Derek’s Downfield Diary – Repeat

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For the second year in a row, Missouri Western football ended the season on a five game losing streak, as they lost to Northwest 30-0.

It was almost eery how similar this season was to last year. Both teams started with a promising 4-2 record, but would then lose out to end both seasons at 4-7. Yet, there is one thing that stuck out more about this 2017 team than last years, and that is potential.

With so much talent on this team, it’s almost baffling to see the exact thing that happened in 2016 happen once more. There were many games this team could have won that they didn’t. I think everyone and their mother knows that Western should have defeated Nebraska-Kearney in the season opener, but due to an unfortunate injury to Skyler Windmiller, the negativity was just too much for them to overcome in that game.

Then there was the Central Missouri shootout. With penalties all over the place and little to no defense to be seen, it’s safe to say this game could’ve gone both ways. New quarterback Dom Marino played stellar, as much of the offensive unit did as well.

Riding the momentum of the monster numbers they put up, Western then started a three game winning streak against Central Oklahoma, with Marino putting on an absolute clinic on his birthday. It’s safe to say everyone at that game will remember it for many seasons to come, as it came down to the very wire. This game turned many people into believers.

While Western would continue to impress for the next couple of weeks, Northwest showed glaring holes. This wasn’t the same team that had gone undefeated for two whole seasons. This wasn’t the best team in D-2 football. Hell, they weren’t even the best team in the MIAA anymore. That title belonged to Fort Hays State. Around the fifth week of the season, it was believed that the top threats to Northwest was Pitt State, Fort Hays and Western.

Well, two out of three ain’t bad, as Pitt State would be the first ones to upset Northwest in week nine. Northwest would follow that up with another loss to Fort Hays the following week in a game that was decided by one single point. You could say the Pitt State game was a fluke, but let’s call it a reasonable prediction since Pitt was one of the most inconsistent teams in the conference.

Northwest would go on to play Western the next and final week of the regular season and you already know how that ended. Western was on their way to completing a five game losing streak like last year, so it was hard to see them pulling off the upset like the 7-4 Pitt State Gorillas did.

Before their loss to Pitt State in week seven, Western was a legitimate threat to Northwest with the momentum they had. Marino was playing well and running back Josh Caldwell was having another great season. Sadly, Western ran into the buzzsaw that is the still undefeated Fort Hays Tigers. There was still a successful season to be salvaged though.

However, right before Western’s homecoming game against Washburn University, Caldwell would be released from the team. This is where things would fall apart.

Western continued their downfall all the way up to final game of the season. All that was left to play for was pride, and sadly there was very little pride to be shown. It had been a tough season at this point, and playing Northwest, who is still one of the best D-2 teams out there, was no help. Northwest set a tone early as they scored first, and their amazing defense would not let up one bit against a once prominent Western offense. There was no energy in the stands, which was bizarre for a Northwest game. It was a very gray and rainy day, with seemingly too many negative vibes to overcome. 

The only question is what’s the problem? This team had the exactly the same 4-7 season they did last year. This team should have been 9-2 and right in the thick of the playoffs. After so many years with former head coach and Western alumni Jerry Partridge, most of them successful, was it a coaching problem? Again the roster has so much talent, but that talent did not show up for the last five games of the season. That question will have to be answered next fall, as head coach Matt Williamson and company will more than likely be raring to come back from this disappointing season.