No. 12 Griffons didn’t have much time to enjoy last Saturday’s blowout victory as they travel to Emporia, Kan., to take on undefeated No. 20 Emporia State on Thursday, Oct. 25 at 6 p.m.
The game will be televised on the MIAA network, channel 19 on Suddenlink Cable in St. Joseph.
The Hornets are a perfect 8-0, but have only faced one team with a winning record — Lindenwood. Their closest game came in a 19-15 win over 1-7 Southwest Baptist three weeks ago, and in the last two games, Emporia defeated Lindenwood 13-0 and 4-4 Truman State 52-26.
“Emporia is very, very dangerous and very confident right now,” coach Jerry Partridge said. “They really believe in themselves and there will be a lot of emotion on Thursday night. We’re going to get their best shot.”
Emporia ranks first in the MIAA in total offense with 484 yards per game, while Western ranks second with 467 yards per game.
“We approach this just like any other week,” quarterback Travis Partridge said. “We are going to do what we do offensively and distribute the ball. Our experience level is going to carry us.”
The Hornets rely heavily on the passing game to move the ball down the field. Quarterback Tyler Eckenrode has thrown for 2,518 yards this season with 18 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
“Their offense is very good,” defensive coordinator Regi Trotter said. “They have a stable of good running backs, but they really throw the ball well. Those guys really do a good job.”
Wide receiver Shjuan Richardson has proven to be the main weapon for the Hornets’ offense, catching 59 passes for 973 yards and nine touchdowns on the season. He’s averaging 121 receiving yards per game. Ray Ray Davis has also heavily contributed to Emporia’s success through the air with 634 yards and five touchdowns.
“We just need to carry this momentum from the Pitt State-win into Thursday,” safety Shane Simpson said. “It’s not going to be easy.”
The Hornets use a balanced rushing attack to supplement the passing game. Derwin Hall has rushed for 393 yards and five touchdowns while gaining 4.6 yards per carry, Dozie Iwuagwa has gained 331 yards and six touchdowns with a 4.5 yards per carry average, and Jordan Tice has rushed for 287 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 4.4 yards per carry.
Playing a top-20 team on the road with a short week is a challenge, but the Griffons feel like they are well-prepared.
“The front end is very difficult,” coach Partridge said. “I’ll enjoy the back end of it if we win the game and get the weekend off, but its very difficult right now.”
Emporia’s defense ranks fourth in the MIAA in total yards per game, allowing 335 yards per game, while Western ranks fifth, giving up 348 yards per game.
The Griffons have won the last three games at Emporia.