Maryville, MO (ESU Athletics) – The #9 Emporia State football team got 327 passing yards out of sophomore quarterback Braxton Marstall, but it was not enough in a 44-13 loss to #1 and defending national champion Northwest Missouri in the second round of the NCAA Playoffs on Saturday in Maryville, Mo. It is the most passing yards against the Bearcats since the seventh game of the 2014 season.
The Hornets got one first down on their first drive before stalling and having to punt. Going against the wind Justin Marcha was only able to get off a 14 yard punt and six plays later the Bearcats took a 7-0 lead on a six yard shovel pass pass from Kyle Zimmerman to Shane Williams with 8:56 left in the first quarter. On the ensueing possession for Emporia State Landon Nault and Marstall fumbled the exchange on a hand off and Jarrod Bishop recovered it for Northwest and took it down to the Hornet six yard line. Three plays later Zimmerman took the ball up the middle for a one yard touchdown and 14-0 Bearcat lead with 6:57 left in the quarter. It was just the second time an opponent had scored on the Hornet defense following a turnover this season. They would add a 38 yard field goal with 56 seconds left in the quarter by Simon Mathiesen for a 17-0 lead.
The Hornets were able to get on the board on the first drive of the second quarter when they went 75 yards on 11 plays culminated by a 12 yard pass from Marstall to Justin Brown. The PAT was blocked and the Hornets trailed 17-6 with 12:28 left in the half. The Bearcats answered with a 52 yard touchdown pass from Randy Schmidt to Jordan Bishop at the end of a four play 75 yard drive to take a 24-6 lead with 11:15 left. The two teams traded punts over the next five possessions before Northwest Missouri went 63 yards on ten plays as Zimmerman again scored from a yard out for a 31-6 lead. The Hornets took over with 18 seconds left on their own 32 yard line and were able to score thanks to an acrobatic catch by Louis Dailey on a tipped ball for a 41 yard touchdown on the last play of the half.
Down 31-13 to start the second half the Hornet defense forced a punt by the Bearcats on the opening drive. Emporia State then drove down to the Bearcat 14 yard line before a personal foul forced the Hornets back to the 31 yard line. Austin Morton attempted what would have been a school record 53 field goal and just missed it wide left. The Bearcats then marched down the field before they were stopped and had to settle for a 32 yard field goal by Mathiesen with 6:36 left in the third to take a 34-13 lead. On Emporia State’s next possession Marstall had a pass deflected and Jack Young picked it off just before it hit the ground to give the Bearcats the ball at the Hornet 46 yard line. It took Northwest Missouri 11 plays to go 31 yards before the Hornet defense again stiffened and forced another Mathiesen field goal, this one from 32 yards to take a 37-13 lead with 13:33 left in the game. The Hornets drove to the Bearcat 38 on the next drive before Bishop intercepted Marstall in the flat and returned it 65 yards for the final score of the game. Emporia State got the ball back and got to midfield before back to back sacks Collin Bevins forced them to punt. The Bearcats then ran out the clock to win their 27th straight game.
Marstall went 28 of 45 for 327 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Justin Brown and Mitchell Foote both had eight catches with Brown getting 93 yards and a touchdown while Foote finished with 84 yards. Louis Dailey also caught three passes for 61 yards and a touchdown. Defensively Gabe Cleveland had a game high 13 tackles and half a sack. DeAndre Glover was credited with seven tackles and 1.5 sacks while TreVaun Ammons had five tackles and three passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage.
Emporia State finished the season 11-2 with both losses coming to Northwest Missouri on either end of an 11 game winning streak. The Hornets have gone 22-5 over the last two years with four of the five losses coming to Northwest Missouri. Emporia State has advanced to the playoffs in three of the last four years and played in the post season in four of the last five years. The Hornets and Bearcats are the only two MIAA teams to win playoff games in back to back years since Pittsburg State did it in 2004 and 2005.
Northwest Missouri will advance to the Super Region 3 Championship game against Harding next week in Maryville, Mo. The Hornets are scheduled to open the 2017 season on August 31 against the Bearcats in Maryville, Mo.