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Washburn overcomes slow 1st half to beat Griffons

Jerry Partridge said his team has played well in the second half all year. But when Missouri Western stepped on the field Thursday at Yager Stadium, the Griffons didn’t deliver that same achievement.

Western was up by three at halftime but let the lead squander away as they lost 41-20.

“They had big conversion plays [in the second half],” Partridge said. “We did wear down a little bit. Some of Washburn’s technique wore us down.”

The Griffons showed how well they could adapt on the road against a top-10 team, even when things weren’t exactly going their way.

Western had three turnovers in the first half, but still held a tight lead, 13-10.

“We played pretty good in the first half,” Partridge said, though he admitted Western still had problems. “We did a lot of mindless things.”

Travis Partridge impressed the coach as well. Partridge was making his first road start of his collegiate career.

“One of the brighter spots of the football game was how he played.”

Travis kept his composure throughout the game. Even though he has faced skeptical criticism, Partridge showed he can play against an MIAA opponent on the road.

“In the first half we came out playing,” Partridge said. “We just didn’t get it done. There was not one thing I know that we could have done.”

In the second half, Western (2-2) fell behind after two big touchdown drives by Washburn (4-0). The Ichabods came out primed. They scored on a five play, 57 yard drive and then on an 11 play, 60 yard drive to tire out Western’s defense and keep Travis Partridge and company off the field.

“We were really not a smart football team tonight,” Jerry Partridge said.

Travis didn’t connect with his receivers for much of the third quarter. The Griffons went three-and-out, and then Partridge gave Washburn its biggest break of the game.

The Ichabods, up by four midway through the third, backed their pass coverage up. Playing off of wide receiver Tarrell Downing, Partridge sailed the pass too high, and Ichabods cornerback Devon Connors snatched the ball out of the air. The pass put Washburn in great field position to set up the next touchdown. Eventually, it would add a field goal to up the lead to two scores.

Partridge didn’t let the crowd, nor the 14-point predicament Western had in the fourth, affect his play. He stayed tough and drove the Griffons from their own 30-yard-line down to the seven. From there, he zipped a pass through Washburn’s defenders coverage to Tyron Crockum for the score. This put the Griffons down by a touchdown with 9:17 left in the ballgame.

Western’s defense couldn’t hold up against pre-season All American quarterback Dane Simoneau and his prolific offense.

“We just gave up some big plays in the second half,” cornerback Ben Jackson said. “We just didn’t play [Missouri Western] football.”

Jackson wasn’t on the field when the Griffons were down by seven late in the fourth. Instead, Marcus Thompson stepped in at right cornerback, but couldn’t handle the receivers he was put up against.

He was flagged for pass interference, which moved Washburn inside the 30-yard-line. And a few plays later, the Ichabods ended Western’s hope at a victory.

“They got a couple big runs,” Jackson said. “Passing wise, maybe we gave up a little bit over the top, but that’s on the secondary. We’ll come back harder.”

Washburn faked a run on third-and-goal from its three-yard-line, and delivered a strike towards Thompson’s side as wide receiver Ronnell Garner caught a pass in the back of the end zone. With 6:47 left on the clock, Washburn again found itself up by two scores.

“They made some great plays, and they’re a really good football team,” Jerry Partridge said.

Western gave up just eight yards on the ground in the first half, but in the third quarter alone had 207 total yards. Western had just four yards passing in the quarter.

The loss hurts the Griffons, not just because they find themselves at 2-2, but also because they have to go on the road again next week to battle Missouri Southern in Joplin, Mo.

Western was without starting defensive end Ben Pister, who was suspended for disciplinary reasons. He will return for the Griffons next week, and they need him. Western did record two sacks on the day, but the pass rush wasn’t there, and it was noticeable in the second half. Jerry Partridge compared Washburn’s offense to Pittsburg State’s, as the misdirection plays in the second half hurt the Griffons.

With only two wins in four games, the Griffons find themselves in a must-win mode as they look to make it back to the playoffs. Last season, they fell to rival Northwest Missouri State in the first round, though the Griffons did make it in with three losses.

Downing had three receptions for 61 yards. Adam Clausen caught an 11-yard-touchdown to put Western up 13-10 towards the end of the second half.

Simoneau shook off a bad first-half performance to end up with 360 yards through the air. Another pre-season All American, defensive end David Bass, recorded a sack in this third straight game. The game was broadcast on national television (CBS Sports Network).

All Photos by: Jason Brown

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