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Lincoln can expect a lot of passing vs. Emporia State (with PODCAST)

A cursory glance might make Emporia State look one dimensional.

The No. 24 Hornets (4-0) lead the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association by a wide margin in both passing yards and touchdown receptions.

Take a deeper look, however, and you’ll see the Lincoln Blue Tigers’ (1-3) opponent today is far more than just a one-trick pony.

“This team is a very talented team on offense,” Lincoln head coach Mike Jones said ahead of today’s 2 p.m. kickoff at Dwight T. Reed Stadium, a contest that serves as Lincoln’s Homecoming. “They’re still averaging almost 40 attempts per game rushing. They’re getting a lot of plays in. They’re averaging almost 600 yards of total offense (593 to be exact), 44 points a game. They’re throwing the ball well and running the ball well. They complement each other well.”

Emporia State averages 387.5 yards per game through the air, 55 yards better than the closest MIAA squad. The Hornets also rack up 200 yards per game on the ground.

Starting quarterback Brent Wilson is putting up video game-like numbers. The signal-caller is 109-of-151 passing (72.2 percent) for 1,530 yards with 19 touchdowns and only one interception. All those numbers are league bests.

“They’re throwing the ball a lot and their quarterback is doing a phenomenal job of getting the guys the ball,” Jones said.

Wilson mainly looks for two primary targets — Ray Ray Davis and Austin Willis — the top two pass catchers in the MIAA.

Davis leads the league in receptions (35), to go along with 384 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Willis is second in receptions with 32, but tops the conference in receiving yards (700) and touchdown catches (eight).

The Blue Tigers will have their hands full, considering they rank 12th in the MIAA in pass defense, allowing 298 yards per game. Lincoln allowed 442 passing yards in last Saturday’s 59-38 loss against Pittsburg State.

“We have to tackle,” Jones said. “We have to figure out how to tackle well, and that’s the biggest thing, getting the ball carriers on the ground. We can’t afford to have as many missed tackles as we had last week and the week before. We have to do a better job of gang-tackling and getting the ball on the ground.”

Despite the loss last week against Pittsburg State, the Blue Tigers can build off that performance. The Gorillas had allowed just 37 combined points in their first three games before Lincoln hung the 38-spot on them.

“We have to continue the momentum and confidence we have on offense,” Jones said. “I never want to take it for granted that our offense is naturally going to play well. There’s going to be times we’re going to hit some snags in the road.

“If we we’re able to run the ball consistently like we’ve done the last few weeks, that gives us every opportunity. Now they have to bring an extra person in the box to stop the run, and now we have the opportunity to spread them out a little more and give our wide receivers opportunities to make plays. What it comes down to is execution. When we execute well on offense, defense and special teams, we play well. When we don’t, we won’t.”

Emporia State almost provides a blueprint for the program Lincoln wants to become. After five straight losing seasons to begin head coach Garin Higgins’ tenure, the seventh-year head coach has turned the program around. The Hornets went 10-2 last season, even beating Texas A&M-Kingsville in the Kanza Bowl, before opening the 2013 slate with four straight victories.

“I talked to coach Higgins. He had to build it from the ground up,” Jones said. “He built the program up the way he wanted to build it. He got his players in and he’s done a great job there. This year they’ve built on the successes they had last year.”

Lincoln can continue to make strides with a win today.

“We have our work cut out for us, but we’re excited for the challenge,” Jones said.

Especially with it being Homecoming.

“Homecoming is always great,” Jones said. “You have a lot of people coming back to the game, a lot of alumni. They’re excited about what’s going on here.

“We need all the support we can get. Mizzou is playing at Vanderbilt, so if you’re in Columbia come down and see us.”

Access the archived podcast here.

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