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Emporia State Hornets

Royals Keep Steamrolling to a Title (First Takes and Second Helpings: Oct. 29, 2015)

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Various and sundry thoughts while mulling the end of a vacation week…

  1. The Kansas City Royals are primed to win the World Series. That’s something I didn’t expect at the start of the regular season, and it’s certainly something I didn’t expect after the Royals dug themselves a massive hole in the American League Division Series Game 4 against Houston. One thing that has highlighted this season is an ability to get big at-bats at big times, and that trend has been in full evidence against the New York Mets in the first two World Series games. The Mets rotation is designed to miss bats. The Royals hitters are now designed not to miss pitches, especially those in the strike zone. Mets pitchers are losing this battle in a big way. The other thing in the Royals’ favor has been underrated starting pitching. Edinson Volquez was every bit the equal of Matt Harvey in Game 1, and Johnny Cueto (and I can’t believe I’m typing this) simply outpitched Jacob deGrom in Game 2.It just has to be the nails.

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    After the All-Star break, while Ginny and Bella were getting their nails painted, my foster son asked whether I’d get my nails done. I said I’d get mine painted blue if the Royals got back to the World Series. Lo and behold, they did. And I had to remind the ladies of the home about this. Typically, I’m the one having to field the reminder on just about everything. Anyways, Bella was pretty giddy about getting to paint Daddy’s nails. As far as the on-field results, so far, so good. Just waiting to see what happens when I chip a nail.

  2. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything. Therefore, this will be the only mention of Joe Buck’s broadcasting, um, style, excellence, high-priced waste of air space in this blog post. I gladly utilized the six to eight seconds of delay between KVOE’s feed of the ESPN Radio coverage and the Fox TV picture for Game 2. It hurts the brain somewhat with that approach, but it sure eases the mind when you know you have an unbiased broadcast at the national level.joe

    I just love how, according to Mr. Buck, Harvey was the perfect pitcher for the Mets to start the World Series…and then how deGrom was the perfect guy to get a win for the Mets in Game 2 after they lost in crushing fashion in Game 1. Well, obviously they weren’t because the Mets are down 2-0 for the aforementioned reasons. There weren’t any perfect Royals starters to be part of the World Series, the way it appears. Funny how that works out. And it’s funny how the backhanded compliments — “and those Royals, nobody knows how they do it” — just enhance the fact that they, not the other team are doing it in emphatic fashion.

  3. Man, does Emporia State football have a big one coming up. And not against Northwest Missouri on Nov. 7. Archrival Washburn comes calling — on Halloween Day, mind you.10895870235_452fc42ba9_b

    If you wanted an example of inconsistency, the Ichabods would be about as good an example as you could get this season. Defeat Pittsburg State, ranked in the top 15 at the time, lose to bottom-dweller Lindenwood. Defeat Missouri Western, a longtime powerhouse in the conference before quarterback injuries hamstrung the offense over the past four weeks, lose to Central Oklahoma, a team finding its way after being the pleasant surprise in the MIAA last year. A ton is at stake for the Hornets, who at 7-1 can still get into the playoffs with two losses — and just about everybody expects ESU to lose at Northwest Missouri. Losing to Washburn and to NWMSU, though, and it’s just about curtains for any postseason hopes.

    It’s your archrival. Weird things happen against your archrival, especially in games where you should win — as Emporia State should on Saturday. It’s Halloween Day, the day of weird things. Hopefully the Hornets take all the strangeness out of the game early on, take care of business and move to 8-1 before a national broadcast in Maryville.

  4. Mike Riley isn’t in trouble, but the Huskers are. Let me rephrase that: Mike Riley isn’t in trouble yet. There’s a big difference, but regardless, there’s no way NU should lose to Northwestern at home. It shouldn’t have lost to BYU, Wisconsin or Illinois, either. And there’s no business losing the way they have this season, whether through bad defensive positioning or shoddy play-calling or bad communication or, apparently against Northwestern, just a poor effort. For a team allegedly hungry to prove it can win two straight, it sure sounded full of itself until it was way too late.Oct 24, 2015; Lincoln, NE, USA; The Northwestern Wildcats sign their fight song after a win against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium. Northwestern defeated Nebraska 30-28. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

    What does this mean? Well, on the field it means this team had better cinch up the fundamentals and at least play solid football. Win or lose. That’s now the best we can expect as fans for this season. Which isn’t nearly enough for this program or its fans. We have come to expect more because we have seen it’s possible. And we were told solid football would be the basic common denominator of this program. So far, it hasn’t been.

