Motivation is never a problem when it comes to a Turnpike Tussle, but the Hornets and Ichabods have extra incentive in Saturday’s regular-season finale.
Washburn (6-4) still has hope for a bowl game and is looking to rebound from a disappointing showing against Central Oklahoma on senior day last week.
Emporia State sits 5-5 after entering the season ranked No. 4, but the Hornets are shooting for their third straight winning season and also want to send their seniors out on a high note, playing host to the Ichabods at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Welch Stadium.
“I always like how the MIAA does the scheduling with the rivalry games at the end,” ESU coach Garin Higgins said. “Both teams have a lot to play for. I know Washburn still has the opportunity to play in the postseason. For us, we don’t necessarily have the opportunity to play in the postseason unless a lot of funny things happen, but we still have the opportunity to have a winning record, something that has not been done here at Emporia State three years in a row since they went Division II.
“That’s huge for us. And what better way to end it than having the rivalry game against Washburn at the end of the year?”
Emporia State has had the upper hand in the rivalry of late, winning four of the last five Turnpike Tussles.
The rivalry is the second-most played series in NCAA Division II history with 113 matchups. ESU leads the series 55-52-6.
“(The rivalry) gets everybody hyped up,” said WU junior linebacker Derrick McGreevy, who leads WU with 110 tackles. “It’s one more game for the seniors and having it be a rivalry game, just makes it even better.
“My dad (Mike McGreevy) played here and he doesn’t like Emporia much and I kind of grew up thinking that way. I just know it’s a big game for Washburn and we got to win it.”
ESU is coming off a 30-27 win over Missouri Western, with quarterback Braxton Marstall finding Justin Brown for the game-winning touchdown with 1:12 left.
Marstall returned for the Western game after sitting out the previous week against Fort Hays State with a concussion. He is 220 of 355 passing for 22 touchdowns with only three interceptions averaging 300.3 yards per game through the air.
“With him back, they’re a different team,” WU coach Craig Schurig said. “They can really excel offensively at any time. You may shut them down for a little bit, but they score so quickly. They run that spread system as well as anybody. They put a lot of pressure on your defense.”
“We just have to make them one dimensional and don’t give up any big plays,” McGreevy added. “Bend but don’t break.”
The Ichabods have the fourth-best scoring defense in the MIAA, allowing an average of 26.2 points per game and own the fourth-best scoring offense at 32.1 points per game.
“I think they have been one of the top defenses in the MIAA,” Higgins said. “And offensively they play smart and don’t beat themselves. They’re a typical Washburn team where they’re going to set everything up through the run with the guys up front. They’re a much improved team.”
WASHBURN AT EMPORIA STATE
Kickoff: 2 p.m. Saturday, Welch Stadium
Radio: KTPK-FM 106.9
Records: Washburn 7-4, 7-4 MIAA, Emporia State 5-5, 5-5