Sep. 24—Missouri Southern head football coach Atiba Bradley walked into the North Endzone Facility at Fred G. Hughes Stadium with a big smile on Wednesday as he took to the podium for his weekly press conference.
"Whatever you did last week, don't change it," Bradley said, prompting several laughs from media members and MSSU staffers in the room.
Coming off a thrilling 14-10 comeback win at Central Oklahoma — one that marked his first coaching triumph in the MIAA — Bradley heeded his own words and maintained the same message he preached through the first three weeks of the season.
"We have to stay the course and continue getting better," he said. "We enjoyed it (the win) Saturday on the ride home and we enjoyed it Sunday when reviewing the film. Then Monday we flushed it. We're back to 0-0 for the week and we're just ready to get a win."
Next up for the Lions (1-2, 1-2 MIAA) is a home contest against the Fort Hays State Tigers (1-2, 1-2) on Saturday at Fred G. Hughes Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m.
After claiming its first MIAA victory under Bradley last weekend, Southern now has the opportunity to end another dry spell by winning back-to-back games for the first time since 2014.
"I think win streaks are really important at the end of the season," Bradley said. "Sometimes it's nice to look back and go, 'Man, we went on a run here.' But honestly, I look at it, our players look at it and our staff looks at it as one week at a time. So for us, the only win streak we're trying to get is one in a row ... just because we're really focused on staying in the now."
MSSU will welcome a Fort Hays team that's coming off a 72-0 triumph over Lincoln for its first win of the season. The Tigers opened the campaign with a 15-7 loss to No. 2 Northwest Missouri and a 38-31 loss to Missouri Western.
"They're tough," Bradley said of FHSU. "I think the quarterback (Chance Fuller), in 2019, had 3,000 yards throwing. He does a really good job of getting the ball out on time. He has some really big-play receivers that run well and go up and attack the football. They're a well-coached unit.
"They took that game against Northwest Missouri to the wire. So they could very easily be 2-1. Then (Missouri Western) needed four turnovers in the second half to come back in that game. So yeah, in the MIAA, don't look at the records."
The Tigers average 36.7 points per game while accounting for 497.3 yards of offense per game.
Fuller leads the offense for FHSU, throwing for 946 yards and six touchdowns through three games this season. Adrian Soto has 23 carries for 141 yards and four touchdowns, and he's also caught seven passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns. Manny Ramsey leads the team in receiving with 19 catches for 254 yards.
Bradley said the turnover battle could be key on Saturday against an FHSU squad that's thrown six interceptions this season. The Lions rank 14th nationally in interceptions while ranking fifth in turnovers lost (fewest), 15th in turnover margin, 23rd in fumbles lost (fewest) and 24th in passing yards allowed (fewest).
"We would love if they gave us a couple (takeaways)," Bradley said. "We would take advantage of them and it would help us a ton."
Southern is averaging 10.3 points per game this season while surrendering 23 points per game to its opponents.
True freshman Nathan Glades, a Joplin High School product, leads the team in rushing with 242 yards and one touchdown on 53 carries. Glades ranks ninth nationally among freshmen in Division II in rushing yardage, and he also ranks fourth overall (all classes) in the MIAA in the same category.
"I really just take pride in running the ball for my team," Glades said. "I don't really focus on single attributes. I like taking pride in getting the four yards that we need to get for the offense so that we can move the chains, move the sticks and make sure we can attribute as an offense to help our defense."
Southern quarterback Dawson Herl has completed 57 percent of his passes for 404 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. His favorite target, Brian Boyd Jr., has nine catches for 124 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively the Lions are led by Carthage High School graduate Colton Winder, who's tallied 29 tackles at linebacker. He ranks 27th nationally in total tackles while ranking fourth in the MIAA.
Coleman Booker, Richard Jordan Jr. and Malachi Broadnax have tallied 26, 21 and 20 tackles, respectively, for MSSU.
FHSU leads the all-time series against Southern 17-13-1 and has claimed wins in the last seven meetings. The Lions are seeking their first win over the Tigers since 2010.
Contact Jared Porter on Twitter at @JaredRyanPorter.