Nov. 5, 2011
No. 3 Bearcats upset by Griffons
By David Boyce
St. Joseph, MO – It is so easy to point to a number of individual plays as the reason Northwest Missouri State lost 31-28 to rival Missouri Western Saturday afternoon at Spratt Stadium.
There was an unfortunate personal foul against Northwest late in the first quarter that extended a Western drive that ultimately led to 37-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein in a gusty, 30-mph wind.
Northwest was unable to punch the ball across the goal line on four tries starting from Western’s 5 early in the fourth quarter, which kept the Bearcats from taking a lead.
“I got a lot of confidence in our kids,” Northwest coach Adam Dorrel said on why he went for it on fourth and goal from the 1 with the Bearcats trailing 31-28 early in the fourth quarter. “When you are on the road, you play to win in a game like this.”
A fumble by the Bearcats midway through the fourth quarter with the ball inside Western’s 35 prevented Northwest from either tying or going ahead.
Each Northwest player who saw action in a well-played, thrilling game can probably think of one or two things they could have done differently to change the outcome.
But the main reason Northwest lost was because Missouri Western made plays at crucial times. It is something the Bearcats have been doing since 1996.
“I thought Missouri Western played a really good football game,” Dorrel said. “You got to give them a lot of credit.”
The player making the biggest impact was Zuerlein, who hit field goals that would make NFL place kickers envious.
Zuerlein’s first field goal put the Griffons on the board in the first quarter, although they trailed 14-3 after 15 minutes because of two James Franklin touchdowns.
His biggest boots occurred in the second and third quarters when he had the wind at his back. Zuerlein’s 53-yard field goal late in the second quarter sent Western into halftime down 14-13.
The final points of the game came with 11 seconds left in the third quarter when Zuerlein hit a school-record 58-yard field goal that gave Western a three-point advantage that stood the rest of the game.
“To me,” Dorrel said, “the difference in the game was the two 50-yard field goals for six points. That’s tough. That kid will be at an NFL camp next year.”
Northwest faced a team determined to end an eight-game losing streak to the Bearcats.
It appeared Northwest was taking control of the game early in the third quarter when it took the opening kickoff and marched 80 yards in four plays and scored on a 37 yard run by Franklin to make it 21-13. It was his third touchdown of the game.
A few times in the past, Western buckled against Northwest when the Bearcats struck quickly in the second half.
It didn’t happen this time. Western quickly responded. On the first play of the drive, quarterback Travis Partridge broke free for a 51-yard run. Western needed only three plays to go 71 yards to get within two points and then got the two-point conversion to tie the game.
“I thought Travis made some plays today,” Dorrel said. “We knew he was a good runner.”
Five minutes later Western went ahead on a touchdown. The Bearcats showed their ability to fight back. They tied the game on a 3-yard run by Jordan Simmons.
Even though Western regained the lead in the closing seconds of the third quarter, the Bearcats were in good position to pull out the victory. They had the wind at their backs to start the fourth quarter.
“I was disappointed in our execution on offense,” Dorrel said. “I think our defense and special teams played well enough to win.”
It happens and because it did, on this rare fall afternoon, it was the Griffons who made the key plays and not the Bearcats.
The loss dropped Northwest to 8-2 overall and 6-2 in the MIAA, the same record as Western. Both teams are fighting for one of the six spots in Super Region 4.
Northwest concludes its regular season next Saturday at home against Emporia State. The Bearcats still have plenty to play for.
In addition, the senior class deserves a big, boisterous crowd for all they have given to the football program and the school.
They have played major roles in some of Northwest’s most amazing wins. They won a NCAA Division II national championship and helped the Bearcats win 49 straight MIAA games, a streak that may never be touched.
They have played through heartache, coaching changes and injuries this season.
On the playing field, they have been on a wonderful football ride and they are going to do everything possible to continue it into December. That is simply the character they have shown over the years.
For more information, please contact:
Phillip Dowden, Media Relations/Sports Information
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