The gorilla is known as a ground-dwelling animal, but Saturday they showed the ability to move on the ground and through the air against the Griffons. The Gorillas rolled into Spratt Stadium on Saturday afternoon and scored 55 points on the Griffons. A late rally from Western made the game close, but Pitt State dominated for most of it, winning 55-47.
“We just never made the plays to get off the field,” head coach Jerry Partridge said.
The two teams traded punts to start the game—but that would be the most action the punters would get in this game. The two teams combined to punt just seven times.
The Gorillas found the end zone on their second drive of the game when quarterback John Roderique found wide receiver Brenner Clemons open for a 49-yard touchdown. Roderique picked apart the Griffons’ defense for most of the day, passing for 373 yards and five touchdowns.
“We have the talent on defense to play better than we did today. It was disappointing,” Partridge said. “I think the scheme we had in place was good, we just didn’t execute it as well as we should have.”
The Griffons’ offense was able to answer on their next possession on a touchdown pass from quarterback Skylar Windmiller to running back Josh Caldwell. Windmiller had one of his best performances of the season, passing for 392 yards and three touchdowns.
“We knew when we saw them on the schedule and saw how they were playing and we were playing that it was going to be a shootout,” Windmiller said.
The struggles on special teams continued for the Western when they missed their first extra point of the game and a very make-able kick from the PSU 19-yard line.
PSU took a 14-12 lead into the second quarter. The second quarter would be one to forget for the Griffons, as they were outscored by the Gorillas 20-7. Missouri Western had an opportunity to end the half with the ball after allowing a PSU touchdown with 1:38 left in the half. A clipping call on the kickoff gave Western the ball at the Pitt State nine-yard line. The Griffons mixed the run with the pass in an attempt to get points before the half ended. Instead Western had their punt blocked, giving PSU a field goal opportunity and a 34-19 lead at halftime.
One of the few bright spots in the third quarter was running back Josh Caldwell. After a punt and another PSU touchdown, Caldwell broke through the Gorilla’s defense for a 75-yard touchdown run. Caldwell set a new career-high in rushing yards for the second week in a row, rushing for 188 yards and four total touchdowns.
The Gorillas added their final score just minutes into the fourth quarter, giving them a 55-26 lead. The game seemed to be over, but Western refused to go down without a fight.
Windmiller found wide receiver Dijuan Ussery for 43 yards on the next drive. The catch-and-run gave the Griffons a first and 10 at the PSU 20-yard line. Two Caldwell rushes later, Western was inside the five-yard line. Windmiller capped off the drive with a five-yard touchdown run.
Pitt State drove the ball into Western territory on their next drive, but Western linebacker Darrian Bass forced a fumble to give the ball back to the offense. Three players later, Caldwell broke multiples tackles on his way to a 52-yard touchdown run, making it a two possession game at 55-40.
The Griffons’ defense had their backs against the wall on the next PSU possession, but again made a big stop on third down. The offense did not let them down. Windmiller used the deep ball again to find wide receiver Patrick Bolton down the visitor’s sideline for a 54-yard touchdown. Ussery and Bolton each had big days for the Griffons, combining for eight catches, two touchdowns and 277 yards.
“They had some looks that we had decided early on in the week that if we see this, we were going to have to go deep with it,” Windmiller said.
With no timeouts, Partridge and the Griffons had to try to gain possession with an onside kick. They were unable to convert and the Griffons’ comeback would come up short.
“We just had some opportunities that we missed early on in this game,” Windmiller said.
The loss dropped Western to 4-3 and seventh place in the MIAA. The Griffons will spend the next two weeks on the road, starting with a trip to Hays, Kansas to play 5-2 Fort Hays. It will be a tough test for the Western offense as Hays has the second best scoring defense in the conference. However, Fort Hays is coming off of a 30-24 loss to Washburn.