    Going into Riley Stardate 2.0, it should mean a purge of all the players who are demonstrating any unwillingness to buy into what Riley and his coaching staff are selling. If you’re not on board, find some place where you’re comfortable. It’s as simple as that.

    Off the field, it means this can’t continue or else Riley’s seat will get extremely hot extremely quickly. So will the seat under his coaches, especially defensive coordinator Mark Banker. And so will the seat underneath Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst. The Riley regime didn’t have the talent of other Big Ten teams to start, so struggles were anticipated. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong’s skill set didn’t fit what Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf had in mind, and at times they have melded the separate approaches into something quite nice. Injuries haven’t helped. But the sheer sloppiness of things…it’s unacceptable. In all phases of football. And that should have been communicated to the coaching staff from somebody — Eichorst, football god Tom Osborne, an outgoing chancellor, anybody — well before now. Even after the mess of the Bo Pelini era, NU football has taken a significant step backward in the first year of the Mike Riley regime. It’s a step backward I didn’t expect. And it’s a step backward that I hope doesn’t mean leads to backing into the mud of mediocrity. If the program isn’t already there.

  5. You can make a buffet out of anything. Ginny made the point abundantly clear this morning when I asked her what’s for supper tonight and she said, “We’re gonna have a leftover buffet.” Now that’s craziness. An all-you-can-eat buffet? Awesome. A pie buffet? Heavenly. But a leftover buffet?Now that you mention it, that pot roast from Tuesday night does sound pretty tasty.

Until the next plate of mental goulash…

Game preview: Emporia State at Missouri Southern

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Game 1: Emporia State at Missouri Southern
Time: 7 pm Thursday, Fred G. Hughes Stadium
Coverage: 6 pm, Mix 104.9 FM and Mix 104.9-TV on KVOE.com

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s go time. Time for football season, and another pivotal season for the Emporia State Hornets.

The 2015 season begins with a battle of the known versus the unknown as ESU travels to Joplin, Mo., to take on Missouri Southern. Emporia State has the stability in the coaching staff and quarterback, while Missouri Southern is all new. New head coach, new staff, new quarterback, new schemes both offensively and defensively.

There are some knowns for the Lions. Head coach Denver Johnson had decent success at FCS schools Illinois State and Murray State before a dismal 2-10 record and spiraling attendance at the end of the 2014 campaign spelled the end of the Johnson era at Tulsa. Defensive coordinator Kenny Evans, who had decent success at Northeastern State as a head coach, may have done better as Southern’s defensive coordinator from 1989 to 1997.

The questions for the Lions, though, are legion, including how the coaching staff melds together, how the offense adjusts to a spread formation with a former quarterback-turned-running back as quarterback and how the defense does with a 4-2-5 setup.

Things to listen to Thursday night:

Can the Emporia State offensive line keep Brent Wilson upright? Wilson got through most of the magical playoff run in 2013 clean before suffering a broken collarbone. No offense to Wilson’s replacement, but the Hornets’ playoff chances died on the spot. The Hornets were already scuffling when Wilson’s collarbone snapped again during the Northeastern State victory last year, and the team looked lost, disillusioned and frankly uncaring afterward. ESU should have a dynamic offense with a stacked receiver corps and a solid stable of running backs, but none of that matters if No. 15 is flat repeatedly or on the shelf again. If, however, Wilson has time to survey the field, look out. Kavaski Ervin, Mitchell Foote and Justin Brown should all have really good years, and one of them should have a big game Thursday night if Wilson is kept clean.

Does Emporia State’s glass jaw from 2014 extend to 2015? Last year, if the Hornets got hit in the mouth or had a case of the dropsies, you could guarantee a snowball effect. Guarantee it. And if it happened in the first half, there was no hope of a comeback. The only exception was the Nebraska-Kearney season closer, when the Hornets roared back from a 28-point deficit and overcame several miscues to lose by two (no second-half miscues, no loss, but that’s beside the point here). The hope is that loss to the Lopers, which saw the emotional emergence of Eddie Vinson as a team leader, reestablished the fight the Hornets have been known for the prior two seasons.

Can ESU’s defense harass Missouri Southern’s new quarterback? ESU fared poorly defensively last year, and that’s one of the bigger understatements of MIAA football from 2014: last in total defense, 10th in scoring defense, last in pass defense, 10th in third-down conversions against and dead last in sacks (32 behind No. 11 on the list). In general, the Hornets have to get after the quarterback better this year, and there’s no time like the present. Southern QB Ty’Quan Hayes has a feel for the offense, according to Johnson, but he was a reserve running back and return man last year — throwing all of one pass in the process. Hayes was an accomplished quarterback in high school, but rust can be expected. With the right attack, the Hornets should take advantage of this.

