MIAA Football Report No. 12

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The No. 5-ranked Northwest Missouri State Bearcats (8-1, 8-0 MIAA) will be trying complete their second undefeated run through the MIAA in as many seasons when they conclude the regular season slate Saturday (Nov. 10) with a visit from Missouri Southern (6-4, 4-4 MIAA).

Northwest wrapped up their 21st MIAA football championship last week with a 24-7 win at Emporia State (3-7, 1-7 MIAA), and with a win should secure a first-round bye in the NCAA Division II playoffs.

The Bearcats are second in the latest Southwest Region ranking released Monday (Nov. 5) -- the top two teams in each region get a spot in the second round.

It will be a homecoming for Lions head coach Bart Tatum, who was the longtime offensive coordinator at Northwest under Mel Tjeerdsma after playing for him at Austin (Texas) College.

Missouri Western (8-2, 6-2 MIAA) goes to Truman (5-5, 3-5 MIAA) with the goal of trying to stay in the top four of the region and get the Griffons a home playoff game for the first time.

MWSU is fourth in the latest regional ranking, and they'll be at home Nov. 17 for a first-round game if they can stay in fourth move to third.

The Bulldogs are hoping to win their season finale -- a win will give Truman back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2001-02.

Even after their rally to defeat Pittsburg State (7-3, 5-3 MIAA) last week, Washburn (7-3, 6-2 MIAA) only moved up to eighth in the region. If the Ichabods want to keep any hope of the playoffs alive, they'll have to win at Southwest Baptist (0-10, 0-8 MIAA).

The Bearcats are playing their final MIAA football game, looking to end the season on a winning note and snap a 15-game losing skid dating back to 2006. SBU will remain a member of the MIAA, but has opted out of football to play the sport as an independent starting in 2008.

Though they'll be missing the playoffs for the second time in as many seasons (a first in the NCAA-II era), the Pitt State Gorillas will shoot to end the season on a winning note at home when Emporia State (3-7, 1-7 MIAA) visits.

These two squads played the longest regular-season MIAA game of all time last season at ESU, with PSU claiming a 59-57 win in four overtimes. The Hornets are out to snap a seven-game skid and get just their fourth win in the last 18 games.

Central Missouri (6-4, 5-3 MIAA) hosts Fort Hays State (4-6, 2-6 MIAA) to round out the schedule.

SMART SETS D-II MARK: Southwest Baptist senior WR Nick Smart claimed the NCAA Division II single-season receptions record with 127 catches in the Bearcats' 36-30 loss at Fort Hays State last Saturday (Nov. 3).

The 11th of 18 receptions in the game was the record-setter. It came late in the third quarter on a 3-yard out from freshman QB Steven Gachette.

The old mark was 119, set by West Texas A&M's Brad Bailey in 1994. The NCAA Collegiate record is 142, set in 1989 by Manny Hazzard of Houston.

OMON CLOSING ON HISTORY: Northwest Missouri State senior RB Xavier Omon could become the first back in NCAA Division II history with four 1,500-yard seasons.

He needs 17 more yards to reach 1,500 in 2007, and 95 yards to surpass Truman's Jarrett Anderson (1993-96 -- 6,313) for third on the MIAA's career rushing list. He has 6,218 entering the game this week with Missouri Southern.

Omon became the third MIAA player to crack 500 career points with the first of two touchdowns in a 24-7 win at Emporia State last week. He enters the week with 506.

THE 80-WIN CLUB: Missouri Western's Jerry Partridge needs one win to reach 80 as Griffons head coach and become the ninth MIAA mentor to reach the milestone.

He passed former Central Missouri head coach Terry Noland (1983-96 -- 78) for ninth on the MIAA's coaching victories list after Western defeated UCM, 42-38, last week.

HINSPETER PASSES COOK; BRILL CRACKS TOP 10 LIST: Junior QB Adam Hinspeter became the career passing yardage leader at Missouri Southern and moved to sixth on the MIAA list with his efforts in the Lions' 55-24 win over Truman last week.

With 180 yards, his career total climbed to 6,975 -- passing former Lion Matt Cook (1989-93 -- 6,830) for the top spot at MSSU and sixth on the league list.

Joining Hinspeter on the top 10 is Washburn senior QB Jordan Brill. He had 291 yards against Pittsburg State and raised his career mark to 6,618 to take over 10th from Central Missouri's Scott Loveland (1981-84 -- 6,547).

Brill needs 59 yards for ninth place and 80 to take over eighth.

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Team-by-Team Notes

Central Missouri: The Mules earned their first win in three tries against FHSU last season -- it was the first meeting between the two schools since 1965... Senior FS Kendall Ricketts had 10 tackles against Missouri Western in his first game back since missing two with a knee injury, and became UCM's career tackle leader with 335... Sophomore QB Eric Czerniewski threw for a career-high 365 yards last week -- the Mules out-gained the Griffons, 491-395, in total offense... Junior RB Glenn Milner is tied for 10th in D-II scoring (11.4 ppg)... Only six D-II defenses have more interceptions (18) than UCM.

