Garin Higgins saw plenty of things he liked during Emporia State’s season opening victory over Northeastern State.
He’s also fully aware that the Hornets’ next opponent will be a far greater challenge than the RiverHawks.
“Offensively, we had a great week, a great game and guys executed, but (this will be) a different level of competition and we still are young and inexperienced over there on offense,” Higgins said. “Our starting quarterback has one game under his belt (and) playing on the road and things like that, just being able to handle that environment, those are things that concern me (as well as) being able to sustain drives and protecting the football.”
Sophomore Dalton Cowan’s first collegiate start was certainly a success, as he completed 15 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns, as well as serving as the team’s leading ballcarrier, with 88 yards on nine totes. He’ll certainly have a different challenge ahead of him in the Hornets’ first road game of the season Saturday night at Pittsburg State.
“Just being in a great game environment, it’ll be the first time for a lot of us going in there and having big roles in an environment like that,” Cowan said. “So I’m more excited than anything to be able to witness that atmosphere first-hand.”
A number of the offensive threats that served ESU well a week ago will all share in the new challenge of dealing with an opposing team’s venue.
The end result, however, Higgins hopes will remain unchanged.
“I just thought he handled everything really well, just from the management of the offense and his execution,” he said. “(Cowan) made some outstanding throws. He’s got that type of arm, where he cam make every throw you want him to make. I thought he stood in the pocket well (and) he took off running when he needed to. He’s very athletic and can do those things. I was pleased (with) the first game, that was a good game to have, something like that where we executed well and we were able to score on that first drive which I think probably was just a little bit of relief for him.”
“(But) he understands how tough the MIAA is and he knows it’s going to tougher this Saturday and I know that he’ll be prepared to play.”
Pitt State blew a 34-7 halftime lead at Central Oklahoma in its season opener as the Bronchos scored 28 unanswered points in the second half. Only a last-second field goal secured the win for the Gorillas.
The main culprit in the collapse? Defense as PSU turned the ball over four times, including a fumble that allowed UCO to score the go-ahead touchdown in the final three-plus minutes.
The Gorillas’ offense will continue to be heavy on the ground as the tallied 290 rushing yards in their season debut, only completing 11 passes for 144 yards.
“They’re running a different offense than what we’re used to seeing them run and you’ve got to be assignment-sound and disciplined,” Higgins said. “Trying to simulate that in the course of the week can be difficult.”
Some of the simplicity could allow for the Hornets’ defense to function at a higher level.
“You can take some of the scheme out of it,” said senior safety Lawson Holbert, who had two interceptions for ESU in its week one victory. “Everybody has a job and as long as everyone does their job and we trust everyone, we go out and (can) just play.”
Cowan said the game plan for week one was well drawn up. He and the Hornets can only hope and anticipate that this week’s will run just as well.
“Just to know we executed that and had guys on the same page, it was a good feeling,” he said. “We just have to be fundamentally sound, go out there and execute and I think if we execute, we can have success.”
Kickoff from Carnie Smith Stadium in Pittsburg is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday.