The Lions are one triumph away from the most victorious season since 2014
October 16 — The Missouri Southern football team is one win away from doing something they haven’t done in seven years.
The feat? A season with three victories.
That’s right. With a 52-32 road triumph over Lincoln last weekend in Jefferson City, MSSU rose to 2-4 in the MIAA campaign to claim one less victory than its most successful season since 2014, when the Lions finished 4-7. No Southern campaign since then has ended with more than two wins.
The good news for Southern is that there are still five weeks left in the current regular season to do so. The first opportunity comes on Saturday when the Lions host Central Missouri (2-4) at Fred G. Hughes Stadium at 4pm.
“It feels good, but the competitor and coach in me is just ready for the next one,” said MSSU first-year head coach Atiba Bradley. “I want to make sure that they don’t just get one successful game, but that they can suddenly get two games, three games, four games and be able to end this season on a high note.”
The MSSU offense rolled last week against the Blue Tigers as it amassed 567 total attacking yards and benefited from an outstanding performance from senior wide receiver Brian Boyd Jr., who caught five passes for 169 yards and three touchdowns.
Boyd became the first MSSU player to record three touchdown receptions in a game since Landon Zerkel made it against Lincoln in 2011. He also tied Glen Watson (1980) for the ninth-most receiving yards. of the program in one match.
It was also a big day for first-year quarterback Redshirt Dawson Herl, who completed 12 of 20 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns. He became the first MSSU freshman to record three touchdowns in the air since Adam Hinspeter accomplished the feat in 2005.
“I think what gets better with him is just his decision making,” Bradley said of Herl. “He extended the game by running and collecting the first downs. He extended the game by getting out of the pocket and throwing the soccer ball. So he continues to make decisions that give us a better chance of winning.”
The Lions scored the first 24 points of the game and held a 38-12 lead at halftime.
“The most important thing that you start to see is that we are finishing the practices,” Bradley said. “Two weeks ago you saw a whole series of goals on the pitch and a few touchdowns. Now we see some touchdowns and a few goals on the pitch. So we just have to keep that trend going and we’ll be fine.”
For the season, Southern is averaging 20 points per game while giving up 27.2 points per game to his opponents.
Herl completed 62.2% of his passes for 1,043 yards and six touchdowns with a single interception, while Boyd caught 24 passes for a record 408 yards and five touchdowns. Joplin’s product Nathan Glades, a true freshman, is the team’s top rusher with 430 yards and four touchdowns on 90 carries.
The Lions’ defense is led by his linebacker line Richard Jordan Jr., Carthage native Colton Winder and Coleman Booker, who have 61, 52 and 42 tackles, respectively. Jordan also has a team record of 8.5 tackles for loss, while red-shirted first-year defensive lineman Nick Kruse leads the team with 2.5 sacks.
Second-year defensive back Dylan Bolden is one of only two NCAA Division II players with two interceptions returned for touchdowns this season. He is also third in the country for total interceptions with five and 15th for defended passes.
MSSU is set to face a UCM team that have won back-to-back games since dropping their first four games of the season against the current top four MIAA teams (Northwest Missouri, Nebraska-Kearney, Pittsburg State and Washburn). The Mules picked up a 41-10 victory over Northeastern State in Week 5, followed by a 45-38 victory over Emporia State last Saturday.
Central is averaging 309 passing yards and 116 rushing yards per game. Quarterback Logan Twehous threw for 1,369 yards and 12 touchdowns, while Cameron Saunders caught 33 passes for 663 yards and touchdowns on tour. Koby Wilkerson leads the ground team with 304 yards and three touchdowns on 74 carries.
Southern is aiming for his first win against UCM since 2013. The Mules have won the last six games of the series, including a 71-42 triumph at Joplin in 2019.
Contact Jared Porter on Twitter at @JaredRyanPorter.