Joplin, Mo. - Missouri Southern's Johnny Johnson rushed for three touchdowns and caught another, all in the second half, but the Southern football team lost 48-34 on Senior Day today in front of more than 3,500 fans at Fred G. Hughes Stadium in Joplin.
The Lions (3-7, 3-6 MIAA) scored first as Collin Howard, making his first start since injuring a knee against Nebraska-Omaha, capped off an 11-play, 60 yard drive with a one-yard dive into the end zone.
Hays (6-5, 4-5 MIAA) scored the next four touchdowns, however, and went into the locker room up 27-7 at the half. The Tigers win, coupled with a Pittsburg State loss at Truman today, means Hays finishes by themselves in sixth place in the MIAA.
Southern, however, made good use of the halftime and came out with a new spark and quickly scored two-straight touchdowns, both on Johnson runs, the first 23 yards and the second four. After watching Collin Howard direct the Lions' offense in the first half, Roland Thompson helped lead the Lions' comeback in the second half. The second score, cut the Fort Hays' lead to just six at 27-21.
After a Tigers' score as time expired in the third quarter, Johnson picked up his third rushing touchdown of the day on a 16-yard run that capped off a seven-play, 61-yard drive to cut the lead to seven at 34-27 after the point after failed.
Hays once again answered, and this time made it hurt, as facing a fourth and one from the 47 yard line, the Tigers' James Walker picked up his second touchdown of the day to put the Tigers up 41-27.
Johnson's fourth touchdown of the game, this time a 14-yard pass from Thompson cut the lead back to seven (41-24) with just 50 seconds remaining. An onsides kick attempt was recovered by the Tigers at the Missouri Southern 41 yard line and Hays put one more score on the board with 31 seconds left for the final tally of the game.
Southern out-gained the Tigers 482-467 overall and 220-197 in the air. The Tigers held the advantage on the ground with 270 to the Lions' 262. MSSU had four more first downs than the Tigers, but the Lions threw five costly interceptions on the day. Both teams had a sack each.
Johnson rushed for 93 yards on 18 carries and three touchdowns, while Toderick Hunt had 99 yards on 17 touches. Johnson added a late touchdown score on a brilliant one-handed catch in the end zone, one of two spectacular one-handed catches on the day for the senior. Isaac Norman had eight catches for 81 yards, while Thompson went 14-18 for 154 yards and a touchdown pass, all in the second half.
Defensively, Richard Williams had 17 tackles in the game with 1.5 for a loss to lead the Lions. Dusty Bratzler had ten tackles, while Justin Cowper had nine stops and a sack. Antwoine Brown had eight tackles, while David Benham and Jairius Jarvis had seven stops each.
The Lions said good-bye to ten seniors today. Among those seniors, a few made their names prevalent in the Missouri Southern record books. Isaac Norman is now third place all-time (behind Colin Bado and Rod Smith) in career pass receptions with 146. He also finishes fifth in receiving yardage with 1,744 and receiving touchdowns with 14.
Daniel Thompson became just the second Lion ever to catch 10 touchdown passes or more in a single-season joining Hall of Famer Rod Smith in that elite group. Thompson also finishes sixth all-time in receiving touchdowns with 13.
Jairius Jarvis, in his short two-year career with the Lions, made his name known as one of the best defensive lineman the program has ever seen. The native of Louisiana came just a half a sack shy of tying the Missouri Southern single-season record, but his 9.5 this season place him in second place all by himself. Add in his two sacks from 2008, and Jarvis is tied for sixth all-time with 11.5 sacks in his career.