Opener against NSU
| Michael Bauer sports editor |
Northeastern State’s football team has not enjoyed their time in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) conference.
The River Hawks’ last winning season came in 2011. Then NSU joined the MIAA and, so far, they have gone a combined 6-15 in the last two seasons.
Last year’s 2-9 record sparked a coaching change and now former Washburn offensive coordinator Rob Robinson takes over as the new head coach for the River Hawks.
The Gorillas gave Northeastern State a warm welcome to the conference with a 41-20 blow out in 2012 in Tahlequah, Okla. and, for the third straight year, opens the season by facing the River Hawks Saturday, Sept. 6, at Carnie Smith Stadium.
Pittsburg State had little trouble defeating NSU in last year’s opener, 45-6. But with eight starters returning on offense and nine on defense, NSU will hope to keep the score line down.
Among those coming back from last year is running back Terrance Dixon who was an All-MIAA running back. He carried the ball 188 times last year for 720 yards, averaging 65.5 a game, and 10 touchdowns.
The receiving corps is projected to be led by Jordan Robinson and former PSU player, Garrett Powell. Robinson made seven starts in the 2013 season and led the team with 264 yards while Powell sat out last year.
But while Pittsburg State will be expecting an easy win, fans will finally get to see how the Gorilla offense can handle life without NFL wide receiver John Brown.
However, as head coach Tim Beck has said, PSU still returns plenty of other players.
“We have a bunch of players returning. This will be a grueling season playing every team, but we have a lot of players back,” Beck said. “We have guys who have been in the fire and know how to come from tough situations.”
Eight starters return on offense, including senior quarterback Anthony Abenoja who will be entering his third year as starting quarterback.
Abenoja passed for 2,954 yards and 30 touchdowns last season, going 183 out of 289 and five interceptions. Junior running back Jeff Seybold also returns after leading the MIAA in rushing yards, chalking up 1,434 yards off of 201 carries and 22 touchdowns, averaging 119.5 yards per game.
The PSU defense has to find a replacement for All-American linebacker Nate Dreiling, but with nine starters returning, the Gorillas should have valuable experience on the defensive side.
“We have a lot of experience coming back,” said senior safety Keeston Terry. “I know we lost Nate, but I think we have a few guys who can fill that role. I think we have the potential to be as good as we were last year.”
Terry finished 2013 with 64 total tackles, 35 of them solo and 29 assists.
Dreiling may have led the team in tackles with 109 total, but second-leading tackler senior Tyler Disney returns as linebacker. Last year, he put up 101 tackles, 46 of them solo, 55 assists and 3.5 sacks. He also had two interceptions returned for 96 yards.
Kick-off is set for 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6. PSU-NSU will be the only MIAA game to be played this Saturday, while everybody else opens up on Thursday, Sept. 4.