Final score: ESU 31, Missouri Southern 21

First Takes and Second Helpings: Aug. 24, 2015

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Filling your plate with an unhealthy diet of my thought processes. Not exactly spanning the globe to bring you a variety of sports…

Austin Willis snapped up by the Buffalo Bills. That didn’t take long, although I didn’t think it would. Released by Oakland on Aug. 18, Willis signed with Buffalo over the weekend. What was surprising — pleasantly so — was the series of reports indicating several teams wanted Willis. That says volumes about Willis’ speed, athleticism and also his work ethic. Congratulations to Willis. Here’s hoping the Bills’ revolving door at quarterback doesn’t hurt Willis’ chances to make the team.

Emporia State upgrades its football experience. Hornet fans should have a blast once the Dennis Shogren Videoboard is totally up and running. The new scoreboard should be among Division II’s best. Now we’ll see how the Hornets upgrade after a forgettable 4-7 season. As mentioned last week, the Hornets don’t have to get back to the playoffs to reclaim the momentum seen in 2012 and 2013. Finishing above .500 with their schedule would do, although seven wins or better would certainly help.

New blood in Lincoln. Can’t wait to see how Mike Riley does as Nebraska’s head coach this season. I like the Riley hire, maybe because he reminds me more than any other D-1 coach of Tom Osborne — a happier, more media-understanding version of Osborne, I should say. I believe prior coach Bo Pelini fostered a toxic atmosphere in Lincoln and did nothing to stop the festering before he was booted out, and that more than anything was what led to his dismissal. I know he’s the Pelini antitype. Now it’s time to see if he’s the Pelini antidote and can move the Huskers to the next level.

Royals-Orioles. The rematch of the 2014 ALCS really doesn’t have that much buzz going into Game 1 tonight, in large part because the Orioles have been scuffling to stay above water all season long while the Royals continue to blister most of their opponents. As an O’s fan, it would have been nice to see the team with more significant upgrades last offseason and again before this year’s trading deadline. Buck Showalter is an amazing manager, but it would have been nice if he had been given more to work with this season. By the way, Mike Moustakas looks like he’s refinding his stroke, but even though his average has shed points like I need to lose pounds over the past six weeks, he has still had some of the Royals’ best at-bats of the season. Long live #OppoMoose.

Bowyer bounceback. After being set free by Michael Waltrip Racing (granted, at the end of the 2015 season), Clint Bowyer did extremely well at Bristol, finishing fifth. There are two more Chase for the Cup races before the field is set. Two more Top-5 finishes would go a long way towards solidifying a spot in the Chase, or if nothing else building momentum as Bowyer gets ready to make his next move.

The sobering side of racing. The racing community is praying for IRL driver Justin Wilson, who was severely hurt when Sage Karam crashed and a big piece of debris hit Wilson in the head at speed. If you remember, Dan Wheldon was killed during an IRL race when his car sailed over a football field worth of distance in the air before his head smashed into a pole at nearly 200 mph. Believe it or not, these kinds of accidents don’t happen all that often for open-wheel racers. The question now is what IRL, Formula 1 and other open-wheel series will do to protect their drivers so this doesn’t happen again.

Where Does Austin Willis Land? (Plus Patrick Crayton’s Possible Impact on Current ESU Receivers and the Hornets)

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There are a lot of people rooting for Austin Willis to make it in the NFL. Now they are hoping he latches on with somebody other than the Oakland Raiders, who cut the undrafted free agent this week.

It has been a long, long time since the Raiders could be considered the gold standard for personnel moves at either the player or coach level, but Silver and Black Pride, an SB Nation blog, writes Willis was having issues getting open as a receiver despite 4.38-second speed in the 40-yard dash. He was also stuck in a crowded field of receivers hoping to make an impact on the Raiders coaching staff, vying for time with guys like Brice Butler, Kenbrell Thompkins, Seth Robers, Kris Durham, Josh Harper and Milton Williams. That was before the Raiders signed veteran Devon Wylie, likely to build on the working relationship Wylie has had with quarterback Derek Carr since the two were teammates at Fresno State.

Willis was also well down on the kick return totem pole, buried behind Trindon Holliday, Taiwan Jones and T.J. Carrie.

