No. 4 Western football will put its 6-0 record on the line against 4-2 Missouri Southern in the Homecoming game at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13, at Spratt Stadium.
“Homecoming is a special time and it’s a great event for any universities campus life, but I don’t think we treat it any differently,” coach Jerry Partridge said. “Our crowd is always pretty good anyways.”
The Griffon defense will take on the task of stopping quarterback Kellen Cox and the triple option offense. The 5-foot-10-inch 160-pound former wide receiver ranks third in the MIAA in rushing at 94.3 yards per-game with eight touchdowns.
“He’s the key guy, the cog,” coach Partridge said. “They will try to run the ball with him. We have to stop him and obviously we have to stop all phases of the triple option.”
Cox numbers through the air are much less flattering than on the ground. He’s completed only 20-for-44 passes with eight interceptions and two touchdowns. Defensive end David Bass expects to deal with a heavy dose of Southern’s running game.
“The triple option is usually a difficult offense to play,” Bass said, “but with the seniors and experience that we’ve got, I think we’ll be able to handle it.”
Western has been very good defensively all season ranking No. 2 in the MIAA and No. 14 in the country allowing 16.7 points per-game, but Bass believes there’s room for improvement.
“We aren’t where we want to be,” Bass said. “The entire defense messed up on some assignments and responsibilities last week. As long as we stick together and trust one another then we are going to be good.”
One of Southern’s strengths is their ability to stop the run, however, Griffons running back Michael Hill is no ordinary runner as he leads the nation in rushing. Quarterback Travis Partridge also has the ability to gain big yards on the ground.
“I’m sure running the ball is going to be very difficult,” coach Partridge said. “They have given up some passing yards, and we are going to have to take advantage of that.”
Opposing receivers have been torching the Lions’ pass defense all season as they are giving up 244 yards per-game while only gaining an average of 77 yards themselves.
Travis Partridge is going to stick to the game plan, but is more than willing to make the necessary adjustments and burn the Lions through the air.
“Every week we go in with a game plan and we try to establish the run first,” Partridge said. “We just kind of take what the defensive is giving us, so if they’re giving us yards through the air then that’s what we’re going to do.”
Every game is huge in football, but it’s hard not to look forward to next week when the Griffons travel to Pittsburg, Kan., to face the No. 1 ranked and reigning national champion Pittsburg State.
Bass isn’t looking forward as he knows that Southern will prove to be a formidable opponent.
“No, never,” Bass said. “This is my senior year. Every week is crucial to me, so I can leave on a good note and have fun while I’m doing it.”