Junior defensive linebacker J.R. Grahamâ€™s last second end zone interception gave Western a chance to barely creep by with a five game winning streak.
Despite a shaky fourth quarter, Western walked away with a 24-21 victory over Southwest Baptist University at its own Plaster Stadium.
The Griffs move one step closer to playoff aspirations with an 8-1 overall record, and 6-1 in the MIAA. The Southwest Bearcats fall to 1-8 overall, and 1-6 in MIAA play.
Although the Bearcats are in the bottom of the MIAA standing, they were able to shut down the Griffon defense and offense in the fourth quarter of the game. Head coach Jerry Partridge feels the team played great defensively throughout the first three-quarters, but broke down during the fourth.
â€œWeâ€™re not hitting on all four cylinders,â€ Partridge said.
Senior Jeremiah White marched into the Bearcat end zone with a 2-yard run for the first touchdown of the game, and then again in the third quarter with a 4-yard touchdown. In between Whiteâ€™s run of the ball, senior Jamison Burns brought in a 2-yard touchdown, and averaged 55 rushing yards.
As the last half of the third quarter drew to an end, Western led with a 21-0 score. The Bearcats stepped it up within the last few seconds of the third quarter to put a halt to Westernâ€™s shutout fantasy. SBU made its way into the Griffon end zone one more time before the Griffs retaliated.
Western drove the ball into Bearcat territory, but they were unable to pull together for another touchdown. Freshman kicker Dustin Strickler brought in three points before SBU scored yet another touchdown to leave the score at 24-21.
The last minutes were the most crucial moments of the entire game. The Bearcats worked themselves into the Western red zone yet again, but on a third down play into the end zone J.R. Graham was smacked square in the chest with the interception with only 54 seconds left in the game.
â€œI [was] just so tired,â€ Graham said. â€œI just fell to the ground holding on, and glad I caught it.â€
After the unexpected turn of events Western ran the clock out, and came away with the win. Although Graham literally saved the team from â€œthe jaws of defeat,â€ as Partridge once said, he has his priorities in order.
â€œOur goal is to make it to the playoffs,â€ Graham said. â€œBut yet we have to worry about next week. Weâ€™ve got Fort Hayes at home, and we donâ€™t lose at home.â€
Thatâ€™s exactly why Western will take the next week to prepare for the game against Fort Hayes University set for Nov. 4, at 2:00 p.m., on Griffon turf.