Confident Griffons prepare for Ichabods

Coming off of what is arguably their best offensive game of the season, the Griffons hope to maintain that balanced attack against the Ichabods of Washburn Saturday at 1pm. Last week against Fort Hays, Western delivered three offensive touchdowns, all coming from the run game. Quarterback Skyler Windmiller converted his first rushing touchdown of his career, while running back Raphael Spencer added two more touchdowns to his career stat line. Windmiller was solid through the air, going 15-26 and passing for over 150 yards with no interception. Both players will have the chance to duplicate their performances when they match up against a Washburn team that has struggled for the majority of the season. Coach Jerry Partridge is aware of Washburn’s misfortune lately, but he knows they are not a team to take lightly. “We have to go on the road and Washburn is struggling a bit,” Partridge said. “But they are still the Washburn Ichabods. They still got good looking players. Vershon Moore is there and was once an all conference player.” Moore has been a member of the Ichabods since 2008 and is one of their seasoned veterans. He is the fourth leading rusher in the MIAA and is second in the conference in all-purpose yards, with 676 total. Partridge said that Moore and other offensive threats would make an impact on the game for Washburn. “He (Moore) returns punts, they throw it to him and he runs the ball well,” Partridge said. “They got some receivers that have been real good players in the past. I know that Coach Schurig will have those guys ready to play.” The Griffons defense will have to keep Moore contained if they hope to stop Washburn from scoring easily. Led by linebacker Stephen Juergens, the Griffons are third in total defense in the MIAA. Juergens once led the conference in tackles and is now sixth on the list with 46 in total. Right behind him at number seven, is Western cornerback Meshack Kennedy, who has 43 tackles. Kennedy credits some of his tackles to being in the right place, at the right time. “There are a couple of coverages where I am somewhere I should not be at times,” Kennedy said. “It ends up impacting the game.” Kennedy said he was focusing on his future opponents, not his stats. “I’m not really looking at myself,” Kennedy said. “I think I’m looking more at the defense to see what we can improve on for the future.” Spencer said that he is glad that the offense is starting to move the ball better, but hopes they stay consistent. “I think that we are starting to get a groove, but I don’t want to speak too early on it,” Spencer said. “I plan to just relax and play ball against Washburn. A lot of times you can get caught up in schemes, reading keys and figuring out defensive tendencies, that you can psych your self out.” The game will be held in Topeka, Kan, at Washburn’s stadium.

Football fumbles against Pittsburg State

Western could not gain ground after falling behind early to the Pittsburg State Gorillas. The early scores by the Gorillas left the Griffons with a 23-13 loss. The first quarter got off to a shaky start for the Griffons; they turned the ball over quickly to the Gorillas when Isaac Maselera intercepted a pass from Skyler Windmiller. Pitt State capitalized on their opportunity and scored a touchdown on a 15 yard pass play. Western’s next possession resulted in a punt, which led to a Pitt State drive, ending in a touchdown. The Griffons would not lie down, as they went on to score 13 points in the first half. A 34 yard field goal by John Schmiemeier and a three yard touchdown pass by Windmiller made it a narrow 14-10 lead for the Gorillas. Western kept up with Pitt State for the remainder of the first half. At halftime, the score was 17-13 Pitt State. However, Western could not create any rhythm on offense during the second half. The Gorillas kept rolling and scored two field goals in the second half. The final score of the game was 23-13, in favor of Pitt State. Although the Griffons scored more on the Gorillas than any other team this year, Western only had a total of 192 yards of offense and did not execute well, according to head coach Jerry Partridge. “We did not play real well offensively,” Partridge said. “We had a lot of missed assignments as far as pass protection goes and just did not execute.” With all of the offensive struggles, Windmiller believes that the issues will be resolved before the next game. "I think that there was a lot of miscommunication type stuff that held us back in the second half, but it is nothing that can not be figured out and fixed this week at practice," Windmiller said. The Griffons' defense also made fundamental errors in the loss. They gave up 354 yards of total offense and allowed the Gorillas to gain 20 first downs. “We are doing good things, but we did not make the plays that we needed to make on third down conversions and we did fundamental things wrong in the secondary,” Partridge said. Although Western is now 3-2, Partridge has stressed that now is not the time to give up. “I try to stress to the team that we have to keep battling and we have to play one game at a time,” Partridge said. The Griffons are positive that they can compete with any team they are against, according to Windmiller. "I think that any Saturday anybody can beat anybody and that is what is interesting," Windmiller said. "You never know what can happen but I do think we are capable of winning a good amount o f games this season." Western is back in action against Fort Hays State University on Saturday, Oct. 11 at 7 p.m. The Griffons have defeated the Tigers in their last nine meetings.

