Lincoln to square off with struggling Central Oklahoma (with PODCAST)

Editor's Note: For updates during today's game, follow @GoBlueTigers on Twitter.

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There aren’t many firsts still available this late in the football season.

But either the Lincoln Blue Tigers or Central Oklahoma Bronchos will notch a first when they meet at 2 p.m. today in Edmond, Okla.

Audio

Lincoln vs UCO Podcast (Soundcloud)

Each week, Lincoln football beat writer Adam Stillman and host Tom Rackers will break down everything to do with Blue Tiger football. This week they discuss Lincoln's loss to Fort Hays State and look ahead to this weekend's game at Central Oklahoma.

Lincoln is looking for its first Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association victory of the 2013 season. Central Oklahoma is aiming for its first win of the campaign, period.

“We’re both in the same boat, and we have to figure what we have to do to win this football game,” Lincoln head coach Mike Jones said.

Lincoln (1-7, 0-7 MIAA) owns a victory against Grambling State, an NCAA Division I program immersed in all kinds of turmoil right now. Central Oklahoma (0-7, 0-7 MIAA) has finished within single digits of a win just once this year.

It’s the perfect opportunity for a win. Who will take advantage?

“We have to execute,” Jones said. “We’ll never say we’re trying to exploit someone or not exploit someone, what we try to do is take care of our own business.

“It’s going to be a great game. We have to do a good job against them.”

There is one area Lincoln can exploit. Central Oklahoma enters with the worst defense in the league, giving up 54.6 points per game, while allowing 568.3 yards per contest.

“Our problem is not usually the other team, it’s ourselves,” Jones said. “We have to figure out how do we take care of the football, how do we convert third downs, how do we not drop as many balls. Those are all things we have to correct.

“We think we can move the ball. We have to finish drives. We move the ball well from 20 to 20, but when we get in the red zone, for whatever reason we’ve been struggling. We have to score points.

“We have to take care of the ball. That’s been our Achilles’ heel all year.”

Lincoln has turned the ball over 21 times in eight games, while forcing just 14 turnovers.

The main problems for the Blue Tigers, though, exist on the other side of the ball.

“They’re kind of like a two-headed monster,” Jones said.

The first head would be running Joshua Birmingham, an all-MIAA first-team selection a year ago, who averages 92 yards per game on the ground with 11 rushing touchdowns. He also has 20 receptions for 178 yards.

When Lincoln and Central Oklahoma met last season, Birmingham ran 20 times for 274 yards and four touchdowns to go along with three receptions for 40 yards. Central Oklahoma won that contest 56-26 in Jefferson CIty.

The second head is wide receiver Marquez Clark, the MIAA leader in receiving yards (987) and all-purpose yards (1,667). Clark has five touchdown receptions on the season.

“We have to figure out how to contain No. 11,” Jones said of Clark. “He’s going to make plays. They target him probably 20 times a game.

“When the opportunity comes to knock the ball down, knock it down. If he makes a catch, tackle the guy. That’s what we have to do. We understand that when they throw the ball that many times to a person he’s going to make some plays. We can’t get discouraged about that.”

Adrian Nelson quarterbacks the Bronchos, completing 94-of-160 passes for 1,384 yards with four touchdowns and seven interceptions. Backup T.J. Eckert is 43-of-83 for 553 yards with a touchdown and two picks.

Jones believes his team is moving in the right direction. Now it’s time for results.

“We have to build on what we’re doing (in practice),” Jones said. “Every day working hard, taking care of our business, and eventually we’ll start playing better and winning football games.”

There’s no better time than today.

Listen to the podcast here if audio player fails to load automatically.

Alternatively, some devices may be able to play or download the podcast here.

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