The Emporia State graduate caught 128 balls during his Hornet career, finishing with 2,005 career receiving yards. He also scored almost 20 touchdowns, including 10 his junior year.

The cut is a disappointment for Willis, who was heralded as a possible Wes Welker-type player by The Bleacher Report shortly after he signed with Oakland. It’s also disappointing for a lot of fans — not just those of Emporia State football but those of “the little guy,” the guy from the small school who just wants a fair chance to compete against established players or more well-known recruits from bigger schools with brighter, Division I lights.

The good news? Willis apparently turned some heads in a positive way. Several journalists following the Raiders say he should catch on with another NFL team (or at least be given more than a mere passing look) because of his speed, sure hands, improved size — 192 pounds versus his ESU playing weight of around 175 — and his athleticism.

The way it sounds, Willis was a victim of circumstance in Oakland. And the Raiders did him a favor, believe it or not, by cutting him loose from a crowded field of pass catchers now as opposed to later.

Crayton reunites with former coach Higgins at ESU

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Meanwhile, receivers now at Emporia State just got a gift from the football gods — from somebody who was once in Willis’ shoes.

Patrick Crayton, a wideout who made a name for himself as an NAIA All-American at Northwestern Oklahoma State under current ESU head coach Garin Higgins, is now joining the Higgins staff as a wide receivers coach.

Crayton is on board at ESU thanks to the NFLPA Coaching Internship, which lets players have what a news release calls “an in-depth, foundational coaching experience.” He’s among less than 20 former players selected for this program this year.

Talk about learning from somebody who knows the football side of things and also the trials and tribulations of impressing the coaches when not from a big-name university. Crayton played eight seasons in the NFL, making most of his headlines during a six-year career with the Dallas Cowboys before ending his playing days with San Diego in 2011. All told, he amassed 3,650 receiving yards and scored 27 touchdowns, including two punt returns for scores.

Before that, however, Crayton pretty much did it all for NWOSU. He played quarterback, wideout and returner, and he still holds several school records. He is the only NAIA player to score a TD as a passer, rusher, receiver, punt returner and kick returner in a single season.

Crayton will definitely give Emporia State receivers a leg up when it comes to X’s and O’s, route-running, blocking and the sheer football side of the equation. But he was also a mentally tough receiver during his career, and that can only help a pretty talented corps of wideouts on a team that needs to show last year’s mental fortitude and concentration issues have ended.

You think Emporia State’s receivers will ignore anything he has to say? Uhhhhhh. No.

Hornets face tough road back to playoffs

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Is this a step towards ESU returning to the Division II playoffs like it did two years ago? Perhaps. The Hornets are picked near the middle of the pack in the cutthroat MIAA, but that’s about where they were picked when they had that magical run in 2013.

The season opens against Missouri Southern in Joplin on Sept. 3, and the schedule from there is no picnic. Central Missouri, the media’s No. 3 pick in the conference, is Emporia State’s home opener Sept. 10, followed by Central Oklahoma, the media’s projected No. 4 team, on Sept. 19. After games against Northeastern (Okla.) State and Lindenwood, the Hornets then face a stretch of five straight games against teams slotted to be in the top half of the conference, including Pittsburg State (MIAA No. 2, Oct. 10 at home), archrival Washburn (Halloween Day, only marginally more scary than a Halloween Night game) and Northwest Missouri (MIAA No. 1, Nov. 7).

The Hornets were beset by injuries, notably at quarterback, last year, but it seemed the collarbone break Brent Wilson suffered — his second in as many seasons — bruised the Hornets’ psyche far more deeply than any physical hurt. ESU appeared listless and dispirited, especially after falling behind, and after Wilson’s injury the only game where ESU had any second-half fight was the near-miracle finish in Kearney, Neb., to end the season.

Let’s face it. The Hornets were embarrassed by how last season played out. So this is a pivotal season at Emporia State. The Hornets have to show last year was the aberration, not the prior two seasons that featured a Kanza Bowl win and the team’s first postseason appearance in almost a decade. But this is also a season where postseason really isn’t mandatory for ESU to prove it’s headed again in the right direction. Finishing above .500, especially a 7-4 or 8-3 record, would go a long way towards erasing the nasty taste the Hornets had to deal with at the end of the 2014 season.

Schiltz Comes Home…Or Close Enough for Us Hornet Fans

esuhelmetThis weekend, the Kansas City Chiefs gave Emporia State University Hornet football fans yet another reason to pay attention to training camp by bringing in former Hornet standout Adam Schiltz.

