Joplin, Mo.. - The Missouri Southern football team had its highest point output of the season and Collin Howard threw for three touchdowns, but the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks had a school record 44 rushing attempts from true freshman Levi Terrell in his first collegiate game and the Mavs defeated the Lions 44-36 in front of a Homecoming crowd of 6,127 fans at Fred G. Hughes Stadium.
Southern (1-3, 1-2 MIAA) was led offensively from Johnny Johnson as the senior had 117 yards on seven carries and a touchdown Johnson also picked up a receiving touchdown, as well. Howard went 12-31 for three touchdowns and Landon Zerkel caught three passes for 65 yards and a score. Daniel Thompson had two catches for 47 yards and a score, while Toderick Hunt had 55 yards on 11 carries.
UNO (3-2, 2-1 MIAA) scored on its first play from scrimmage with a 41 yard pass from Greg Wunderlich to Brian Miller. The Mavs scored again midway through the first quarter as Wunderlich hooked up with Brett Bohuslavsky for a five yard score.
The Lions wouldn't wait very long for their first score as Johnson scored his first touchdown on the very next drive, a five yard pass from Howard. That play capped off a six play, 73 yard drive that took 1:23 off the clock. The Lions would then capitalize on poor special teams from the Mavs as a pooch kick from Andrew Gassen went un-touched and the Lions recovered on the UNO 33 yard line. Johnson then took over and ran 42 yards on the second play of the drive to tie the game at 14.
Omaha would convert a 25 yard field goal from Greg Zuerlein late in the first and another field goal from Zuerlein, this time 42 yards, just nine seconds into the second quarter gave the Mavs a six point lead.
The Lions added a touchdown from Howard to Zerkel on the very next drive to go ahead momentarily 21-20, but another Zuerlein field goal, this time 23 yards, gave the Mavs a 23-21 halftime lead.
The two teams traded scores in the third quarter as the Lions got a 30 yard touchdown catch from Daniel Thompson, but two scores in the fourth from UNO put the game out of reach.
A late fumble recovery and touchdown scamper from the Lions' Antoine Brown made the final score 44-36.
Southern was out-gained 570-370. It was the first time the Lions had given up 500 yards since Southern gave up 592 in last season's finale against Northwest Missouri. The Lions came into the game averaging over 33 minutes a game in time of possession, but Southern could only hold the ball for just under 19 minutes today.
The Lions defense forced two turnovers today as Terrance Scott picked up an interception and Dusty Bratzler forced a fumble that led to a 54 yard return for a touchdown from Brown. Richard Williams led the Lions with a career high 16 tackles, including one quarterback hurry. Charles Johnson and David Benham had 11 and 10 tackles, respectively, while Rudy Mascaro had nine stops. Bratzler also added a sack to go with his forced fumble.
Southern will be back in action next week as the Lions play host to 23rd ranked Pittsburg State in the Sonic Miners Bowl at 2 pm in Hughes Stadium.