The fans rushed the field Saturday at Spratt Stadium as No. 25 Missouri Western defeated rival No. 3 Northwest Missouri State 31-28.
“It was a hard-fought game,” coach Jerry Partridge said. “I didn’t feel like we had it won until the very end. We played as good as we could play.”
The victory snaps an eight year losing streak for the Griffons against Northwest.
“It feels great to get Coach P. that win again,” Defensive Back Ben Jackson said. “We hit him with the Gatorade after the game, and it’s just a rival. It’s always good to beat your cross-town rival.”
“I think we believed the whole time; we believed the whole week,” safety Jack Long said. “Coach has been preaching to believe it and we all did.”
The Bearcats high-powered offense was on display early as they scored on their first two possessions. Northwest led 14-3 at the end of the first quarter. The Griffon defense forced three punts and gave up no points in the second quarter.
“Down 14-3, I don’t think anybody flinched at all,” Long said. “I think we were ready to go the whole time. It’s a long football game.”
The Griffon offense was able to put together their first touchdown drive midway through the second quarter. Travis Partridge hit Adam Clausen and Reggie Jordan for gains of 20 and 14. Partridge dove the ball into the end zone on a one-yard run to make the score 14-10. Greg Zuerlein added a 53-yard field goal to make the score 14-13 at half time.
“The second quarter was awesome, and that’s really where the momentum changed,” coach Partridge said. “They had total command of that game for a little bit. Our second quarter defense put us back in that football game.”
The Bearcats’ James Franklin broke off a 37-yard run early in the third quarter to give Northwest a 21-13 lead. Partridge responded by getting loose for a 51-yard run to start the Griffons’ drive. He completed a pass to Jordan for 19 yards and then Michael Hill ran it in the end zone. Partridge connected with Jordan again on the two-point-conversion to tie the game up at 21.
Jeremy Weston intercepted a pass from Trevor Adams on the next possession to give the Griffons the ball at Northwest’s 42-yard-line. The Griffons offense took advantage as they moved the ball up the field, and Partridge hit Clausen for a two-yard touchdown pass to give the Griffons a 28-21 advantage. Northwest tied the game at 28 on a three-yard run by Jordan Simmons.
Zuerlein hit a 58-yard field goal to put the Griffons on top 31-28 with 11 seconds left in the third quarter. The kick is the longest in Western history, breaking the record Zuerlein set earlier in the year of 57 yards.
“Coach gave me a chance, and I had a good snap, good hold, and I made it,” said Zuerlein, who has made an MIAA record 16 consecutive field goals. “I didn’t think that I hit it the best. I had some luck, I guess.”
Zuerlein made all three of his field goal attempts on the day.
“We need points every time,” Travis Partridge said. “There’s no point to force things. Other teams have to force things but we will just be safe and take the three points.”
The Griffons pulled off a huge goal line stand to start the fourth quarter after Northwest got the ball inside the five-yard-line. With the ball at the one on fourth down, Northwest elected to go for it instead of taking a field goal that would have tied the game. The play resulted in David Bass dragging the back down for a three-yard loss and a turnover on downs for the Bearcats.
“I’m sure they are regretting the decision to go for it now,” Long said. “I felt that if we stopped them right there, we would swing the momentum so much that they wouldn’t be able to come back from something like that, and it held true.”
Long recovered a fumble on the next Northwest drive. The Griffons continued to run clock and punted the ball back to Northwest with 2:31 remaining in the fourth quarter. The defense held tough and forced a fourth down and six. Jackson, who was beat deep early in the game, tackled the receiver one-yard short of the first down to secure the victory for the Griffons.
“As soon as I tackled him, I knew he was short, and I knew that was our game right there,” Jackson said. “As a DB, you got to have a short memory, and in the end I ended up making a nice play for the team.”
Jackson led the Griffons in tackles with 12.
Travis Partridge is 1-0 against Northwest as the starting quarterback of the Griffons. Growing up with Griffon football, beating his rival is a dream come true.
“There’s been great quarterbacks before me that have never had a chance to beat them,” Partridge said. “I’ve had this dream so many times in my life — it just feels surreal. There’s a lot of emotion involved. It feels amazing.”
Partridge threw for 111 yards and a touchdown and ran for 106 yards and a touchdown on the day. The Griffon offense had no turnovers in the game.
“Travis played great. He’s a very good competitor,” coach Partridge said.
Clausen led the Griffons in receiving with 52 yards, and Hill ran for 80 yards and a touchdown.
The Griffons improve to 8-2 on the season and 6-2 in the MIAA conference. They will take on Fort Hays State next Saturday in the final game of the regular season. The possibility of a home playoff game exists with a win.
Photo by Jason Brown