KC claimed Schiltz off waivers from Tennessee, who had the former ESU tight end on its practice squad for most of the 2013 season.

For the Chiefs, it’s a move that makes sense because they just lost Sean McGrath to retirement, and there have been questions about the position. Anthony Fasano returns, but after that there is really no name-brand, dependable option, Demetrius Harris is big at 6-7, but he’s probably more raw at the position than Schiltz. Travis Kelce appears to be Fasano’s main backup, so Schiltz has a fair amount of competition for that third TE spot.

For Schiltz, it’s a second chance to latch on to an NFL team. Schiltz became a go-to guy as Emporia State’s offense became more wide open his junior and senior season, catching 44 balls for over 500 yards and four scores as the Hornets won the Kanza Bowl. Schiltz’s size won’t overwhelm anybody — 6-foot-3, 245 pounds — but he could always get space in third-down situations and his body positioning was always solid if coverage was tight. He also developed into a good blocker as his career progressed.

Schiltz became an integral part of Emporia State’s offense, and with the Chiefs’ tight end position in flux, he has a chance to become a third-down specialist and then expand his role from there.  Tight ends didn’t catch a lot of balls from QB Alex Smith last year (less than 60 catches combined out of almost 550 passes thrown), but the role the Chiefs’ short passing game had in the team’s overall offense was well-documented, even as the team got more accustomed to Andy Reid’s offense and used a more vertical approach in the back half of the season.

Schiltz seems to be a good fit. Now he has to distinguish himself in a relatively crowded field.

First Takes and Second Helpings, December 2013

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Man. I can’t believe it has been months since I last posted anything. Well, yes, I can, but that’s for another post.

It has been a busy quarter-year. Locally, we’re looking for a new city manager, the college football team made the D-2 playoffs and the women’s basketball team is in the nation’s top three.

Nationally, the Affordable Care Act still gets raked over the coals, two members of Pussy Riot were released from prison and a basketball head coach made headlines for comments about size and snipers (in one of the best postgame rants of all time).

And now that I have your attention (in no particular order)…

OWH_logo1. Am I glad this isn’t 1983. The Omaha World-Herald just published a story on December 1983. Worst winter weather of my life. A week straight where the high temperature didn’t crack zero. Lows of -15 to -24, and that’s just the air temperature. Christmas Eve saw a high of -11 and an obscene wind chill of -72 (calculated differently than we do today, but still…). A foot-plus of snow already on the ground which didn’t start to melt until February. Not how you want to spend your Christmas break at any age, but especially as a teenager. 1989 was almost as bad. I took a flight from Tucson back home at the end of my first semester break at the University of Arizona. Temperature when I left: Around 60 degrees. Temperature when I got back home: -15.

2. Thank you, Barry Hinson. Wish we had more honest postgame news conferences such as his from a couple weeks ago.

3. It was hard to get into the Christmas spirit this year. Until the gifts opened up. Blame the shorter shopping season, blame Target’s credit card security breach, blame the busy schedule, blame whatever. However, watching everybody’s faces when they tore away the wrapping paper…it’s hard not to enjoy that.

catsstevens214. I’m still looking for a relatively new rock band I can gravitate towards. Not really feeling the shouty, wall of noise nature of rock today. And now I know how my parents feel when they listen to a lot of the rock that I like. Unnerving. On the flip side, I’m really wondering 1) why I didn’t get Rush’s Vapor Trails earlier and 2) why I got away from the fusion jazz that I used to really enjoy. And 3) how in the world Cat Stevens goes into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alongside Nirvana and Kiss. And 4) what’s it going to take for me to actually want to play my bass again. Talk about unnerving. So that’s what happens when you’re followed by a moonshadow.

5. Returning to weather. The way this winter has gone — gradual warmups followed by sudden cold snaps — we’re setting up for an early severe weather outbreak. Just saying. It’s way, way too much like a spring weather pattern with colder temperatures for my liking.

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That’s it from here. Back to you.

Game preview: Emporia State vs. Northeastern (Okla.) State

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ESU vs. Northeastern State
Game time: 1 pm, Welch Stadium
Coverage: Noon, Mix 104.9 FM and KVOE.com

Following its record-setting 54-38 shootout win over Central Oklahoma last weekend, Emporia State has entered the AFCA rankings for the first time at No. 24. Northeastern State, however, wasn’t close to the national ratings when Saturday began and fell further away from the rankings after a 48-3 loss to Washburn.

Based on trends and available personnel, this should be an easy win for the Black and Gold. Should be.

