The Emporia State football team has slipped to 16th in this weeks National Coaches Poll and moves up to 6th in the regional rankings. That comes after the Hornets suffered their first loss, 48-21 at the hands of Northwest Missouri State.
Minnesota State Mankato remains the top ranked team in the National Coaches poll followed by Northwest Missouri State at number 2. Colorado State Pueblo is ranked number 3, Henderson State 4th, Minnesota Duluth 5th and Pittsburg State 6th. Missouri Western is ranked 19th and Washburn 23rd.
In the this weeks regional rankings the Hornets moved up to 6th. Northwest Missouri State remains the top ranked team. Minnesota State Mankato is second. Henderson State is third, then its Minnesota Duluth and Pittsburg State. The top 6 teams after this weeks play will advance to the play-offs.
What started as a back-and-forth affair between the MIAA's top defense in No. 2 Northwest Missouri and the conference's top offense in No. 10 Emporia State saw Northwest Missouri take control shortly before halftime. The Bearcats continued to flex their muscle in the second half, cruising to a 48-21 win over ESU and claiming at least a share of the MIAA conference championship.
NWMSU used long, time-consuming drives and short fields to keep Emporia State at bay. Case in point: the first two Bearcat drives of the game. NWMSU started the game with the ball and drove the length of the field to the ESU 2 before the Hornet defense stiffened, but a blocked punt on Emporia State's ensuing possession gave the Bearcats the ball at the ESU 21. NWMSU punched the ball into the end zone in five plays but missed the extra point.
Quarterback Brent Wilson then connected with Kavaski Ervin on a 45-yard touchdown pass to give the Hornets a 7-6 advantage late in the first quarter. It was a lead the Hornets would take into the second quarter, but Northwest then took the lead for good in grind-it-out fashion, capping off a 17-play, 85-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Trevor Adams to Jason Jozaites.
The Bearcats used a 74-yard touchdown pass on a third-and-13 to take a 20-7 lead before halftime. Adams scrambled, connecting with Bryce Young to give Northwest the momentum going into halftime.
Some charity by the Hornets helped at the start of the second half. A screen pass was intercepted deep in the Hornet end, and Adams hooked up with Robert Burton on a 6-yard scoring pass to take a 27-7 lead.
Emporia State had to punt on its following possession, but NWMSU quarterback Brady Bolles fumbled at the Hornet 31 and ESU responded -- driving 69 yards in 12 plays before Dozie Iwaugwa scored on 1-yard run. However, the Bearcats marched right back down the field, moving 75 yards in nine plays before Adams and Young linked up on a 5-yard pass to make the score 34-14.
Using a short field after a punt, the Bearcats moved 45 yards in six plays to take the 41-14 lead. Following a blocked punt deep in Emporia State territory, Billy Creason took it in from five yards out for a 48-14 advantage.
ESU quarterback Corben Jones threw a 44-yard scoring pass to Ervin to end the scoring.
Northwest dominated statistically, outgaining ESU 483 yards to 260, obtaining 25 first downs to Emporia State's 14 and holding the ball for almost 34 minutes. Individually, Wilson was 12-of-23 for 131 yards a touchdown and an interception. He was also sacked seven times. Jones was 2-for-2 for 78 yards and a TD in mop-up duty. Ervin led the receiving corps, catching five balls for 114 yards and two scores. Antonio Brown ran 13 times for 68 yards.
Defensively, Jordan Sanders led ESU with 11 tackles. Ashton Reichmann had 10.
The loss snaps Emporia State's 10-game winning streak dating back to 2012 and toughens the road for ESU to reach the playoffs. Emporia State entered Saturday seventh in Super Region III despite being 8-0 and the top six teams make the playoff field.
Now 8-1 overall and in the MIAA, ESU now prepares to host archrival Washburn on Nov. 16 to end the regular season. Washburn, meanwhile, is riding a two-game skid after losing to Northwest Missouri last week and to Missouri Western on Saturday. Pregame coverage will begin at noon on Mix 104.9 FM and KVOE.com.