Kansas City, Kan. -- The Missouri Southern football team has been picked to finish seventh in both the coaches and media polls that were released today as part of the 2014 MIAA Football Media Day held at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan.
The Lions are coming off of a 7-3 season that saw the team finish fifth in the final regular season standings at 5-3 and defeat ninth-ranked Pittsburg State on the road to finish the season.
Nine Lions were named All-MIAA in 2013 and eight of the nine return to the team. Chris Barnwell was named All-Region and All-American, while Giresse Forchu was an Academic All-District selection. The Lions ended the 2013 campaign as Division II's leader in time of possession, holding onto the ball for an average of 35:14 each game. Southern also ranked second nationally in both rushing yardage and fewest passes intercepted. In all, the Lions ranked in the top ten nationally in nine different categories, while ranking 14th in turnovers lost.
The Lions, in one fewer game than the old record took, destroyed the rushing record set in 2012 (3,043) by rushing for 3,684 yards in 2013. The team also broke a record set in 2012 in largest gain per rush by averaging 6.2 yards per carry, while also breaking the record for rushing attempts with 597. The Lions broke the single-game rushing record with 607 yards put up against Lincoln in 2013, besting the old record by more than 100 yards.
The Lions return nine starters on offense, including five All-MIAA performers in Jay McDowell, Barnwell, Forchu, Caleb Benner and Austin Wolfe, while six starters return on defense, including three All-MIAA players (Gaige Washington, Dalvin Taylor, Johnquavious McBride).
Southern starts the 2014 season at Emporia State on September 4 with a 7 pm, Thursday night kickoff. The Lions' home opener will be on Thursday, September 11 against defending National Champion Northwest Missouri. Kickoff from Fred G. Hughes Stadium inside the Robert W. Plaster Sports Complex is slated for 6:30 pm.
2013 NCAA Division II National Champion Northwest Missouri was picked to win in both polls. The coaches chose Pittsburg State to finish second, while Central Missouri, Emporia State and Missouri Western rounded out the top five. Washburn was sixth, followed by Southern, Fort Hays, Lindenwood, Central Oklahoma, Nebraska-Kearney and Northeastern State.
In the Media Poll, the top two schools remained the same, but Emporia State was picked third, followed by Missouri Western and Washburn to round out the top five. Central Missouri was sixth, followed by Southern, Fort Hays, Lindenwood, Nebraska-Kearney, Central Oklahoma, and Northeastern State.
Both complete polls are listed below.