Emporia State Football enters 2014 at number 15 in our rankings. Check out our Top 25 Season Preview for more on the top college teams to watch this fall. Can’t find your team in the Top 25? View our full rankings to see where every team stands.
Last Season: 9-2 (9-1) Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association
Featuring one of the most efficient passing attacks in Division 2, Emporia State finished second in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association with only one regular season loss: a 48-21 shellacking at the hands of eventual MIAA and National Champion Northwest Missouri State. Brent Wilson, the Hornets’ sophomore signal-caller, completed 68.8% of his 320 pass-attempts for 2,985 yards, 33 touchdowns, only 6 interceptions, and finished the season as the sixth most efficient passer in D2. Unfortunately for the Hornets however, two of the five quarterbacks ranked ahead of Wilson were in their conference. One of those two QBs was Trevor Adams, the man at the helm of that Northwest Missouri State team responsible for ending Emporia State’s perfect season.
Despite the loss, the Hornets 9-1 record earned them an at-large bid to the D2 playoffs as a five-seed. They went on the road against Minnesota-Duluth, with the knowledge that a win would earn them a rematch with the Bearcats in round two. It wasn’t to be. After a playing to a 13-13 tie to at the start of the second quarter, UM-D scored 42 unanswered points to end the Hornets’ season in embarrassment.
-Dozie Iwuagwa RB – 118 carries, 590 yards, 6 TDs
-Ray Ray Davis WR – 84 receptions, 1,072 yards, 15 TDs
-Jordan Sanders LB – 89 tackles, 5.5 TFL, .5 sacks, 1 FF, 1 blocked kick
-Gary Fortune DB – 24 tackles, 4 INTs, 7 pass defenses
-Chris Poston DB – 38 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 sack, 4 INTs, 5 pass defenses
What to Watch For
What’s the Rush – The Hornets’ defense finished tied for 102nd in D2 in rushing yards allowed with a per-game average of 171.5. If they want to compete with Northwest Missouri State, this absolutely has to improve. On offense it’s a similar story. As good as Wilson and the rest of the Emporia State passing attack were last year, they finished 69th in D2 in rushing offense – only 169.5 ypg – and they’ll be without leading rusher Dozie Iwuagwa this season. Their poor ground game on both sides of the ball was the biggest reason they finished 90th in D2 in average time of possession last season (29:39). Control the rock, control the clock, control the game – this should be the focus for the Hornets moving forward.
There are a lot of things for Emporia State fans to get excited about these days: an exciting young quarterback, a talented and deep receiving corps, two 9+ win seasons in a row, and a head coach in Garin Higgins who looks like he might have it figured out. The pieces seem to be there, but there was enough roster turnover this offseason to make it pretty tough to pick the Hornets to return to the playoffs this season. They lost their top rusher, top receiver, top defensive backs, and top linebacker. On the plus side, their depth should get better despite the top-end losses. They’ll get Northwest Missouri State at home in their penultimate regular season game with a real shot to pull off the upset. If they manage that, and take down an improved Missouri Western State on the road, they’ll get another chance at the playoffs, only their second trip in the last ten years. Anything after that would be icing on the cake.