball, never getting so much as a pressure from ESU in the second half. And when the Bearcats decided to run the ball, their backs hit the second level of ESU’s defense untouched.
Wilson’s experience was the exact opposite — a Bearcat defender seemed to be on him every time he tried to drop back, run a draw or take a breath. He was sacked seven times and the Hornets finished with 163 yards of total offense.
Northwest Missouri led 48-14 with 5:35 left in the fourth quarter.
“Our offensive line did the best they could, and I left some reads out there so that part is on me,” said Wilson, who threw for 131 yards, one touchdown and one interception. “(Northwest Missouri) has a great defensive line, you have to give them credit. They’re a great team ... they’re not ranked No. 2 in the country for no reason.”
NW — Adams 1 run (kick failed)
ESU — Ervin 45 pass from Wilson (Kuhns kick)
NW — Jozaites 5 pass from Adams (Trewyn kick)
NW — Young 74 pass from Adams (Trewyn kick)
NW — Burton 6 pass from Adams (Trewyn kick)
ESU — Iwuagwa 1 run (Kuhns kick)
NW — Young 5 pass from Adams (Trewyn kick)
NW — Jozaites 21 pass from Adams (Trewyn kick)
NW — Creason 2 run (Trewyn kick)
ESU — Ervin 44 pass from Jones (Kuhns kick)