Central Missouri traveled to Spratt Stadium on Saturday night at 6 p.m. to battle the Griffons. The last three matchups between the two teams had been decided by a combined five points—so there was little doubt that this would be a thrilling meeting between the two schools. The two teams went back and forth all four quarters, but the Mules found a way to hold off Western 38-34.
Special teams showed themselves to be less than special in this game. UCM received the opening kick and returned it 94-yards for a touchdown. Western kicker Sean Galey also missed two kicks in the game. Head Coach Jerry Partridge was not happy with the performance of his special teams unit.
“Obviously our special teams is hurting us right now,” Partridge said. “That is something we have always been good at.”
The Griffons’ offense was not disappointing on Saturday, and they got started right away. On their second drive of the game, Western went 80-yards in just five plays. Leading the way was the MIAA’s leading rusher, Josh Caldwell. Caldwell took the handoff at the CMU 22-yard line, and then broke left for a 74-yard gain. Quarterback Skylar Windmiller finished off the drive with a three-yard touchdown run.
“We knew that we were going to be run on them a little bit,” Windmiller said.
The UCM offense spent very little time in between plays.
“They tempoed us to death and kinda got us on our heels,” Partridge said.
UCM ran 11 plays on their next scoring drive, but held the ball for just over three minutes. Missouri Western tacked on a field goal at the end of the first quarter, cutting the lead to 14-10 UCM.
Griffon linebacker Cody Lindsay had a big day for the defense and it started on the Mule’s ensuing drive when he intercepted UCM quarterback Garrett Fugate. Lindsay also recovered a fumble midway through the fourth quarter.
Western went into halftime trailing UCM 24-17. Windmiller passed for 151 yards in the first half and Caldwell rushed for 112 yards.
“We knew we wanted to have a balanced attack in the game,” Windmiller said. “Obviously it helps that our defenses are so similar and we go up against them in spring ball and fall ball.”
The Griffons moved methodically in their first drive of the second half, but were only able to come away with a field goal. However, the special teams would come through on the ensuing kickoff by forcing a fumble. Western recovered the fumble on the UCM 28-yardline.
Western took the lead in the third quarter on a five-yard touchdown run by Windmiller. But Central Missouri took the lead right back 22 seconds later. The Griffons were unable to answer on their next drive.
“They didn’t really change anything, they just played a little better defense in the second half,” Partridge said.
Missouri Western had their best drive of the game midway through the fourth quarter—going 99 yards in eight plays and took just two minutes and fifty-one seconds off the clock.
The Griffons’ defense forced a Mule punt, giving the offense and opportunity to put the game away. But a strong series from the UCM defense forced another punt. The Mules then took a 38-34 lead on the next series.
The biggest decision of the game came on the ensuing drive. The Griffons were stopped on third and three at their own 33-yard line. Partridge decided to punt on fourth down and rely on his defense to make a stop.
“I considered going for it, but Josh had fallen down the two plays before,” Partridge said.
The defense was unable to stop the Mules’ offense, giving Western their first loss of the year. The Griffons thought that they answered some questions about what kind of team they were on Saturday night.
“I think tonight we proved that we can play with anybody in the conference,” Windmiller said.
Western will travel to Edmond, Okla. this Saturday to take on winless Central Oklahoma. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.