Just about the only thing sloppier than the rain-soaked field at Dwight T. Reed Stadium was the play of the Lincoln Blue Tigers.
Lincoln fumbled seven times, losing two, and turned the ball over five times in a 52-14 Homecoming loss to No. 24 Emporia State on Saturday.
"We lost our composure," Lincoln head coach Mike Jones said. "We have to learn there's going to be adversity in everything we do. We have to handle the adversity and do a better job with it. We didn't, and that comes on me. I have to make sure the guys are ready to play, doing the right thing, and that falls back on the head coach."
That was especially true in the first half. Lincoln managed just 45 total yards of offense, compared to giving away 70 yards in penalties.
"We did not come out and play," Jones said. "We were too emotional at the beginning of the game. We got some penalties and got discouraged."
Emporia State, a team that came into Saturday averaging an MIAA-best 387 yards through the air, went to the ground instead. The Hornets racked up 233 rushing yards and scored five times on the ground, including four times in the first half to put the game out of reach. Emporia State passed for just 176 yards.
"The field was wet, it was a type of game where you had to be able to run the ball or be able to stop the run," Jones said.
Emporia State won that battle.
Antonio Brown, a freshman out of C.B.C in St. Louis, amassed 102 rushing yards and scored four touchdowns. That's after entering Saturday with 73 rushing yards and one touchdown.
"They just decided they were going to hand the ball off to the kid, and he did a good job and made plays," Jones said.
Brown's 2-yard run made it 7-0 midway through the opening quarter. Eli Kuhns booted a 31-yard field goal a few minutes later to make it 10-0.
After Hornet quarterback Brent Wilson dashed 27 yards for a score early in the second period, Brown added a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs that put Emporia State ahead 31-0 with a minute to play before halftime.
"We didn't tackle well," Jones said. "What's been hurting us all year is not tackling. When we tackle well we force fumbles, we get the ball out and things like that. When we don't tackle well they sustain drives and because of that they score touchdowns."
Wilson tossed his 20th touchdown pass of the season late in the third quarter, this one an 8-yarder to Mitchell Foote. That ended the signal-caller's day.
Backup Corben Jones hit Reese Richard for a 37-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth to put Emporia State ahead 45-0.
Lincoln finally got on the scoreboard midway through the fourth period when backup quarterback Percy Turner found the end zone from 2 yards out. A 61-yard scamper from Turner highlighted the drive.
Brown then got his fourth touchdown with a 20-yard run with three minutes left in the contest.
Turner hit Khiry Draine for an 11-yard touchdown pass with 1:37 remaining to cap the scoring. That again was set up by a long run from Turner, this one going for 69 yards.
Other than the big loss on the scoreboard, there might be an even more damaging loss on the personnel side for Lincoln. Starting quarterback Jacob Morris left the game late in the third quarter with a sprained right knee.
"That's all we know. Hopefully he'll be fine," Jones said. "He has to get it checked out. We'll know a lot more Tuesday."
Emporia State improves to 5-0 on the season.
The road doesn't get any easier for Lincoln (1-4), as the Blue Tigers travel to take on No. 15 Washburn next Saturday.
"Hopefully we can learn from it," Jones said. "We will watch the film (today), clear it and be ready for Washburn."