In Thursday night action from the MIAA, the No. 18-ranked Emporia State University Hornets put an end to a lengthy 29-game losing streak against the No. 5-ranked Northwest Missouri State University Bearcats, securing a decisive 33-13 victory on Thursday night.
This victory also marked a significant milestone by snapping the Bearcats’ impressive 18-game home winning streak.
The Hornets made their presence felt early in the game, with a stunning play of their own. Jaaron Joseph of ESU intercepted a pass from Mike Hohensee and returned it an astonishing 76 yards for a touchdown, giving the Hornets an initial 6-0 lead. This interception came after Northwest had received the opening kickoff and advanced the ball 39 yards in six plays. However, ESU faced challenges with the extra point, as a mishandled snap left the score at 6-0 with 12:36 remaining in the opening quarter.
Northwest responded swiftly, embarking on a 12-play, 75-yard drive that consumed 6 minutes and 26 seconds of game time. Jay Harris scored a four-yard touchdown run with 6:10 left in the first quarter, and Cole Lammel successfully converted the extra point, giving Northwest a 7-6 lead.
ESU’s first offensive play of the game didn’t occur until 6:10 remained in the first quarter, and it resulted in a three-and-out, gaining just one yard before punting.
However, Northwest faced its second interception of the game just two plays later. Backup quarterback Chris Ruhnke’s pass was intercepted by Montrell Wilson at the 15-yard line and returned seven yards, giving ESU’s offense another opportunity.
ESU embarked on a 12-play, 52-yard drive but was halted on downs at the Bearcat 26-yard line to conclude the first quarter.
Northwest’s subsequent drive was marked by a 30-minute lightning delay. Following the delay, Ruhnke threw his second interception, marking the third for Northwest in the first half. Khalil Rasheed intercepted Ruhnke’s pass at the ESU 29-yard line.
ESU capitalized on two consecutive explosive plays to reclaim the lead at 13-7. ESU quarterback Braden Gleason connected with Jaylen Varner for a 40-yard pass and followed it up with a 28-yard touchdown pass to Kingsley Bennett in the corner of the end zone, with 10:42 remaining in the second quarter.
Northwest managed to force its first turnover of the game when Charles Gadie caused a fumble by ESU receiver Tyler Kahmann, and Isaac Vollstedt of Northwest recovered the fumble with 2:57 left in the half. However, Northwest had to settle for a missed 23-yard field goal by Lammel, leaving ESU ahead at the break, 13-7.
ESU extended its lead to 19-7 with a 28-yard touchdown pass from Gleason to Tommy Zimmerman, accompanied by a blocked extra point by Jake Fisher, keeping the margin at 12.
Ruhnke threw his third interception of the game two plays later as Northwest reached midfield.
ESU embarked on a 16-play, 86-yard drive, culminating in another touchdown pass from Gleason. Gleason found Tyler Kahmann for a 3-yard touchdown with 1:10 left in the third quarter, expanding ESU’s lead to 25-7.
Northwest’s ensuing drive advanced all the way to the one-yard line but concluded without a score. Despite a 68-yard, 13-play march, Northwest could not reach the end zone from the one-yard line, and a fourth-down pass fell incomplete, resulting in a turnover on downs.
Northwest managed to force a three-and-out, only to witness their fifth interception of the game. Chance Rodriguez of ESU intercepted a Ruhnke pass and returned it five yards to the 30-yard line.
ESU capitalized quickly with a 30-yard touchdown run by Billy Ross Jr. on their first play of the drive. A successful two-point conversion extended ESU’s lead to 33-13 with 8:19 left in the game.
Northwest did salvage a late touchdown drive led by quarterback Henry Martin in the fourth quarter. Martin orchestrated an eight-play, 95-yard scoring drive and punched in his first collegiate rushing touchdown from six yards out with 4:11 remaining in the game. Northwest’s two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful, and ESU maintained a 33-13 lead.
ESU secured their final interception with 1:40 to go, as Chance Rodriguez of the Hornets recorded his second interception of the game, effectively ending Northwest’s last scoring opportunity.
Next Saturday at 7 p.m., Northwest will return to action with a game at Fort Hays State.
The Hornets improved to a 2-0 record and secured their first victory over Northwest since the 1994 season, ending a 29-game losing streak in the series.