When two-redshirt freshmen are asked to step up to the challenge, the game immediately becomes interesting.
It was a low scoring game that saw Western walk away with the victory over the Mules, 10-9.
Both TJ LaFaver and Skyler Windmiller had chances to secure the number one spot at the quarterback position last Thursday.
LaFaver started the game but struggled to get things going early on. He turned the ball over three times and never looked comfortable in the pocket.
His longest pass went for 12 yards and he was also sacked once.
After LaFaver was benched, Windmiller took over and the offense started moving the ball, largely due to efforts from running back Raphael Spencer.
Spencer finished with 162 yards on the ground and rushed in the Griffons only touchdown.
“It was a ground-and-pound kind of game, Spencer said. “I’m so glad our defense stepped up and played a tremendous game. Our defense totally won this game.”
Spencer noted most of the work was done in the trenches.
“I was excited just for my O-line,” Spencer said. Throughout the game, they grinded.”
The Mules running back LaVance Walker rushed for 47-yard touchdown with six minutes left in the second quarter. UCM failed the extra point and the score was then 6-0.
Kicker John Schmiemeier was responsible for the Griffons first points on the board, when he converted a 32-yard field goal with 1:21 left in the third quarter.
After Walker’s big gain, Western defense made several stops to that impacted the game.
With the clock winding down, defensive lineman Arbanas Elliot made arguably the biggest play of the game, when he picked off Mules quarterback Hayden Hawk inside UCM’s 20-yard line.
Elliot also registered five tackles for the night.
“The other three guys on the D-line got push right there,” Elliot said. “I was just looking for a bat down and I just got lucky and held onto the ball.”
As for how he made the pick, Elliot said he was not sure how he was even in position to make the play.
“I don’t really know what happened. I just saw it was in my hands,” Elliot said. “ First one ever (INT).”
Spencer scored with 1:28 left in the fourth and the defense came up with their last stop of the night.
Coach Jerry Partridge said that the quarterbacks struggled early as expected but both will get stronger.
“They’re going to play better,” Partridge said. “There’s no doubt about it. They’re both good. If we had one by themselves, there wouldn’t be any controversy at all.”
Partridge said there were some things that the team needed to improve on but was happy with the win.
“They outplayed us,” Partridge said. “ We kept them out of the end zone. We were pretty good on third-down defense; we weren’t very good on third-down offense. We got some work today.”