Griffons bounce back with big win

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Senior receiver Dee Tolliver attempts to break away from Central Oklahoma Omari Cole in the first half of Saturday's win over the Bronchos. - Zach Papenberg | Photo Editor
Senior receiver Dee Tolliver attempts to break away from Central Oklahoma Omari Cole in the first half of Saturday’s win over the Bronchos. – Zach Papenberg | Photo Editor

The Missouri Western football team got their mojo back with a big win against Central Oklahoma with a 26-16 victory on Saturday afternoon at Craig Field.
They accomplished it by going back to what the program was built on, a dominating rushing attack and a suffocating defense.
“We got a good football team,” Griffon Coach Jerry Partridge said. “We still haven’t played our best. We felt like we were a better team than them. We thought we were better the first game too, we just didn’t win the game.”
Raphael Spencer put up 113 yards for the Griffons after having one of the least productive games of his career last week in the loss to Central Missouri.
Spencer said “attitude” and the “tremendous job” done by the line made all the difference.
Spencer wasn’t the only Griffon runner with a great day against the the Bronchos.
Josh Caldwell finished with 129 yards on just 16 carries. The redshirt-freshman is the under-study to Spencer, who was a first-team All-MIAA back in his junior season last year, but this season he offers a more north-south option for the rushing attack than the scat-back style that Spencer uses so effectively.
“I knew that the day Josh was involved in the offense that we were going to do big things together,” Spencer said.
“Its a great tandem especially with Josh being as young as he is,” Partridge said.
With their two lead backs providing a stable running game, it allowed Partridge and the Western coaching staff to pick and choose when they threw the ball and receiver Dee Tolliver took full advantage of the opportunities he was provided with.
Tolliver had just three receptions in the contest but finished with 162 yards to spearhead the passing attack.
The senior wasn’t even expected to play earlier in the week when Partridge stated that the Griffons’ trainers thought Tolliver was crazy for even thinking he could play on Saturday.
“I would say I was 80 percent, but I’ve really been rehabbing a lot and trying to make sure I could be out there for my team,” Tolliver said. “I didn’t want to miss this game and I think I showed courage to step up and be out there for my teammates.”
“(My shoulder) is really sore, but I put everything out there for my team and my team did a great job. That’s all that matters.”
Tolliver got the offense rolling in the first quarter when he was able to haul in a pass from Skyler Windmiller and head up the left sideline in front of the newly renovated Spratt Stadium home grandstands for a 76 yard gain to the Broncho seven yard-line.
After Spencer ran it down to the four, the Griffons reached into their bag of tricks and inserted 260-pound defensive lineman Daylon Harper into the backfield and big no. 96 rumbled to pay dirt to give the Griffons a 7-0 lead.
Midway through the second quarter Western added even more momentum in one of the most unconventional ways imaginable.
Windmiller’s pass deep down the middle of the field was intercepted by Levonte Douglas and the Central Oklahoma defensive back stumbled backwards into his own end zone before falling down for the safety.
On the ensuing possession for the Griffons, Caldwell and Spencer began to flex their muscles and impose their will on the Bronchos.
Caldwell broke a nine-yard run on the first play and Spencer followed that up with a 38-yard scamper.
It was Caldwell’s turn on the next carry and he punched it in with a 15-yard burst.
After a Tanner Pettet field goal, the Griffons entered halftime with a 19-0 lead.
The Griffons weren’t satisfied there though and on the their first offensive play from scrimmage in the second half, Tolliver once again got loose deep and Windmiller hit him for a 76 yard touchdown.
The Griffon defense was at the top of their game for a majority of the day as well with defensive stars Mike Jordan and Sam Brown combining for three interceptions and not allowing a Broncho offensive touchdown until the game’s last five minutes.
“Our goal was to make them throw the ball,” Partridge said. “(We had) a lot of really good pass breakups today.”
After the disappointment of Week One, it appears Griffon football is back on track with a tried and true strategy that has yielded great results in the past.

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