Penalties, sacks, chaos: it wasn’t pretty. Missouri Western dropped its season opener against MIAA opponent Pittsburg State Thursday night at Spratt Stadium 34-7.
Western’s defense was unable to control the Gorilla’s pistol offense, which controlled the game from beginning to end. It was supposed to be a coming out party for sophomore quarterback Travis Partridge. This game was supposed to prove that Western belonged in the top 25 AFCA ranking, but nothing could go right for the Griffons.
The Griffons opened the game by throwing the ball, surprisingly. Coach Jerry Partridge was not afraid to let his son and quarterback set the tempo between the two rivals. But after a few failed plays, Western had to the punt the ball. And that’s when it started.
John Brown returned the punt 84 yards for the first score of the game. Zac Dickey and company didn’t even see the field before their team was ahead 7-0.
“Coverage just broke down,” Jerry Partridge said. “We have to start doing our job; that killed us in the first half quite a bit.”
Western’s woes didn’t end there. Shortly after that play, Western went three-and-out, giving Dickey the ball and a chance to go up by two scores.
Dickey, a former redshirt at Oklahoma State, wouldn’t let up one bit in pounding the football right at Western’s defense. Though his first drive ended in a punt, he made sure they would score on his next opportunity, as Western surrendered an eight play, 81 yard drive that took less than three minutes.
“It’s very frustrating,” said junior defensive back Jeremy Weston. “It’s smash mouth football. When you don’t know where they’re gonna come from, they like to throw the ball, it’s frustrating.”
Weston recorded six tackles in the physical matchup, which saw both teams play very ruggedly at times. The style of play that was witnessed by over 5,000 fans proved to favor the Gorillas, as they quickly turned the game into a blowout.
Western [0-1] started the second quarter with a little momentum after running back Michael Hill had a 12 yard and the Griffons moved into Pittsburg [1-0] territory. But on fourth and 13, Western called for a pass, and it was snagged out of the air by Gorillas defensive back Elijah Olabode. Travis Partridge would go on to turn the ball over two more times, one inside the five yard line when he tried to run the ball in for a touchdown.
“Those first couple of drives, I’m not going to lie, things were moving very fast,” Partridge said. “But this was a team effort. When you only put up seven points in a football game, it’s all wrong.”
Partridge was sacked five times in the night and pressured many more. On one particular play in the second quarter, Partridge’s helmet was ripped off while he was laying on the ground, but no penalty was thrown. Coach Partridge said that he was told by the ref that his helmet came off a few times prior to that point. Given the nature of this particular night, it wasn’t going to be called anyways.
Not only could Western not function well on the field, but off the field they ran into problems as well.
“The head sets went down again,” Partridge said. “Communication was a pivotal thing that kind of cost us in a couple spots.”
Partridge pointed to the end of the first half, while his team was down 21-0 with less than two minutes to play, that without the head set he was not able to let his team know to run out the clock and go into halftime. Instead, Travis Partridge threw two straight incompletions and was sacked, which gave the ball back to Pittsburg with enough time to drive down field and score a touchdown.
“We got our butts kicked, period. But that’s football,” Jerry Partridge said. Western was called for nine penalties which resulted in 140 yards.
The Gorilla’s wide receiver Brown, a transfer from Coffeyville Community College, ended the night with four receptions for 70 yards, while Dickey continued what he left off from last season, registering 140 rushing yards and 114 yards threw the air.
Western’s lone score came late in the fourth quarter, when backup running back Dominic Thomas returned a punt return 60 yards, making sure Western would not let Pittsburg shut them out on their home field.
Western plays another division opponent next week, Central Missouri. Western hosts them next Saturday at Spratt Stadium, and Travis Partridge says the team won’t and can’t let this game be in their heads, stating that the team will move forward from Thursday night.
Central Missouri [1-0] ranks in the top 15 in the AFCA poll as of Thursday night. They defeated Missouri Southern 42-24.
Other MIAA scores from Thursday include Fort Hays State defeating Emporia State 27-17 and Northwest Missouri State went on the road and pounded Truman State 65-3. Washburn did not open the season against an MIAA opponent, instead they defeated Sioux Falls 33-17 while Lincoln [Mo.] plays Saturday against Avila University.
All photos by Jason Brown: