A stunned silence hit the once hostile crowd in â€œThe Jungleâ€ as Cedric Houston, a Griffons wide receiver, crossed the goal line with 22 seconds left on the clock.
â€œWhen I caught that ball, it felt wonderful,â€ said Houston. â€œThe heat, the crowd, it all meant nothing after that catch.â€
That catch gave the Griffons 38-32 lead over the No. 7 team in the nation, which became 39-32 with a Dustin Strickler extra point to cap off the win against all odds.
The Griffonsâ€™ defense gave Missouri Western the opportunity to win after the offense stalled with 1:30 left on the clock. Pitt State was in their two-minute offense, trying to march down the field with less than a minute left.
Â Defensive lineman Etu Soane made made the play of the game when he hit Pitt State quarterback Mark Smith from behind, knocking the ball loose from the quarterbackâ€™s grasp.
The ball seemed to be on the rolling on the ground forever as madness broke out to recover the football. Players were diving on top of players to build a mass of humanity in search of the ball. If the other team had it, they would do anything to pry it from their hands.
At the bottom of the pile, with the ball, in the right spot at the perfect time, was first year defensive lineman Martin Lane. As the bodies were sorted through by the officials Lane, got up, jumped around in celebration and held the ball up where everyone could see it.
â€œWe had a twist called and our guys got the job done,â€ Regi Trotter, defensive coordinator for the Griffons said. â€œI was just hoping for a turnover. A stop would have been great, but a turnover in that situation is even better.â€
â€œThe Jungleâ€ that was once the hardest place for the Griffons to win, was now silent other than one corner of the stadium where the Griffon faithful sat.
The Griffons had not won at Pitt State since 1984 and the head coach of the Griffons, Jerry Partridge, had not won a game in â€œThe Jungleâ€ in his tenure at Missouri Western.
The young Griffons team showed their ability and remarkable composure to win in a tough environment.
â€œWe knew it was going to be a tough win and just wanted to come out here and play our hardest to get the W,â€ said Laâ€™Darrian Page, one of the two running backs for the Griffons.
The Griffons offense was led by the running back combination ofÂ â€œThunder,â€ Thomas Hodges and â€œLightening,â€ Laâ€™Darrian Page. Both backs ran for 155 yards, so the combination of Page and Hodges had 310 of the Griffonsâ€™ 469 yards worth of offensive production.
â€œHodges and I came into this game knowing that we were going to have to get it done on the ground,â€ said Page. â€œWe pounded the ball, made good decisions and held onto the football all day long. At the end of the day it got us a win.â€
The unsung heroes of the game were the offensive linemen who opened up huge holes for the tandem of Hodges and Page to run through.
â€œThe offensive line was terrific,â€ Page said. â€œItâ€™s the best theyâ€™ve played all year. The offense moves and scores off of what they do up front.â€
Houston was another go-to guy during the game. He had two touchdowns and made dazzling plays throughout the second half of the football game when the pressure was at its highest.
He had an amazing punt return on an all out block by the Griffons, which means he had no blockers down field and made something out of nothing. He caught a screen, broke at least three tackles, reversed field twice and scored a touchdown from about 30 yards out. His biggest play of the game came at the most crucial part: the end. He ran a stop and go to perfection, the corner bit on the stop route as Houston ran by, quarterback Drew Newhart threw a perfect pass right on Houstonâ€™s hands and the game was over.