By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
The Missouri Western football team is back on the road this weekend for another big challenge on the MIAA schedule.
The Griffons, who look to break a two-game losing skid and get their first road win of the season, are at 23-ranked Nebraska-Kearney on Saturday afternoon.
Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. with coverage starting at 1 on KFEQ Radio (680 AM, 95.3 FM).
Missouri Western took a 30-7 loss at home to second-ranked Northwest Missouri State last Saturday - a game in which the Griffon offense gained only 101 total yards.
"Our engine just never really got started offensively," Williamson said at this week's Griffon Luncheon on JoeTown 107.5 FM. "(Northwest) did a great job of kind of just shutting everything down."
Williamson says the team is frustrated, but motivated to right the wrongs from last week and get back on track, especially on offense.
"We're looking forward to this next game," he said. "Our kids are really hacked off and kind of upset. I think our offense got punched in the mouth and didn't react very well. So, they're going to be ready to go this week."
Defensively, the Griffons played well at times against the Bearcats, forcing two turnovers, including a 56-yard scoop-and-score from freshman defensive lineman Brandon Johnson in the first quarter.
Missouri Western also kept Northwest scoreless in the third quarter, coming up with four consecutive stops.
It's the second quarter, however, that Williamson says his defense blew coverages on two big pass plays - one for 36 yards which was a touchdown, and another for 72 yards, which set up a Bearcat touchdown.
The game could have been different if, Williamson says, those two plays were better executed.
"I know our staff has talked to them about it," he mentioned. "I talked to them about it and we're making those corrections, because if we (stop those big plays), the game would have been different in the first half. Our offense still didn't get things going and we have to make corrections there, but defensively, it could have been a lot closer game if we hadn't missed those two assignments."
Kick return was also major problem for Western last week, as the Griffons averaged just 11 yards per return, starting four of their 11 possessions inside their own 15-yard line.
The Griffons face a Nebraska-Kearney team Saturday that’s 4-1 overall and fresh off of a 42-35 loss at Fort Hays State last week - a game in which the Lopers saw a 21-point second half lead slip away.
The Lopers rank fourth in the nation with 273 rushing yards per game. Their quarterback, T.J. Davis, has 1,594 all-purpose yards and 18 all-purpose touchdowns - 11 rushing and seven passing.
Nebraska-Kearney also runs an option-style offense, which Williamson says has caused their opponents headaches this season.
"He's very talented, Williamson said of UNK's dual threat quarterback. "We'll have to slow him down quite a bit. They're going to get yards rushing. Most options team do. So, we have to keep things in front. We can't give the big plays up."
Nebraska-Kearney beat Missouri Western in St. Joseph on Nov. 9, 2019, 49-21, spoiling the Griffons' senior day and any remaining MIAA title hopes.
The Lopers have won two of the last three meetings. The Griffons won the last meeting in Kearney, 25-17, on Nov. 3, 2018.
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