Patriotism was in the air as the Missouri Western football team improved its record to 3-0 by defeating Nebraska-Kearney 38-14 on Military Appreciation Night at Spratt Stadium.
“It was a gritty win,” coach Jerry Partridge said. “I think we did some things early to keep them in the ball game, had some penalties and a turnover.”
Travis Partridge made up for an early interception by throwing for a career-high four touchdown passes to four different targets.
“As an offense we have so many weapons,” the quarterback said. “That’s what we expect. Our receiving core is so deep. It’s fun to be me and distribute and watch them work.”
Partridge connected with Reggie Jordan, Michael Hill, Tyron Crockom, and Derek Libby for scores through the air and showed his own versatility by running in a 27-yard touchdown run. He finished the day with 198 passing yards and 78 rushing yards.
Crockom scored his touchdown in spectacular fashion as he caught a short pass on the left side of the field and took the ball all the way across to the right side, turned the corner and out-ran the defense.
“I just let my feet do the work,” Crockum said. “I saw three dudes coming, and I didn’t want to get smacked by them.”
Jordan scored his third touchdown of the season in as many games and has become one of the Griffons go-to guys in the red zone.
“He’s a threat,” coach Partridge said. “He’s a tough match-up for people and catches the ball really well.”
Hill ran for 165 yards on 24 carries for an average of 6.7 yards per carry and caught a short pass that he turned into a 19-yard touchdown. Hill has rushed for 539 yards in the Griffons three games this season which ranks first in the MIAA and third in the nation.
“I thought he ran the ball really well,” coach Partridge said. “He is the very best back in the MIAA, I believe that. I wouldn’t trade him for anybody.”
The Griffon defense was burned for a 58-yard touchdown run from Tommy Flanagan after calling a blitz on fourth down, which led to the game being close at the half with Western up 14-7.
“We sent the blitz to the weak side and it was an excellent play call by them,” defensive end David Bass said.
The Lopers only other score of the day came on a trick play that ended in a 43-yard touchdown pass after the Griffons already had a commanding lead.
Western’s defense was solid all day, but suffered a huge loss as standout Yomi Alli suffered a serious knee injury that will keep him out of action for the foreseeable future.
Alli is the Griffons season leading tackler with 13 assisted and 10 solo and also grabbed an interception before the knee injury. Coach Partridge is disappointed Alli’s season is going to ge cut short, and the players aren’t too happy, either.
“That’s terrible,” Bass said. “The player that he is with his attitude and the energy he brings to this team, I’m hurt that he’s out.”
Bass recorded his third sack of the season while Ben Pister and Austin Baska were both credited with a half sack. Defensive back Michael Jordan intercepted a deep pass thrown by Eric Kaiser in the second quarter.
The Griffons are off to a 3-0 start for the fourth time under coach Partridge.
“Going 3-0 is definitely a great confidence booster for our program,” Bass said. “It will just allow us to stay hungry and keep getting better week by week.”
The Griffons go on the road for the first time this season on Saturday, Sept. 22, when they travel to Hays, Kan. to face Fort Hays State.