Blue Tigers a potential threat Led by NFL-star coach, Lincoln defeated NCAA D1 team on neutral ground
| Michael Bauer sports editor |
Head coach Tim Beck has preached it every week to his players: It doesn’t matter if they are facing Lincoln University, Missouri Western or Northwest Missouri, as long as they know that they must prepare the same as they do every week.
That’s what the No. 12 ranked and 3-0 Gorillas will aim to do when they travel to unfamiliar territory to take on Lincoln in Jefferson City, Mo.
This will be the first time since 1987 that the Gorillas will face the Blue Tigers on their turf. They will look to keep their record against the Blue Tigers perfect, as they hold an 8-0 record in the series.
“We talked about every team that we play,” said defensive lineman Joe Uzzel. “We try to be as professional as possible and that goes with having a mature group of guys and a sign of the maturity level, with more seniors this year than last year.”
Lincoln is led by second-year head coach Mike Jones, who is best known for his game-saving tackle at the one-yard line at the end of Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000 while a linebacker for the St. Louis Rams.
So far, Jones has compiled a 3-12 overall record in his stint at Lincoln.
The Blue Tigers will enter the contest with a 1-2 record.
That lone win, 47-34, came against a NCAA Division I FCS team, Grambling State, at Arrowhead Stadium. They fell to the undefeated Missouri Southern State Lions, 59-10, last week.
“When you watch them play the Grambling game, that was such a huge win for their program,” Beck said. “Anytime you can beat an FCS school, that’s a feather in your cap.”
Jones said he thought the victory over Grambling was a momentum boost for his club before falling flat to the Lions.
“Last week, we didn’t play hard,” Jones said. “Be prepared and stay focused and you’ll have a chance to win football games. You get to enjoy the victory but then you have to clear it after 24 hours.”
The Blue Tigers are powered on offense by running back Morris Henderson. He leads the rushing game with 304 yards off of 44 carries.
It doesn’t end with Henderson, as running back Deon Brock has 100 rushing yards off of 16 carries. Quarterback Jacob Morris has logged 48 carries for 86 yards.
“He’s a good player. Got another good running back beside him,” Uzzel said. “That’s the theme we’ve seen this last week; good skill players. We’ll see how we match up.”
The Gorilla defense has allowed only 37 points this season and ranks first overall in total defense and second in scoring defense in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) conference.
Uzzel says there’s more where that came from for this unit.
“I think we can be as good as we allow,” Uzzel said. “It’s just taking it every step that we need, week by week. Each game has been a step in the right direction.”
While Pittsburg State enjoyed their victory, 59-7, at home last week, the Blue Tigers were held to their lowest point total of the season while their defense allowed their most points from an opponent so far, from a Lion squad that runs the triple option.
“They got them in some bad positions and Missouri Southern was able to get the fullback established and carried the ball a little bit and come back with the fullback again and they had a hard time defending that,” Beck said. “If you’re not prepared for that, it can happen.”
But, Beck says, Lincoln’s defense could match-up better with Pitt State’s offense.
“They are much more equipped talent-wise and personnel-wise to defend what we do better than the triple option,” Beck said.
Playing on the road is never easy for most teams but Beck says one of the keys for Pitt State will be to get going early.
“On the road, if you go four or five series without scoring, you start to look around, thinking ‘what’s wrong?’ That’s why it’s important to get off to a good start,” Beck said.
Last week, wide receiver John Brown had five catches for 171 yards, earning him MIAA special teams player of the week honors. When asked about trying to stop Brown, Jones could only laugh.
“I’d want to play somebody else rather than him,” Jones said.
But with facing good players, comes good experiences.
“You’re looking at a program that less than two years ago won a national championship and then won eight games last year, so it’s a great challenge. But if you take it, great opportunities will come,” Jones said. “You get to play one of the best college football teams in Division II and if you take it as a great challenge like that, it’s going to be a great experience.”
Jones mentioned that it wasn’t every day that his players get to line up against All-Americans John Brown and linebacker Nate Dreiling and that it makes for a better opportunity for his side.
“John’s one of those guys who almost never drops a ball,” Beck said. “We want him to touch the ball as much as he can but he has bought in to what we do and he understands that. The number one thing for him is ‘let’s just win the game.’ He’s got the attitude you want from a team captain.”
The game will be played at Dwight T. Reed Stadium. It may be late September, but it will be the first home game for the Blue Tigers this season.
“We’ve been waiting a long time to play at home. We’ve been on the road and neutral sites,” Jones said. “It’s great to stay at home on Friday (night).”
The game will kick-off at 2 p.m. It’ll be the first day-game of the season for the Gorillas.