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Griffons defense delivers, upset No. 12 Central Missouri

David Bass pulled his defense together to start Missouri Western’s second football game of the season Saturday night, and everybody stuck with him.

Bass had four sacks and tied the Griffon’s single-game sack record as Western [1-1] upset No. 12 ranked Central Missouri 23-6 Saturday at Spratt Stadium.

The Mules had no answer for Western’s pass rush, as the team combined for seven sacks and forced three turnovers in a defensive battle. Western’s offense was more calm than Central’s, and it showed.

With 4:55 to go in the first quarter, Travis Partridge stepped back and surveyed the field, only to fake the pass coverage and not throw the ball deep. Unlike last week, Partridge scrambled down field and used his legs to move the ball.

Seconds later, his decision to tuck the ball looked more proficient as he ran to the south end zone for a 68-yard-touchdown. As the crowd began to erupt, so did the Griffon’s sideline, as they knew they could beat Central [1-1] on both sides of the field.

“It was great and the receivers down field blocked, so I had an easy job,” Partridge said. “We all woke up and we just knew we was gonna do it.”

Partridge went 14-26 for 109 yards and one touchdown, but one key stat that changed from last week’s loss to Pittsburg State was the turnovers. Partridge had zero.

“[Last week] it was a little bit anxious and jitters and I was unsure about things. Week two I already knew what it was, and we knew what we needed to do, and we got it done.”

Western’s only turnover came midway through the third quarter when wide receiver T.J. Fannin fumbled the ball at mid field. Still, its defense held the Mules off from scoring a touchdown, forcing them to settle for a field goal. Bass said in a way he thanked Pittsburg State for last week’s game.

“That loss last week kind of motivated us,” said Bass, a pre-season All-American. “I’m just glad we’re back.”

Coach Jerry Partridge said that it was a dominate performance by the defense, and the first game was more of a system product that troubled the Griffons than his actual team.

“Pittsburg does a great job of the option,” Partridge said. “[Central] was our type of offense where you go after.”

After last week’s disappointment, Western came into Saturday’s contest with a lot to prove. With 6,251 people in attendance, it had the stage to do so.

“I’m just glad [the crowd] stuck with us after last week, and I’m glad we can put up a good showing,” said Ben Pister, who had two sacks to go along with his first career interception. He also tied linebacker Tom Madget for a team high of eight tackles.

Although the players and coaches said this wasn’t any more of a must-win game than others, they performed like it was, much to the pleasure of the crowd. If Western had dropped to 0-2, it would have been the first time in over 10 years that they hit that mark, and that was something Jerry Partridge couldn’t let happen.

“I never sensed a doubt on this football team all week long.”

Jeremy Weston intercepted the ball two times in the second half. Weston went up against the Mules’ talented wide-out Jamar Howard, who caught five passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns in last weeks 42-24 win over Missouri Southern. Saturday night, Howard was held to 37 yards receiving.

“[The defensive line] made our job easy,” Weston said. “Stay over the top was all we were preaching all week.”

To go with Bass’ four sacks, he had three pass defenses and three other quarterback pressures. Bass said that it was a team effort though.

“I thank the other 10 people who was out there on defense, most of them could have been coverage sacks and the others could have been from my three other lineman putting pressure.”

Michael Hill rushed 25 times for 113 yards. He had a 33-yard run to the left side in the fourth quarter. This looked to be the first time Central’s traveling fans realized their team might lose the game.

“It’s a boost for our team to know we can move the ball and stop the opposing team,” Hill said.

This season is the first time Hill is being used as a full-time starter. He helped Western rush for 238 yards compared to the Mules’ 20.

Tarrell Downing caught a 14-yard-touchdown reception with 2:38 to go in the first half. Downing ran a slant route from the left side of the field as Travis Partridge threw a perfect spiral to his target. It was Downing’s first touchdown of the season as well as Partridge’s first collegiate touchdown pass.

Western battles its first non-conference opponent, Langston University, this Saturday at Spratt Stadium. Langston is undefeated in two games this season.

Other scores in the MIAA from the weekend’s contest: Washburn, now 2-0, defeated Lincoln [Mo] 66-26 last Thursday. Truman, coming off a 62 point home loss to Northwest Missouri, beat Fort Hays State 36-31. Northwest improved to 2-0 as it handled Sioux Falls 52-17 and Pittsburg matched Northwest and Washburn with a mark of 2-0, as it defeated Emporia State 38-14. Pittsburg is the only MIAA school that has two division wins.

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