Joplin, Mo.. - The Missouri Southern defense nearly tied a school record for interceptions in a game, but did force Emporia State to their own record for picks thrown in a game as the Lions defense picked off six passes en route to a 34-13 home opening win in front of more than 4,200 fans at Fred G. Hughes Stadium tonight in Joplin.
Southern (1-2, 1-1 MIAA) forced seven turnovers tonight (six interceptions and one fumble recovery) and two touchdowns came directly after a Lions forced turnover. Collin Howard was 14-26 with 204 yards and four touchdowns. Freshman receiver Landon Zerkel caught six passes for 135 yards and an impressive 22 yards per catch. He had two scores. Daniel Thompson caught two touchdown passes, as both of his receptions resulted in scores. It marks the fourth-straight game that Thompson has had two touchdowns or more.
Toderick Hunt rushed 18 times for 108 yards and a score, while Johnny Johnson had 41 yards on 13 carries.
Neither team scored on their first three possessions, before Howard and Zerkel hooked up on a 40-yard pass to put the Lions up 7-0 with 1:43 left in the first. A Terrance Scott interception, his first of two in the game, led to the Lions' second score when Hunt ran for a four-yard touchdown, capping off an eight-play, 55 yard drive that ate up 3:39 and put the Lions up 14-0, just shortly into the second quarter.
The Lions would pick up another turnover as time expired in the first half after a Nick Teer forced fumble was picked up by Jairius Jarvis.
After a 46-yard touchdown run from the Hornets' Kevin Smith made the score 14-6, another interception, this time one of Justin Cowper's two in the game, led to another Howard to Zerkel catch. The 22 yards pass and catch gave the Lions a 20-6 lead at the 10:42 minute mark of the third quarter.
The Lions picked up their fourth touchdown of the game just as the fourth quarter started. Howard scrambled to all sides of the field avoiding multiple tackles before he found a wide-open Thompson just short of the end zone for a score.
Emporia (1-3, 0-2 MIAA) picked up another score as Andre Sloan El hooked up with Danny McEvoy for a four-yard score to make the score 27-13, but Thompson would get his second touchdown pass from Howard with 7:49 left in the game to put the final tally at 34-17.
Southern picked up 170 yards on the ground and 204 yards in the air. The Lions out-gained Emporia 374-315, but the huge difference were the turnovers the Southern defense forced on the night.
Teer led the Lions with 10 tackles and a sack on the night. Cowper and Scott both had two interceptions, with Cowper running his back for 31 yards. Both added pass breakups as well. Josh Woodard had seven tackles, a sack and an interception, while Richard Williams picked up an interception of his own.
The Lions had six tackles for a loss of 31 yards on the night, with one forced fumble and recovery, six interceptions, seven pass breakups, three sacks and three quarterback hurries.
Southern will be back in action next weekend when the Lions play host to Nebraska-Omaha at 2 pm in Hughes Stadium. The game will be homecoming for the Lions and will also see Southern induct five new individuals into the Athletic Hall of Fame.