Emporia, Kan. -- A 54-yard interception return for Emporia State with just under six minutes remaining gave the Hornets the deciding score as the Missouri Southern football team fell on the road today, 30-27 at Welch Stadium in Emporia.
Southern (2-1, 0-1 MIAA) out gained Emporia (3-1, 1-1 MIAA) 466-335, including 118-18 in the fourth quarter, but couldn't put away the game. The Lions gained 280 yards on the ground to ESU's 213 and 182 in the air to the Hornets 122. Four costly fourth quarter interceptions and six penalties sealed the Lions' fate.
A highlight for the Lions would be sophomore Cornell Gedward's day. The St. Martinville, La. native ran for 138 yards and a touchdown, including a near-record 96-yard run for a score in the third quarter. The 96 yards is the second-longest run from scrimmage in Southern history with the record coming back in 1983 as Tom Laughlin ripped off a 97-yard run against Wayne State.
Steven Sumpter ran for 75 yards, while Collin Howard and Ne'Ronte Threatt both had scores on the ground. Howard was 18-38 for 186 yards and a score but threw five interceptions on the day. Landon Zerkel caught six passes for 93 yards and a score. Corderial Collier had a game-high seven tackles witha pass break up. Skyler Vandiver, Scott Langill and Josh Woodard had six tackles each, while Kenny Smith forced a fumble and Maurice Pearl added a sack. Justin Cowper had a blocked field goal and return of 17 yards.
The Lions got on the board first when after taking over with great field position on the ESU 47, two passes from Howard to Zerkel resulted in a 36-yard touchdown score.
ESU tied the score up on its very next drive, and would go ahead shortly in the second quarter as Tyler Eckenrode threw his second touchdown pass of the day, this time a 21-yard strike to Benjamin Love. The two-point conversion failed, but the Hornets had a 16-7 lead after kicker Zack King hit from 32 with three minutes left on the clock. The lead was 16-14 at the half after Howard scored on a 10 yard run with 12 seconds left in the half.
ESU put the pressure right back on the Lions and the Hornets successfully converted an onside kick to start the half, and ten seconds later Adrian Abner ran for 49 yards to put the Hornets up 23-14.
Southern answered back though, and after getting the ball on its own four-yard line, Gedward broke off a 96-yard touchdown run to make the score 23-21. The Lions' defense then came up big on the next ESU possession as Cowper blocked a field-goal attempt and ran it back 17 yards to the Lions' 37-yard line. Southern capitalized on the turnover and Threatt scored on a 14-yard run to give the Lions a 27-23 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Southern threated twice in the fourth, but both times the drive stalled and resulted in interceptions. One other turnover proved costly as the Hornets Michael Luthi picked off a Lions' pass on the ESU 46-yard line and returned it 54 yards for the games' deciding score.
A last-second pass from Howard would be intercepted at the five as the Hornets sealed the win.
The Lions will be back on the road next week as Southern travels to Omaha, Nebraska to take on the University of Nebraska-Omaha at 6 pm.