Western football pulled off arguably the biggest win in program history last night, as they claimed a massive home victory over the fifth-ranked team in the country, Fort Hays State.
It was Western’s first win against a ranked opponent since the 2013 season.
On the night of the unveiling of the brand new Bill Snyder Pavilion, Western came out firing on all cylinders, striking first thanks to a 13-yard scamper by stud senior quarterback Dom Marino to take a 7-0 lead midway through the first.
Fort Hays was able to answer right back, however, and respond with a 20-yard touchdown pass of their own to even the game up 7-7 going into halftime.
The second half was a true back-and-forth battle, with both teams refusing to concede an inch. Both defenses really tightened up and only allowed a field goal from each team, leading to a 10-10 stalemate entering the fourth quarter.
Western was able to keep themselves in the ballgame all night, not only due to timely gains on offense, but also an unbelievably effective night defensively. Western’s defense, a unit that had some questions swirling around them heading into the season, time after time came up with the big plays they needed to keep the momentum on the side of the home team.
It was in the fourth quarter when Western really started to pull away and solidify the upset. Facing a crucial third down, it was “Cash Money” Marino again making plays happen, gashing the Hays defense for a 33-yard run to set up a first-and-goal for Western. Senior running back Derek Gray Jr. capped off the drive with a six-yard plunge to put Western ahead 17-10.
The pistol offense worked well in the game, and that’s exactly how offensive coordinator Dave Brown likes it.
“I think the Pistol is a new formation that will really force people to adjust, and as you saw, the defense was mismatched against us sometimes.” Said Brown, “The running game did amazing, and I’m very proud of our offense right now.”
After scraping out a field goal to bring it to 17-13, Hays again had the ball with a chance to punch it in and spoil the upset. Western was able to force a three-and-out, causing Hays to have to punt it away and hope their defense could get the ball back with enough time for a miracle.
James Huskey made sure Hays’ defense never had the chance.
The senior linebacker made the biggest play of the night, blocking the punt and taking it all the way to the house to put the exclamation point on the massive upset and send all of Spratt Stadium into a frenzy.
It was not just Huskey, however, making plays for Western on the defensive side of the ball. Senior defensive back Jabbar Miles was an absolute monster, flying all over the field to end up with seven tackles to go along with two huge interceptions. Senior defensive back Brandin Dandridge also added a key interception for the Western defense.
Head coach Matt Williamson was also proud of the improvements his team made from last week.
“Last week we gave up a few of those big plays and it really costed us in the end,” Said Williamson, “But once we cut those out, our defense played phenomenaly and we showed that we can beat any team in the MIAA.”
Next week the Griffons travel to Central Missouri to take on the Mules in Warrensburg.