Griffons try to bounce back

The possibility of not making it to the playoffs has increased for both the Griffons and the Tigers of Fort Hays. If Western does not make it, it will be for the second year in a row. They dropped to the Gorillas of Pittsburg State, 13-23 last Saturday at Spratt stadium. Offensive woes continue to take a toll on the Griffons, including quarterback Skyler Windmiller. Windmiller was sacked four times by the Gorillas but managed to throw one touchdown in the second quarter. The offensive line struggled picking up the blitz and in return, Windmiller did not have time in the pocket for majority of the game. The defense has made the biggest impact for Western so far this year, but was not able to cause a single turnover against Pitt State. Coach Partridge noted that turnovers were the most important statistic of the game. “I think the first thing I noticed, and the reason why we probably lost the game, was because we lost the turnover war two to nothing,” Partridge said. “That is the first order of business.” The Tigers are also coming off a tight game against Washburn that saw the Ichabods walk away with a 27-24 victory over the Tigers in overtime. Quarterback Treveon Albert played well, throwing for over 200 yards and throwing two touchdown passes. Albert also picked up yards on the ground, gaining 93 yards rushing while averaging 5.2 yards a carry. On the defensive side of the ball, the Tigers have one of the best rush defenses in the conference. Led by linebacker Brock Long, Fort Hays only gives up 116.8 yards a game. Long leads the team with 41 total tackles and has also recorded one sack. He averages 8.2 tackles a game. Running back Raphael Spencer is aware that Fort Hays is a good team, despite what their record might suggest. “Fort Hays has talent on both offense and defense,” Spencer said. “They are coached well. Should be a good game. I am anxious to play against their defense.” This game could make or break both teams’ playoff chances. Spencer, however, is not focused on the playoffs at this time. “Right now I really don’t know about the playoffs,” Spencer said. “I really can not say much about it. When you lose twice in this conference, it’s pretty hard to get in.” If the Griffons hope to make it to the post season, the offense has to become more fluid on possessions. Wideout Brandynn Clark has had a breakout season so far and believes that the offense's struggles are based off of timing. Clark believes that once everyone is on the same page, the offense will be able to move the ball better. “We have to improve on not making mistakes in the game,” Clark said. “We are doing good in the first half, once the offense gets going, it will give a ripple effect on the whole team.” Both teams will try and get back on track when they face off in Hays, Kan.,, at 7 pm Saturday.

