MSSU Heads to UNK Searching for First Win

MSSU Heads to UNK Searching for First Win


Joplin, Mo. — The Missouri Southern football team will take another long road trip this week as the Lions head up to Kearney, Neb., to take on the University of Nebraska-Kearney Lopers. Kickoff from Cope Stadium is slated for 2 pm.

Game Information
Team Records: MSSU – 0-4, 0-4 MIAA | UNK – 0-4, 0-4 MIAA
Date: Saturday, October 1, 2016
Kick-Off: 2 pm, CT
Location: Kearney, Neb.
Site: Cope Stadium (5,250)
Series Record: Nebraska-Kearney leads the series 8-6
Coaches: Denver Johnson (1-14 at MSSU, 70-80 overall) | Josh Lambertson (0-15 overall/at UNK)

Media Coverage
MSSU Radio: ESPN Joplin 101.3, 103.5 FM and AM 1560; 88.7 FM KXMS – Mike McClure, Play-by-Play, Scott Boudreaux, Color
Video Webcast:
Live Stats:
Lions on Facebook:
Lions on Twitter: @mososports; @mosofootball

The Series: Nebraska-Kearney holds an 8-6 record in the overall series, however the two teams have only played each other twice since the 1988 season (both Lions wins) the last year Southern participated as a member of the NAIA and the Central States Intercollegiate Conference. The series features one of the most unique situations as both teams historically have been better at the other team’s facility. The Lions are 2-5 at home, while 4-3 in Kearney. UNK won the first four meetings, but Southern took the next three. The Lions have won the last two, 34-17 in 2014 and 24-14 last season.

The Dish On The Lopers: The Lopers are led by young freshman quarterback Steve Worthing. Worthing, a redshirt freshman, is 62-123 in the air for 755 yards and five touchdowns, while carrying the ball 38 times for 70 yards. Luke Quinn is the leading rusher for the Lopers with 102 yards on 46 carries and three scores, while Thomas Russell has two scores on the ground with 99 yards rushing. Malcolm Moore is Worthing’s lead target in the air, catching 14 passes for 113 yards and two scores. Preston Foley has 13 catches for 111 yards, while Quinn is the big-play target with just five receptions for 124 yards, an impressive 24.8 per catch. He has two touchdowns receiving, as well. Defensively, All-MIAA linebacker Tyke Kozeal leads the defensive attack with 70 stops, including five and a half for a loss and one sack. Garrett Poppen has 23 tackles with 2.5 tackles for a loss, a sack and an interception, while Antwan Hadley has 14 tackles and an interception. The Lopers will be back in action next week when UNK travels to Central Missouri for a 1 pm kickoff.

A Victory vs. Nebraska-Kearney Would: be the third time in a row over the Lopers and bring the series history to 8-7, UNK. It would be the fifth time the Lions have won in Kearney.

NFL Representation: The Lions will have two different starters on NFL rosters to start the season. Brandon Williams is a starter on the defensive line for the Baltimore Ravens, while Allen Barbre will start on the offensive line for the Philadelphia Eagles.

NFL Leaders: Brandon Williams has become a leader on the defense for the Baltimore Ravens, shoring their defensive line. Last year, the third-year pro had a career-high 52 tackles and two sacks. He was listed by many as a notable snub for the NFL Pro Bowl in 2015. Allen Barbre will be in his second year as a starter on the offensive line for the Eagles and head coach Doug Pedersen is very high on Barbre, naming him the starter prior to training camp. Barbre started all 16 games for the Eagles in 2015.

NFL Executive: Former Lion and former NFL wide receiver James Thrash is in his second season serving as the NFL and NFLPA’s Appeals Officer. He hears all appeals for the NFL regarding on-field player discipline. Thrash played 12 seasons in the NFL for the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles.

Lions On Radio: The Lions will partner with ESPN Joplin this year as Southern can now be heard on three separate FM stations, as well as an AM station. ESPN Joplin will air the Lions’ games on 101.3 and 103.5 FM, as well as AM 1560. MSSU’s KXMS 88.7 will also simulcast the games giving the Lions a larger reach in the four-states than they’ve ever had.

Tough League/Region: The MIAA has three teams in the coaches top 25 this week. Northwest Missouri is 1st, while Central Missouri is 22nd and Emporia State is 23rd. The Super Region Three, which the Lions are a part of, has 9 teams in the top 25. There are 15 teams total that are either ranked or receiving votes in the poll from the region.

Lions On TV: Missouri Southern’s KGCS will air every Lions home game live this year during the season. They will also re-broadcast the games on Sunday evenings at 7 pm.

Lions On The Web: All of MSSU’s football games are carried live online as part of the MIAA’s streaming contract with Stretch Internet. Fans can view games live by clicking on the link on

New Coaches: Bill Bleil (offensive line) and Darius Hart (defensive line) will join the Lions this year on coach Denver Johnson‘s staff. Bleil comes to Southern from the University of Rhode Island, while Hart previously coached at Trinity Valley Community College.

Father Vs. Son: Bill Bleil (offensive line) will be coaching against his son Kevin this week. Kevin is the co-offensive coordinator at Nebraska-Kearney.

Team Stats Rankings: The Lions, as a team lead Division II in fewest blocked punts allowed, while ranking 11th in blocked punts, 24th in fewest penalties per game and 25th in fewest penalties overall. The team also ranks 31st in fewest penalty yards per game and 32nd in fewest penalty yards overall.

Individual Stats Rankings: Individually, Brandon Marton, Travelle Smith and Chris Williams rank 31st nationally in fumbles recovered, while TJ Fleeton ranks 45th and 57th in completion percentage and completions per game. Scott Lathrop ranks 50th in receptions per game, while Justin Legier ranks 55th in solo tackles.

Strong Start: Against No. 1 ranked Northwest Missouri, the Lions scored on two of their first three possessions and held Northwest scoreless in the first quarter. It was also the first time Northwest had been held scoreless in the first quarter all year.

Safety First: The Lions forced a safety against Missouri Western after blocking a punt out of the end zone. It was the first time since 2012 the Lions have had a safety.

Call Me A Hall Of Famer: Allen Barbre was inducted into the Missouri Southern Athletics Hall of Fame on September 24. Barbre was a multiple All-American offensive lineman in his four-year career for the Lions and is now a starter with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Expanded Roster: Last season, the Lions carried between 80-90 players on their roster and that provided depth issues for the team. This year, Southern has between 130-140 players, much more to the liking of head coach Denver Johnson.

Record Setter: TJ Fleeton tied his own school record this past week as he completed 36 passes against Fort Hays. He tied the record he had previously set last season, ironically against FHSU.

Welcome Back: Southern has welcomed back a pair of former starters to the lineup after both had sat out last year with an injury. Lars Lindquist and Scott Lathrop are both back, but both are playing different positions. Lindquist has moved to the offensive line after serving as a starter on the other side, while Lathrop will move from quarterback to receiver.

Weather Report: The weather report for the Kearney area on Saturday calls for mostly sunny conditions and a high of 76 degrees with a 10 percent chance of precipitation.

Up Next: The Lions will come back home on October 8 as Missouri Southern plays host to Washburn University for Homecoming 2016. Kickoff from Fred G. Hughes Stadium is slated for 3 pm.