Emporia State: The Hornets have two wins in their last five meetings with the Gorillas... The ESU/PSU series is the fourth-most played active rivalry in NCAA Division II... ESU was the first team to keep Northwest Missouri State from scoring in the first quarter this season, and limited the Bearcats to their second-lowest point total in league play for 2007... The Hornets picked off four passes against Northwest.

Fort Hays State: The Tigers haven't visited Central Missouri since the first time the two squads met on the gridiron -- a 40-6 FHSU win on Oct. 10, 1964... The Tigers took a 36-17 lead against Southwest Baptist on the strength of three field goals by senior K Justin Barr (sixth in D-II -- 1.3 per game), a 93-yard return of the second-half kickoff by junior WR Bryan Haynes, and a 78-yard interception return on the ensuing SBU drive by sophomore DB C.J. Lovett... Senior DL Jason Hill was held without a sack for just the second time in '07 -- he's fifth in D-II (1.0 per game -- 10 for the season).

Missouri Southern: The Lions are seeking their first win over the Bearcats at Northwest since a 49-33 victory in 1993... MSSU has dropped the last 12 meeting with Northwest overall... Southern picked off four passes last week in the home finale against Truman, giving the Lions 21 for the year -- second-best total in D-II this week... Sophomore LB Jared Brawner, a native of Kirksville, had 12 tackles and was credited with 3.5 tackles for loss against his hometown's Bulldogs... The Lions had a 40:27-to-19:33 advantage in time of possession against Truman, and was 5-of-5 on fourth down conversions.

Missouri Western: The Griffons are aiming for their ninth victory of the season and sixth in a row -- the nine wins would equal the best total in school history... Western has won the last four games played against the Bulldogs, and are 3-2 in the last five played at Kirksville... Only eight schools have gained more turnovers from their foes than Western (30) -- The Griffons picked up three against Central Missouri last week... Senior FS J.R. Graham had 13 tackles against UCM, tying a career high he set earlier in the year vs. Washburn... Freshman RB La'Darrian Page needs 10 yards to crack 1000 for the season.

Northwest Missouri State: Senior RB Xavier Omon crack the 200-yard mark for the third time this season with his 230 yards vs. Emporia State (he had three in his first three seasons)... Omon needs one touchdown to crack the school's single-season record of 25 -- he had 24 last season to match David Jansen's 1999 effort... Omon is third in D-II rushing (164.8 ypg) and scoring (16.0 ppg)... Junior WR Kendall Wright had nine receptions against ESU -- the third time in his career he's reached that mark in a game... Junior WR Abe Qaoud logged a career-best five catches against the Hornets -- four coming in the second half.

Pittsburg State: The last time the Gorillas missed the national playoff in consecutive seasons was 1982-84, when PSU missed the NAIA Division I Playoffs... Junior QB Mark Smith had 96 rushing yards and three TDs vs. Washburn, but also fumbled once and threw two interceptions to account for half of PSU's six turnovers... The Gorillas are the sixth-best rushing team in Division II this week (277.0 ypg)... Junior RB Caleb Farabi is tied for seventh in D-II scoring (12.0 ppg)... Farabi was held to a season-low 54 rushing yards -- he needs 134 yards to crack 2,000 for his career and be the 20th Gorilla to do such.

Southwest Baptist: Freshman QB Steven Gachette set the MIAA single-season passing attempts mark, with his 68 vs. Fort Hays State giving him 512 -- Truman's Chris Hegg had 503 attempts in 1985... Gachette has thrown 314 completions -- 10 shy of equaling the MIAA record of 324 set in 15 games by Northwest Missouri State's Josh Lamberson (2005)... Gachette is fifth in D-II total offense (314.3 ypg)... SBU averages 324.8 passing yards per game (third in D-II)... Head coach Keith Allen had the interim tag removed from his title Friday (Nov. 2).

Truman: The Bulldogs will be looking to complete a 4-1 home record when Missouri Western visits... Junior QB Matt Ticich moved into fifth on Truman's career total offense list after throwing for 89 and rushing for 32 against Southern -- he has 5,436 yards in less than two seasons to better the total of Chris Hegg (5,418 -- 1984-85)... The Bulldogs were limited to 206 yards against MSSU, turned the ball over five times and were 2-of-13 on third down conversions.

Washburn: The Ichabods have won 10 of the last 13 meetings with the Bearcats... WU has won six of the nine meetings in Bolivar... In 2006, the Ichabods scored 42 unanswered points to claim a 56-23 win... The last time Washburn played SBU on Nov. 10 was in 2001, when the Ichabods lost, 48-20, in what would be Tony DeMeo's last game as WU's head coach -- Craig Schurig would be hired to replace him... Senior RB Ra'Shawn Mosley needs 35 yards to become the second WU player to have two 1,000 rushing seasons -- he missed most of the PSU game with an injury... WU has played 100 games since last being shutout in 1998.