Griffons in the NFL

Over the past few years, Missouri Western has enjoyed a steady production of professional football players from the Griffon football program. Although some of those players have yet to prove themselves to the professional football world, there are some former Griffons that have started steady careers. 2011 Western graduate, Greg Zuerlein, has entered his third season as the kicker for the St. Louis Rams. Although it is still early in the 2014 season Zuerlein has already made seven field goals on eight attempts including one 56-yard field goal during a 6-34 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. In three seasons with the NFL, Zuerlein has made 56 out of 67 field goal attempts giving him a completion percentage of 83.6 percent. At the moment, the Rams have a 1-2 record and are last in the NFC West Division. David Bass graduated from Western in 2012 and is now a second-year defensive end for the Chicago Bears. Bass has had a drop in playing time this season, playing in one out of four games in 2014 as opposed to playing in 12 out of 16 games in 2013 due to the Bears’ defensive end additions in the offseason. As a rookie, Bass recorded 20.5 tackles as well as an interception for a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens. The pick-six made Bass the Bears’ first rookie defensive lineman to record an interception since 1987 and Chicago’s first defensive lineman to return an interception for a touchdown since 2004. The Bears are currently 2-2 and are in a three-way tie for second place in the NFC North Division. Another 2012 Western graduate, Mike Hill, has begun his second year as an NFL running back with the Green Bay Packers. As a rookie, Hill was bounced from San Diego to Green Bay and then to Tampa Bay before being re-signed by the Packers in February 2014. Hill was signed to Green Bay’s practice squad at the beginning of the 2014 season before being called up to the active roster on Tuesday, Sept. 30. "That moment was awesome, but I have got to be on top of stuff and be ready," Hill said during a Packers' press conference on Tuesday. "When my name is called, I am going to go out there, try to make plays and try to make a name for myself." Hill has accumulated 23 yards on nine attempts for an average of 2.6-yards per carry during his career. The Packers are part of the three-way tie for second with the Bears in the NFC North Division with a 2-2 record. The most recent addition to Griffons in the NFL is 2013 Western graduate Reggie Jordan. The Jacksonville Jaguars acquired the tight end as an undrafted free agent in May 2014. Jordan was able to play in one preseason game before being placed on the Jaguars injured reserve list. On Wednesday, Sept. 10, he became a free agent. Watch on Sundays as Zuerlein, Bass and Hill continue their active playing career; also keep an eye open for Jordan to burst onto the NFL scene.

Griffons look to avenge loss from Gorillas a year ago

Winners of two straight, Missouri Western looks to continue their streak when they match up against the Gorillas of Pittsburg State Saturday night. The Griffons have been on a roll since falling to Central Oklahoma two weeks ago. Led by a stingy defense and the legs of running back Ralph Spencer, Western is currently undefeated at home this season. They escaped St. Charles, Mo., with a win over the Lions of Lindenwood last Thursday. Spencer gave majority of the credit to the other side of the ball. “I felt like the defense played like they always do,” Spencer said. “They’re the reason we won. Our offense has to step up and I have to perform better.” Spencer is currently the second leading back in the conference, averaging 116.5 yards a game. He’s totaled 466 yards and has rushed for three touchdowns so far. A year ago, the Griffons lost three games at home and one of them came from the hands of the Gorillas. Western struggled to score against Pitt State and it resulted in a Gorilla victory, 34-14. Spencer said that last year's game is in the past and Saturday will be a new day. “This game is not personal, it’s just business,” Spencer said. “They’re coming off their first loss and another loss for us could potentially mean the end of our season.” Unlike last year, the offense has to find a way to put points on the board. “It’s just time for our offense to perform like I know we can,” Spencer said. “I’m expecting a physical game and a lot of men in the box.” Pitt State dropped to the Lions of Fort Hays State last week in a heartbreaker. The Gorillas lost 6-7, failing to register a single touchdown. Quarterback Anthony Abenoja was sacked four different times, while eight players carried the ball at least once. Western's defense leads the conference in interceptions with eight, and they have ran two of them back for touchdowns. However, so far this season Abenoja has not made many mistakes through the air. He has thrown for eight touchdowns, but has not thrown an interception. Losing a second game this early in the season could be trouble for either of these teams and it makes for an entertaining game. Coach Jerry Partridge feels that Pittsburg State is team that will require extra preparation. He noted that the Gorillas were one of the better defenses in the conference. "This week we are playing a Pittsburg State, a team that I think is very good," Partridge said. "I think both teams have pretty good defenses. They have obviously had more success at offense than we have had."