A new era began for Missouri Western Athletics on Halloween when Kurt McGuffin officially took over as Athletic Director, and his first week on the job couldn’t have gone any better.
The Griffon Football team gave us all something to be proud of on Saturday when it beat rival No.3 Northwest Missouri State for the first time in eight years. The Bearcats are the highest ranked team that the Griffons have ever defeated.
The Northwest offense was averaging 56 points-per-game and had looked unstoppable all season long. With the game and possibly the season on the line, the Griffon defense stood tall in the end causing the Bearcats’ high-powered offense to turn the ball over on downs twice in the fourth quarter to seal up a 31-28 victory.
A loss against the Bearcats would have likely kept the Griffons out of the playoffs. The top six teams in Super Region 4 get into the playoffs and Western was ranked No. 7 going into the game. After the win, the team jumped to No. 4. The third and fourth ranked teams will host a playoff game Nov. 19. That means with a win at Fort Hays State this Saturday, a playoff game at Spratt Stadium is likely.
After shouldering some of blame for a 2-2 start, Quarterback Travis Partridge has led the Griffons to six straight wins and put the silencer on any critics. He is the first player to rush for 100 yards against Northwest in 10 years, and is 1-0 as the starter against Western’s biggest rival. The Griffons are ranked No. 17 in the AFCA top 25, and have a record of 8-2 on the season.
The home crowd was one of the keys to victory for the Griffons on Saturday. The visiting stands were completely packed with Northwest supporters, but the deafening Western crowd drowned out any efforts for them to fire up their team. The student section was filled with painted faces and signs showing support for the players, it was evident how badly we wanted our team to win that game. The Griffon players feed off the crowd energy and the opponent is disrupted by it, and it should be everyone’s goal to make Western an impossible place for the opponent to come get a win.
Just hours after the big win, Griffon Volleyball broke a losing streak of their own, defeating Truman for the first time since 2002. After falling behind 4-0 in the fifth set, the Griffons rallied and won 16-14 in an emotional five-set victory on senior night.
Western could be the site of another special day this Saturday when Men’s Basketball Coach Tom Smith will go for his 600th career win against Fontbonne University at the MWSU Field House. He will enter elite company, becoming only the 6oth coach at any level of collegiate basketball to win 600 games. Only 19 other active coaches have won 600 games. This is his 24th year as the coach of the Griffons. This historical win will only happen once, and Coach Smith deserves a packed house for the game. We should all feel privileged at the chance to witness a Hall-of-Famer reach this historical milestone.
With all these special things happening, there is a buzz around campus about Griffon Athletics. It is important that the players, coaches and fans seize this momentum and continue toward the goal of taking Western Athletics to a championship level.