MIAA Week 3 Preview

September 14th, 2023 4:45pm

MIAA Week 3 Preview

I’d like to start this week’s column with some Northwest Missouri State talk because whether it’s good or bad, the Bearcats are maybe the most polarizing team in the conference. 

I can’t imagine many tears being shed around the MIAA as the Bearcats fell 33-13 to Emporia State last week. The bigger loss at the quarterback position when Mike Hohensee was knocked out of the game with a knee injury. 

The extent of the injury has not been released by the team, but Northwest isn’t without talent behind Hohensee. Sophomore Chris Ruhnke was a twice selected to the all-state team in high school, while freshman Henry Martin’s name can be found in the Kansas high school football record books. 

The hope for the Bearcats is that whichever one starts against Fort Hays on Saturday, will have a better performance with a week to prepare. The underclassmen did not fare well against the Emporia State defense last week as they combined for five interceptions. 

The concern moving forward might not even be with the offense, but what has happened on the defensive side of the ball this year. The Bearcats are allowing 28.5 points per game and 282 yards passing with ZERO sacks. 

Fort Hays spent the first two weeks seeing the polar ends of the MIAA spectrum and will likely find themselves in a slugfest this week. The Tigers may not know which quarterback is starting, but I would guess that Chris Brown and his staff know they’re getting a heavy dose of Jay Harris. 

The Tigers played two quarters of good football last week, even leading Pittsburg State at halftime. Things quickly derailed in the second half, ending what had been six really good quarters of football for Fort Hays. 

I think that Fort Hays is somewhere around where their averages are after two weeks. Jack Dawson passed for 317 yards against the RiverHawks but managed just 165 against the Gorillas. 

The Tigers rushed for 110 yards in week one, then just 47 last week. On defense, Fort Hays allowed more than double the yardage in both passing and rushing. 

Jack Dawson is fourth in the conference in passing through two games and fair or not, the Tigers success or failure will fall on his shoulders Saturday afternoon. Northwest’s weakness through two weeks has been its pass defense. 

Jay Harris has been far and away the best running back in the conference through two weeks. But without a passing threat, life becomes harder for Harris and the Northwest rushing attack. But for now, the Bearcats need to lean into their strengths until they find the answer at quarterback. 


Missouri Southern 1-1 at Nebraska-Kearney 1-1

The Lions are trending in the right direction two weeks into the season. Missouri Southern took the Bearcats to the wire, then followed that close loss up with a win over Washburn. 

The MIAA is loaded with good quarterbacks and Luke Sampson has been one of the conference’s best early on. Sampson is averaging 271 yards per game and has six touchdown passes. 

Missouri Southern found some balance in its offense last week. The Lions rushed Nathan Glades 15 times in week one, then saw his carries drop to seven in week two. The offense went to a committee-style rushing attack with their 28 carries divided up amongst seven different rushers. 

The Lopers are in an interesting situation going into the third week of the season because you’re not sure what to expect from them moving forward. The UCO loss wasn’t a terrible loss at the time, but that loss looked a little worse after what happened to the Bronchos last week. 

TJ Davis has been good, but the offense has really lacked a second option to this point. It is a new coaching staff and a lot of new players, so maybe they will be look different in the coming weeks, but a 14-point home win against Northeastern State just doesn’t feel quite right. 


Pittsburg State (2-0) at Central Missouri (2-0)

Zach Zebrowski threw 11 passes in three years at Southern Illinois. ELEVEN. In two games as a Mule, the transfer quarterback has thrown 94 passes, completing 65 of them. Zebrowski leads the conference in just about every category with 790 yards passing and 10 touchdowns.

The Mules have assembled a plethora of weapons and they’ve been really good so far. Arkell Smith has 20 receptions through two games and leads the conference with 300 yards. Jack Pospisil has nine for 126 (10th), Demarcus Gregory has 10 for 117 (12th), and Michael Fitzgerald is 13th in the conference with seven receptions for 110 yards. 

And that leads us to Pittsburg State, coming off of two dominant wins to start the year. The Gorillas have had the best pass defense in the conference thus far, allowing just 163 yards passing per game. Jordan Rogers has played a huge role in their success, snatching an interception in each of the first two games. 

While Pittsburg State seems to be the clear leader of the conference, the Gorillas haven’t been perfect despite winning each of their first two games by almost four touchdowns. The team has struggled early in games, scoring just 19 of their 74 points in the first half. 

There are two ways to look at the MIAA’s leader if you’re the rest of the country. The slow starts will eventually hurt the Gorillas—or eventually the offense is going to figure out how to start faster. The possibility of the latter should terrify everyone else. 

This might end up being the best game of the weekend. 

Missouri Western (1-1) at Central Oklahoma (1-1)

Lincoln always allows teams the opportunity to get things turned in the right direction, and Missouri Western did what it was supposed to do when you to Lincoln. Saturday is a different challenge and a team that will likely want to wash the taste of last week out of their mouths as soon as possible. 

Saturday should give us a better idea of what the Griffons are going to do at quarterback moving forward. Armani Edden was good last week, passing for 278 and two scores. Reagan Jones only passed for 17 yards but turned that into two touchdowns. 

Central Oklahoma hung with the Mules for two quarters last week, but it was not a good second half of offense for the Bronchos. Central Oklahoma generated just 125 yards of offense in the second half with 78 of those yards coming on the final two drives. 

If the Bronchos are to get back on track, they’ll need a better performance from their secondary this week. Missouri Western has shown the ability to throw the ball and this is a defense that just allowed 400 yards passing last week. 


Emporia State (2-0) at Northeastern State (0-2)

The RiverHawks should be thrilled with the way they played last week. It would have been easy for Northeastern State to lay an egg after a bad opening week, but instead they hung around against a team that has TJ Davis. 

For the Hornets, just get out of Oklahoma healthy. Emporia State sits firmly in that second spot behind Pittsburg State, so you just want to leave Talequah with a win and everyone healthy. 


Washburn (0-2) at Lincoln (0-2)

If ever there was a team that needed a trip to Lincoln, it’s the Washburn Ichabods. Washburn felt the rath of the Gorillas two weeks ago and then watched Missouri Southern score 23 points in the second half to send them to 0-2.  

The Ichadbods also finished the game without their starting quarterback, Kellen Simoncic. Simoncic left with a shoulder injury after starting 11 of 13 last week. How hurt Simoncic’s should is will be a factor moving forward for the Ichabods. 



Missouri Southern 24, Nebraska-Kearney 27

Pittsburg State 42, Central Missouri 28

Missouri Western 27, Central Oklahoma 21

Emporia State 49, Northeastern State 14

Washburn 35, Lincoln 13

Northwest Missouri State 17, Fort Hays 20