Keys to a win:

Running game. Hornet running game found some holes in the second half against Central Oklahoma, helping to blunt Central’s comeback efforts. Riverhawks were counting on running back Joel Rockmore to carry the offensive load, but he’s done for weeks after injuring his knee against Missouri Southern. Advantage: Hornets

Defense (clap clap) defense (clap clap). Last two games haven’t been stellar for ESU, but Central Oklahoma has the athletes to gash even the better defenses in the MIAA. Despite giving up nearly 50 points last weekend, NSU’s defense was a bright spot for the team after forcing five interceptions. Advantage: Hornets.

Tempo. Northeastern State has eight starters out for the year. If the Hornets can maintain an uptempo pace for most of the game, the second half could get real ugly for the visitors from Tahlequah. Advantage: Hornets.

Final score: ESU 55, Northeastern State 24

Game Preview: Emporia State at Central Oklahoma

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Emporia State at Central Oklahoma
Game time: 6 pm, Edmond, Okla.
Pregame: 5 pm, Mix 104.9 FM and KVOE.com.

Emporia State wasn’t burned for playing one good half of football as they cruised to a 34-21 win over Nebraska-Kearney last week. Central Oklahoma, however, simply could not stop Pittsburg State en route to its second straight loss.

The keys to victory:

Rushing attack. UCO’s Joshua Birmingham has done well to start the season, with 150-plus yards against Pittsburg State and 172 yards against Missouri Southern. However, ESU did a good job bottling him up last year in Emporia. Meanwhile, Dozie Iwaugwu adds a slippery dimension to the Hornet rushing attack that has been hard to stop since he started running downhill about halfway through the Fort Hays win. Advantage: Hornets

Defense. In Central Oklahoma’s case, there isn’t much of it. Pitt State gained nearly 600 yards last week with Missouri Southern tacking on 473. ESU wore down defensively against Nebraska-Kearney, but a strong start was more than enough to help seal the win. Advantage: Hornets

Motivation: ESU is fighting mad, thinking they lost a chance to make an early statement that these aren’t the same old Hornets from the past decade. Central Oklahoma is honestly fighting for its season, but it needed ESU to be a lot more complacent coming in. Advantage: Hornets

Final score: ESU 48, UCO 23

Game Preview: ESU vs Nebraska-Kearney

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Emporia State vs. Nebraska-Kearney
Game time: 6 pm, Welch Stadium
Coverage: 5 pm, Mix 104.9 and KVOE.com

Last week, Emporia State dominated Fort Hays State, while Nebraska-Kearney was on the wrong end of things against Washburn.

The Lopers’ seven turnovers makes it difficult to really determine just how good Nebraska-Kearney is after UNK suffered through a terrible 2012, going through a half-dozen quarterbacks, shrinking the playbook  and thoroughly plucking the bloom off what was supposed to be a dominating year in a new conference.

ESU, meanwhile, turned up the offensive octane as last week’s game progressed, amassing nearly 600 yards of total offense and throwing a stifling run defense at Fort Hays.

How do you handicap an early-season game where the two participants had such different outcomes the week before? And you haven’t even factored in the thorough beating ESU gave Kearney last year.

As usual, it comes down to several things. In this case, I’m looking at quarterback play, line play and turnovers. I’ve also found an intangible — motivation — which may well play into the final result.

QB. ESU sophomore Brent Wilson didn’t seem fazed at all in his first college start, passing for 301 yards, rushing for over 70 more and accounting for five touchdowns. Bronson Marsh, the Nebraska transfer, didn’t fare nearly as well, throwing for 163 yards and three interceptions. Marsh may be more comfortable in the pocket this week — if ESU lets him be. Advantage: Hornets.

Line play: ESU’s lines are bigger than they have been in some time, and it showed. The Hornets dominated their Fort Hays State counterparts last week. Lopers did gash Washburn for nearly 190 rushing yards, however. Advantage: Hornets.

Turnovers: If Nebraska-Kearney turns the ball over seven times, this could get really ugly. ESU was relatively mistake-free last week, and I think the Hornets can do a better job of turning mistakes into points than UNK can. Advantage: Hornets.

Motivation: UNK thought it could flatten ESU last year just by attending the game, and guess how well that happened. So the Lopers are, well, highly motivated to do unto others as they had done unto them. ESU wants to carry the momentum from last year — and last week — forward. The question is which motivational tool is stronger, and pure, unadulterated revenge is hard to beat. Advantage: Lopers.

Final score: ESU 27, UNK 20

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