The Griffons' 50th season was a good one, but it was almost great.
Led by transfer quarterback Wyatt Steigerwald and graduate transfer running back Markel Smith, the Griffons had a very solid 9-3 record, although they were just a few plays away from that record being even better.
It all starts at the season opener, a Thursday night showdown with Northwest Missouri, a top-10 team in the nation.The Bearcats sure played as such in the first half, getting out to a 28-14 lead in front of a massive crowd of 8,883 at Spratt Stadium.
Then the Griffons started to fight back. A big third quarter and a gutsy touchdown run by Steigerwald in the fourth gave the Griffons a stunning 35-31 lead with 12:38 left. The Bearcats weren’t phased, and they turned around and scored a touchdown of their own the very next drive.
Neither team could muster anything on their next drives, but a Steigerwald interception late in Griffon territory was the dagger, as the Bearcats walked in another touchdown and ended the Griffon’s upset bid 45-35.
After a 28-17 win over a ranked Fort Hayes State, Central Missouri came to town. This game could not have started any worse for the Griffons. With 6:39 left in the third quarter, the Mules took a 31-0 lead on a 72-yard touchdown catch.
One play later, Trey Vaval ran a kickoff back 91 yards, and the comeback was on. Both teams would score once more in the quarter, making it a 38-16 game going into the fourth.
The fourth quarter of that game needs to be seen to be believed. Cooper Burton caught a touchdown, Cam Grandy caught a touchdown pass and Jared Scott ran for a touchdown. Then when Steigerwald found Devon Holmes in the corner of the end zone with 1:02 left, the Griffons had tied the game.
The Griffons caught a bit of luck at the end of regulation. The Mules had no problem marching down the field and had a game-winning field goal lined up in the Griffons' red zone. The only problem was that they couldn’t get the snap off in time, and the game went to overtime.
In overtime, however, the Mules didn’t have to worry about the game clock. After the Griffons had an unsuccessful drive, the Mules again marched down the field with ease and kicked a 23-yard field goal to win 48-45, bringing the Griffons to 1-2 on the year.
From there, the Griffons caught fire. It started with a 58-23 beatdown of Northeastern where Smith and Scott combined for 222 yards and six touchdowns. The Griffons then traveled to Washburn and picked up a 46-21 win. Next up was homecoming against Missouri Southern.
Smith was once again the star of the show with 136 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Griffons rang the bell to a 43-34 win. From there the Griffons went to Central Oklahoma and walked out 50-43 victors. Missouri Western then shut out Emporia State at home by a score of 28-0, then won at Pittsburg State 35-21.
This gave the Griffons six wins in a row and some recognition in the national rankings. This was all before senior day.
Senior day against Nebraska Kearney was the Griffons only real hiccup all season. Vaval fumbled the opening kickoff, and the Griffons never really recovered after that, as they lost 49-21.
There was one regular season game left after that, and the Griffons went into Lincoln and flat out dominated, winning 71-8. The win gave the Griffons a perfect 6-0 record on the road and a regular season record of 8-3.
This earned the Griffons an invitation to the Agent Barry Live United Bowl once again, as the Griffons battled Henderson State in Texarkana, Arkansas. Playing in their last games at Missouri Western, Steigerwald threw a pair of touchdowns, Smith ran for 136 yards and a touchdown of his own and the Griffons ended the season as winners, topping the Reddies 35-14.
The win gave the Griffons their first nine win campaign in seven years.
Many Griffons received postseason awards. Sixteen in total received All-MIAA recognition. Vaval was named a D2CCA All American, the second Griffon to earn the honor as a true freshman and Sam Webb was All-Region.
Griffon football is a mere five months away from starting back up.The Griffons will start the 2020 season on Sept. 3 at Central Oklahoma.