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MIAA Football Players of the Week

For the week of play ending Nov. 4

OFFENSE:
Jake Lebahn, WR
Washburn University

Lebahn, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound senior from Salina, Kan., caught two touchdown passes -- including what proved to be the game-winner -- as the Ichabods knocked off 18th-ranked Pittsburg State, 35-28, Saturday (Nov. 3).

He had six receptions for 153 yards and the two TDs -- each total a career-best. Three of his six catches were for first-down yardage.

Lebahn's first touchdown catch with 5:13 left in the third quarter tied the game at 21-21, while his second in the fourth quarter gave WU the seven-point lead it would not relinquish. He had a 68-yard catch-and-run on the go-ahead drive.

Lebahn is a graduate of Salina Central High School.

Others Nominated: Colin Bado, WR, MSSU; Damond Berry, WR, UCM; Xavier Omon, RB, NWMSU; La'Darrian Page, RB, MWSU; Nick Smart, WR, SBU.

Previous Winners: 8/27 -- Mark Smith, QB, PSU; 9/3 -- Caleb Farabi, TB, PSU; 9/10 -- Matt Ticich, QB, TSU; 9/17 -- Alley Broussard, RB, MSSU & Caleb Farabi, TB, PSU; 9/24 -- Xavier Omon, RB, NWMSU; 10/1 -- Chadd Snyder, QB, PSU; 10/8 -- Xavier Omon, RB, NWMSU; 10/15 -- Xavier Omon, RB, NWMSU; 10/22 -- Drew Newhart, QB, MWSU; 10/29 -- Xavier Omon, RB, NWMSU.

DEFENSE:
Zach Watkins, LB
Washburn University

Watkins, a 6-foot-0, 230-pound sophomore from Independence, Mo., had 12 tackles and a key interception in the Ichabods' 35-28 win over No. 18 Pittsburg State Saturday (Nov. 3).

Four of his tackles were solo stops, and he was credited with 0.5 quarterback sacks.

After WU had gained the seven-point lead in the fourth quarter, Watkins picked off a pass to halt a PSU drive at the Gorillas' 32. It was one of six turnovers gained by Washburn.

He now has 221 career tackles, cracking the school's career top 10 in just his second season. His 122 tackles in 2007 is the seventh-best single-season total in WU history

Watkins is a graduate of Truman High School.

Others Nominated: Jared Erspamer, LB, NWMSU; J.R. Graham, FS, MWSU; Elbert Johnson, DE, MSSU; C.J. Lovett, DB, FHSU; Kendall Ricketts, FS, UCM.

Previous Winners: 8/27 -- Garret Feig, DB, TSU; 9/3 -- Zach Watkins, ILB, WU; 9/10 -- Emmanuel Howard, CB, ESU; 9/17 -- Emmanuel Howard, CB, ESU; 9/24 -- Jared Brawner, LB, MSSU; 10/1 -- Kendall Ricketts, FS, UCM; 10/8 -- Jared Erspamer, LB, NWMSU; 10/15 -- Bruce Ringwood, LB, WU; 10/22 -- John Wood, DE, UCM; 10/29 -- Jared Erspamer, LB, NWMSU.

SPECIAL TEAMS:
Jacob Schoonover, LB
Missouri Western State University

Schoonover, a 6-foot-0, 215-pound senior from Mound City, Mo., blocked a punt and picked it up to score his second touchdown of the game in the Griffons' 42-28 win over Central Missouri Saturday (Nov. 3).

The blocked punt return of 14 yards with 5:42 left in the game put MWSU up by 14 points, 35-21.

He also returned an interception 31 yards for a TD late in the first half -- his second pick six of the season -- to make it 21-7 Western.

Schoonover is a graduate of Mound City High School.

Others Nominated: Bryan Haynes, KR/WR, FHSU; Brian Malette, K, MSSU; Justin Welch, DB, NWMSU.

Previous Winners: 8/27 -- Bryan Haynes, KR, FHSU; 9/3 -- Jared Witter, K/P, PSU; 9/10 -- Marcelo Velazquez, K, UCM; 9/17 -- Caleb Obert, KR/WR, NWMSU; 9/24 -- Kendall Wright, KR/WR, NWMSU; 10/1 -- Sydney Brisbane, KR/WR, NWMSU & Jared Witter, K/P, PSU; 10/8 -- Cary Williams, KR/DB/WR, WU; 10/15 -- Matt Frankel, P/K, UCM; 10/22 -- Dustin Strickler, K, MWSU; 10/29 -- Mickey Masucci, K/P, TSU.


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