September 6th, 2019 3:00am
MIAA Week 1 Reaction
Holy smokes. What a way to start the 2019 season. I was excited for the first week of games, but the MIAA far exceeded my wildest expectations. As I was watching the games play out on the MIAA Network and Twitter, I kept saying the same thing.
“What is going on?”
Below are few of the most eye-popping stats from Thursday night:
Total Yards: 5,061
Lead Changes: 8
Double-Digit Comebacks: 3
Now let’s breakdown each one of these games.
#24 Pittsburg State 37 Central Oklahoma 35
I picked Central Oklahoma to win this game. At halftime, Pittsburg State was in complete control, up 34-7. The Gorillas veer offense was dominating the game. After returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown, the next five first half drives ended in points (FG, TD, TD, TD and FG). The Bronchos could not keep pace.
I declared the game over on Twitter. Admitted I was way wrong about this game.
Then halftime happened.
The Bronchos first two second half drives were duds (punt and turnover on downs). Then things got weird. The Gorillas fumbled the ball away three straight possessions and Central Oklahoma made them pay. 28 unanswered points, including a fumble recovery for a touchdown that put the Bronchos up 35-34. The Gorillas then drove down the field and burned the final three minutes off the clock, setting up the game-winning 20-yard field goal.
Can Pittsburg State run the veer successfully throughout the entire season? Is Brandon Miekus the best option at quarterback or Mark Sexton? If the Gorillas are set on running the veer, then Miekus is the way to go. If Pittsburg State wants to have a passing game, then go with Sexton. Pittsburg State should have won this game easily, turnovers and complacency nearly doomed the Gorillas. Four fumbles in five drives is flat out unacceptable.
Last year the Bronchos started the season down 21-0 to Pittsburg State. This year it was 34-7 at halftime.The talent is obviously there for Central Oklahoma, but these slow starts cannot happen against good teams. Tremendous effort (and a lot of luck) made this game competitive in the end, but I was wrong. Pittsburg State was the better team.
Central Missouri 34 #8 Fort Hays 30
Fort Hays was up the entire game, until Central Missouri late push. Brook Bolles looked uneasy and a little skittish in the first half. Once he settled in, Bolles did what he does best: make plays. Four total touchdowns in the second half including two touchdown passes in the final six minutes of the game. I said in the preview blog that I do not like picking against the best player on the field and this is the reason why.
That being said, Chance Fuller played a great game for the Tigers. In the first three quarters, Fuller was 25/33 for 308 yards and two touchdowns. Fuller did struggle in the fourth quarter though (2/9 for 25 yards). The Tigers looked good for most the game, but were killed by big plays. The Mules scored on three long plays. Those big chunk plays were the difference in game.
The game changing play: fake punt by Zach Davidson that kept the Mules alive down 30-21 midway through the fourth quarter. The next play was a 65 yard touchdown pass from Bolles to Shae Wyatt.
This is a huge win for Central Missouri and their chances at a MIAA championship. Fort Hays took a big hit, but they have proven over the last couple of seasons that they are capable of bouncing back and winning the conference after losing games like this.
#6 Northwest Missouri 45 Missouri Western 35
Missouri Western should have won this game. The only thing that kept the Griffons from winning the game was the Griffons. Just look at how the game started. The Griffons forced a punt and then hit on a big pass play. Then a fumble on the following snapped is returned for a Bearcat touchdown. Every time Missouri Western did one or two things right, they would turn around and shoot themselves in the foot.
Just a heads up to the rest of the MIAA, do not kick the ball to Trey Vaval. Vaval is scary dangerous in the return game. It took Northwest took long to figure out not to kick it to Vaval.
If Missouri Western can clean up their mistakes, they can beat anyone in the MIAA. Hard to beat good teams when you lose the turnover battle by two and commit nine penalties for 113 yards.
For the Bearcats, despite putting 45 points up on the scoreboard, I came away unimpressed. Braden Wright struggled mightily with accuracy all night. After the 60 yard touchdown pass to Imoni Donadelle (perfect throw), Wright was 7/17 for 70 yards, one touchdown and one interception. That just is not good enough.
There were two bright spots in the Bearcat offense: Justin Rankin and Imoni Donadelle. Rankin is an absolute stud and opposing defenses will have to gameplan around stopping him. I was impressed by Rankin’s combination of power and quickness as well as his contact balance. Donadelle is a burner. He just looks faster than the other weapons on the Bearcat offense. They need to get him the ball more often.
The player of the game was Bearcat linebacker Sam Phillips. Phillips scored two defensive touchdowns in the first half and was the difference in the game.
Nebraska-Kearney 39 Missouri Southern 27
Nebraska-Kearney dominated the first half. Missouri Southern could not do anything offensively. It was hard to watch. The Lopers took a commanding 33-6 lead into halftime. I declared the game over at halftime. No way the Lions could muster up enough offense to even make this a competitive game.
I have to stop doing that, it is not working out for me.
The Lions came out in the second half and scored 21 unanswered points. All of a sudden, Nebraska-Kearney is clinging to a 33-27 lead. The Lopers responded after that and clamped down on defense. As well as a 14 play, 68 yard touchdown drive that ate nearly seven minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter.
In the end, good for Nebraska-Kearney to start off the year with a win. The Lopers need to sure up the pass defense that allowed Jacob Park to throw for 351 yards and four touchdowns.
Missouri Southern needs to build on the second half performance and carry that momentum into next week's winnable matchup with Lincoln.
Washburn 49 Lincoln 27
12 combined turnovers. I repeat. 12 combined turnovers.
I was shocked when I turned this game on and Lincoln was tied up with Washburn at 14. While the seven Washburn turnovers definitely kept Lincoln in this game, Lincoln did not look physically outmatched. The Blue Tigers averaged over seven yards a carry and ran for over 250 yards. Hosea Franklin is a tough runner and brings legitimacy to the offense. Franklin averaged over 12 yards per carry, that is insane for someone with 20 carries. Last time we saw Lincoln in the MIAA they looked completely outclassed.
Washburn was able to wear Lincoln down and outscored the Blue Tigers 28-6 in the second half. Still an underwhelming performance from the Ichabods.
Washburn will have to clean up the turnovers before they play at Northwest Missouri next Saturday. Turn the ball over regularly in Maryville and the Bearcats will run you off the field.
Lincoln will have a chance to record a MIAA win next Thursday when they host Missouri Southern.
Emporia State 51 Northeastern State 14
Not a whole lot to say about this game. This was the only blowout of the night. Dalton Cowan played great in his debut. Northeastern State struggled to do anything well.
Emporia plays at Pittsburg State next Saturday, that is when we will get a good look at how good Cowan and the Hornets offense really is. Northeastern State will host Central Missouri. Brook Bolles is going to have a field day.