By: Brett Howery
A second-half rally with a 28-3 run willed Missouri Western to an unlikely comeback. The cards, however, did not fall in their favor.
Two late touchdowns ended the Griffons night 45-35.
It was a tale of two halves, Northwest started the game outscoring the Griffons 28-7 in the first 20 minutes of the game. A fumble return, an interception and a 60 yard pass all resulted in touchdowns for Northwest and the tone of the game was set.
A late touchdown in the first half, and a 21-3 run in the second half forced the game to a 35-31 score with the Griffons on top.
A touchdown by Northwest, an interception by Northwest and another touchdown by Northwest ended the game, handing the Griffons their first loss of the year.
Griffon fans packed Spratt Stadium for this game, and at many times they let their voices be heard.
Down 14-0 in the middle of the first quarter, coach Matt Williamson sent out his field goal team to the disdain of the Griffon fans who wanted them to go for it on fourth down.
Little did they know, Williamson listened. Senior quarterback Wyatt Steigerwald took the snap at the holder position and immediately tossed it to tight end Luke Vang, wide open in the end zone.
Steigerwald only had one thought on his mind as he took that snap.
“Touchdown,” Steigerwald said.
With 14 seconds left, Steigerwald capped off a 12 play, 99 yard drive with a two-yard scamper into the end zone. Western went into the locker room down 28-14.
It was the little things though, that ended the game for Missouri Western. Three fumbles, two interceptions and nine penalties which racked up 113 yards by themselves for Northwest.
Williamson knew specifically what needed work in the game.
“Obviously you can’t have all the turnovers,” Williamson said, “They scored 21 points off turnovers and when you’re facing a great team like them, it kills you.”
There were a couple rough patches for Steigerwalds first start of the year. Two interceptions, a snap flying over his head and a couple situational awareness mishaps. In the end, he also made a couple of great passes, showed good timing and decision making. He ended the game with 14 completions on 28 attempts, 270 yards and three touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns along with the two interceptions.
Another contention on offense was the running game. It was not bad, but it was not Shamar Griffith that commanded that backfield, as he had 10 rushes for 19 yards. It was Markel Smith, a graduate student, that led the running game. He had 13 rushes for 97 yards.
Running on offense wasn’t the only problem, as stopping the run was also not going well. Northwest running back Justin Rankin racked up 133 rushing yards on the Western defense.
Sophomore defensive back Kobe Cummings racked up 11 total tackles and talked about what it meant to the defense when the offense produced.
“When they’re producing, it helps us produce as well,” Cummings said, “The fans were great as well and that helped, but we should’ve stepped up in the running game.”
Coach Williamson was impressed with his quarterbacks first start in a Griffon uniform.
“He played very well tonight,” Williamson said, “I think he made a bunch of tough throws, and showed some really good poise.”
Steigerwald also felt positive about the game as a whole as well.
“I’m always a confident guy,” Steigerwald said, “But when the defense is playing well, it instills more confidence in you, and when they’re getting turnovers, it’s a great feeling.”
With week one behind them, Western must now focus on another very tough matchup. They’ll be travelling to Hays, Kansas on September 12, to face the Fort Hays Tigers who also just lost a close matchup to Central Missouri, 34-30.