Today's Edition Local News Missouri News National News World Opinion Obits Sports GoMidMo Events Classifieds Jobs Newsletters Contests Search
story.lead_photo.caption Lincoln running back Hosea Franklin stiff arms Missouri Western defensive back Drew Sachen while looking for room to run in the second half of Saturday's season-ending loss for the Blue Tigers at Dwight T. Reed Stadium. Photo by Kris Wilson / News Tribune.

The Lincoln Blue Tigers couldn't stop the Missouri Western Griffons on Saturday afternoon at Dwight T. Reed Stadium.

Missouri Western had possession of the football 12 times. The Griffons scored 12 times.

"On top of that, our guys did not play with any passion, any pride," Lincoln interim head coach Malik Hoskins said after a 71-8 loss. "It is embarrassing the product that was put on the field today."

It's the most points scored in a single game by Missouri Western since the Griffons had 81 points in 2011, also against Lincoln.

"We didn't tackle, we didn't block," Hoskins said. "We didn't do anything that we've been coached to do."

Missouri Western began the game with a kickoff return for the touchdown. Cooper Burton ran down the far sideline for a 77-yard score, and Sam Aviles added the extra point to put the Griffons ahead 7-0 just 10 seconds into the game.

It was the first special teams touchdown allowed this season by the Blue Tigers.

"We don't have lane integrity, we don't play with discipline on that group," Hoskins said. "They just don't believe that right now they're supposed to be on the field with these guys."

The Lincoln offense punted on five of its first six possessions and was 0-for-7 on third down in the first half.

Hoskins said the offensive line had difficulty blocking Missouri Western defensive lineman Chris Blakeney, a 6-foot-3, 315-pound junior.

"We could not block him from the word 'Go!' and he just kept getting in the backfield and being disruptive," Hoskins said. "He forced our guys to just shut down, and they shut down up front."

Following the kickoff return for a score, Missouri Western put together a 13-play, 46-yard scoring drive that ended with a 40-yard field goal by Aviles. Devon Holmes caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Vespo to extend the lead to 17-0 with 3:57 left in the first quarter.

Vespo finished the game 18-of-21 passing for 240 yards and three touchdowns. He filled in for quarterback Wyatt Steigerwald, who was ruled out for Saturday's game due to concussion protocol.

The Griffons added four more scores in the second quarter. Following a 36-yard field goal from Aviles, Markel Smith broke loose for a 64-yard touchdown run, then Cole Kruse scored on a 1-yard run. Vespo's 60-yard touchdown pass to Damen Wheeler Jr. with 1:49 remaining in the quarter gave Missouri Western a 40-0 lead at halftime.

"We just bowed down to them," Hoskins said after Missouri Western ran 57 offensive plays for 590 yards. "Last game of the year, guys were just content with letting that clock run so they could get off the field."

Wheeler Jr. caught another touchdown pass in the third quarter, this time from 10 yards out. Deron Thompson followed with a 17-yard run to make the score 54-0.

Lincoln's only scoring drive of the game would follow, and it took more than seven minutes off the clock. During their 14-play, 75-yard drive, the Blue Tigers were 4-for-4 on third-down conversions.

The possession was capped by a 31-yard touchdown run from Tori Hicks. Chancellor Johnson threw the 2-point conversion pass to Jarrin McKeithen, and the Blue Tigers trailed 54-8 with 13:48 to play.

On the play before Hicks' touchdown, Lincoln running back Hosea Franklin left the game with a right ankle injury and did not return. Franklin finished the season with a program-record 1,359 yards rushing.

"This kid is the leading rusher in the conference and he's one of the top five running backs in the nation," Hoskins said. "I didn't want to put him at risk anymore, because he is banged up."

Hoskins said he plans to utilize Hicks more in the run game next season to take some of the workload off Franklin.

"Hosea's been banged up all season, but nothing major," Hoskins said. "We just have to be smart about what we're doing offensively. Guys like Tori and Hosea are undersized, and we know in this conference, they're going to take a beating."

Missouri Western (8-3) added a 20-yard field goal from Aviles, a 2-yard touchdown run by Jared Scott and a 6-yard touchdown run by Travon Harris to finish the scoring.

Lincoln quarterback Desmond Hunter was 6-of-15 passing for 38 yards, but he left the game in the first half with a knee injury. Johnson played the rest of the game behind center and completed two passes for 19 yards.

Franklin had a team-high 61 yards rushing on 20 carries for the Blue Tigers. His counterpart, Smith, had a game-high 146 yards rushing on seven carries for the Griffons.

Lincoln ends the season with a 1-10 record in its return to the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association.

"I know we're better than how we played," Hoskins said.

After a grueling 11-week schedule, Hoskins and the Blue Tigers will have a break before spring practice next semester.

Hoskins hopes to work on recruiting for the 2020 season this week, but as interim head coach, his future with the Blue Tigers has not yet been decided.

"It's just kind of 'wait and see' right now," he said. "But I do know as long as we're waiting, people are on the road and they're jumping ahead of us.

"Maybe the decision is going to be made soon, where our guys can get out on the road (and recruit)."

COMMENTS - It looks like you're using Internet Explorer, which isn't compatible with our commenting system. You can join the discussion by using another browser, like Firefox or Google Chrome.
It looks like you're using Microsoft Edge. Our commenting system is more compatible with Firefox and Google Chrome.