Griffons blow big first half lead against Gorillas

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Skyler Windmiller runs away from defenders in Saturday's loss to Pittsburg State in Pittsburg, Kan. John Ellis | MWSU Athletics
Skyler Windmiller runs away from defenders in Saturday’s loss to Pittsburg State in Pittsburg, Kan. John Ellis | MWSU Athletics

After a 31-27 loss in Pittsburg, Kansas, Western drops to 3-2 on the season and have suffered a huge hit to their playoff chances.

Early in the first half, it looked like a replay from the same match-up three years ago. The outcome proved to be different and heartbreaking for the Griffons as they fell 31-27 in Pittsburg.

“Very frustrating,” Western coach Jerry Partridge said. “Probably the quickest I’ve ever gotten on a team bus after any game, but now its time to move on.”

Quarterback Skyler Windmiller started, after missing last week’s game with an concussion. Windmiller threw the first of his two touchdowns of the game to wideout Trey Lewis, five minutes into regulation.

“That part will be decided (later in the week).” Partridge said regarding who will start at quarterback next week against Fort Hays State between Windmiller and T.J. LaFaver.

After another stop by the Griffons defense, Windmiller was able to hook up with wideout Dee Tolliver for a 84-yard touchdown reception. The reception was Tolliver’s longest of the season.

With the Griffons up 14, the Gorillas responded with a 11-yard touchdown reception to Austin Panko.

Almost five minutes into the second quarter, a five-play drive was capped off with a one-yard touchdown run by short-yardage specialist Daylon Harper. The Griffon defense continued to make stops, and those stops resulted in two Tanner Pettet field goals before the half.

“That was fun,” Partridge said. “We played very well in the first half, but there were some things we left out there.

“We didn’t finish enough on offense. We could’ve had that game put away. One more play and we win the game.”

After going into the half up 27-7, Western could not hold on to the lead.

“You are up 20 points in the second half,” Partridge said. “You got to find a way to win the game.”

The game made a complete shift after halftime with the Gorillas scoring on the last four-of-five drives of the ball game.

“I think we got tired a little bit,” Partridge said. “We don’t roll as many kids on defense. We don’t substitute a whole lot in the back eight and those kids got a little tired and slopy.”

After the break, quarterback John Roderique led a 65-yard drive that was capped off with another one-yard run by Gorilla running back Jeff Seybold.

“Roderique had played outstanding in the second half,” Partridge said.

The Gorilla defense made another stop, allowing the offense to put together a six-play drive that went a total of 84 yards. Levi Copelin finished the drive with a eight-yard touchdown grab, making the score 21-27.

With the huge momentum swing, the pressure was on the Griffons to put more points on the board.

The Griffon offense couldn’t replicate what they accomplished in the first half, suffering two three-and-outs, a turnover-on-downs and a crucial interception by Windmiller.

“Knew they were blitzing on first down because they were blitzing the run consistently,” Partridge said. “Called a tunnel screen, which can be a good call, felt like they got away with pass interference on the interception.”

The Gorillas took advantage and converted a 27-yard field goal early in the fourth. Down by three, Roderique and Seybold engineered a drive that took 3:27 off the clock.

The possession ended with a seven-yard touchdown run by running back Jamal Tyler, making the score 31-27. After a failed last-minute effort by the Griffons, the Gorillas were able to sneak away with a win at home.

Running back Raphael Spencer was the leading rusher for the Griffons, with 79 yards on 22 carries. Though they fell short, Spencer felt there were a lot of things they did well collectively.

“I learned that we have a really good team,” Spencer said. “Even though we improved, we still have to remain focused.”

As for how the offense finished, Spencer thinks that there is only one solution for that.

“We just have to play a full game,” Spencer said. “We’ll be fine”.

The Griffons are back in Spratt Stadium for the Hall of Fame Game this Saturday at 1 p.m.

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