by Alex Agueros, Sports Editor
Mules football (4-4, 3-4 MIAA) earned their Homecoming win in decisive fashion, outmatching the Northeastern State RiverHawks (0-8, 0-7 MIAA) by a score of 51-7.
Central Missouri tallied five touchdowns and three field goals on 603 net yards. Junior running back LaVance Taylor set the tone for the offense, rushing for 137 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. The win marked the first time UCM had defeated NSU in school history.
After the game, UCM head coach Jim Svoboda said his team was excited for Homecoming, not the specific opponent.
“Homecoming is definitely something our guys are excited about,” Svoboda said. “I didn’t know Central had never beaten this team until someone pointed it out maybe yesterday or the day before. Our focus with these guys has just been to play good football.”
Northeastern won the toss and deferred. Central promptly scored on their opening drive, a 16-yard rushing touchdown for Taylor. On UCM’s next drive, senior placekicker Zach Gebhardt nailed his first of three field goals on the game from 33 yards out. As the first quarter closed, the Mules would cap off a 9-play, 55-yard drive with a touchdown pass to junior receiver Tristan McClelland and push their lead to 17-0.
UCM scored on their fourth consecutive drive when junior quarterback Hayden Hawk connected with senior receiver Ronrei Lloyd for his team-leading ninth touchdown of the season.
In a game where his team amassed more than 600 total yards, Svoboda was most pleased with his team’s efficient start.
“I was impressed with the way we started,” he said. “They’ve got kids on scholarship, they’re working hard and they’re hungry for a win. It takes a level of maturity to really believe that and come out and focus on what you’re doing and not so much what their record is.”
The Mules defense enjoyed a statistically impressive performance, allowing a season-low 215 total yards, including 39 rushing yards on 35 attempts. Senior linebacker Zach Quines earned his second pick-six of the season in the third quarter, putting Central up 37-0. UCM’s defensive unit allowed the RiverHawks lone score in the fourth quarter, a 28-yard passing touchdown to end the shutout bid at 44-7.
Central never let up offensively, scoring on two 1-yard rushing touchdowns from redshirt sophomores Evan Campbell and Kellen Kempf. Both scores capped off drives of 10 or more plays.
After the game, Svoboda reflected on the season thus far, and said his team has been playing with passion the past couple of weeks.
“We’ve had two or three disappointing losses, games we clearly had an opportunity to win,” Svoboda said. “That takes a lot out of you, it really tests you and why you really do it. We kind of got back to that. These kids love to play, let’s play football for the very reason we started doing it in the first place.”
Central Missouri travels to Kearney, Neb., Saturday, Nov. 2 to face Nebraska-Kearney (3-5, 3-4 MIAA). Kickoff is scheduled for noon.