Lincoln bids for MIAA win against Northeastern State

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Lincoln-Northeastern State Podcast

The Lincoln Blue Tigers have come so close lately.

So close to picking up that first Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association victory of the 2013 season, only to see it slip just through their fingertips the past three games.

Lincoln’s (1-8, 0-8 MIAA) best opportunities of the year come these next two weeks, starting with Northeastern State (1-8, 1-7 MIAA), out of Oklahoma, at 2 p.m. today at Dwight T. Reed Stadium.

“It’s frustrating for a couple of reasons,” Lincoln head coach Mike Jones said. “We have a lot of guys that really pour all kind of effort (into this team). They really want to do their best to get this thing turned around. Unfortunately we’re not going to have that winning season. That’s the frustrating part about it.

“We have two games left. We can go out on a good note. We have to start out by playing well. If we play well and play smart we have a good chance of winning this game and the next.”

The next would be a season-ending contest against Southwest Baptist (1-8, 1-7 MIAA).

Northeastern State is flying high after its first win of the season last week, a 31-3 triumph against that Southwest Baptist squad.

“They just imposed their will and ran the ball,” Jones said.

Those 31 points are a stark contrast to what Northeastern State has done all season long, averaging a league-worst 13.4 per game.

“They’ve been struggling to score,” Jones said. “They were trying to get their running game off the ground. In this conference, and I’m going to say it every week, you have to be able to run the ball and you have to stop the run. If you can’t do those two things you’re going to struggle.”

The RiverHawks were aided by a 228-yard, three-touchdown day from Steven Hopper, a defensive back turned running back. He ranks second on the team with 469 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Terrance Dixon leads the way with 496 yards and seven scores.

The pair has been tasked with replacing Joel Rockmore, a second-team All-MIAA selection in 2012, who tore his ACL in the second week of the season.

Results have been mixed so far.

Thor Long and Cory Meaders split time at quarterback, with Long struggling as the main option. He’s 85-of-191 on the season for 967 yards with three touchdowns and eight interceptions. Meaders, who has been getting more time lately, is 31-of-62 for 353 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.

“You watch them on film and they play well in spurts,” Jones said.

Jones believes Lincoln’s biggest key to a win is taking care of the football, something that’s prevented the Blue Tigers from picking up victories the past month.

“We have to win the turnover battle,” he said. “We’re giving teams extra possessions and that’s what’s really hurting us.

“The games are so close. You don’t know which play is going to hurt you. If you give guys more opportunities to score, the likelihood of them scoring increases and lessens our chances of winning football games.”

Lincoln has two more shots to double its win total from last season. Can the Blue Tigers get it done?

“We have a good chance to win these games, but it’s not going to happen by us talking about it,” Jones said. “We have to go out and play football. If we do that we have a good chance to win.”

Notes: Lincoln is celebrating Heroes Weekend today. The Blue Tigers will be honoring Gabriel Soto, the Lincoln player who was killed during the offseason in Los Angeles. Soto’s family — about 20 relatives — will be in attendance at the game. “It’s going to be an emotional game for us,” Jones said. “Hopefully we will play well for them.” ... Lincoln players have taken turns wearing Soto’s No. 33 jersey this season. Senior linebacker Kendrick Causey will wear it today.

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