Missouri Western captures fourth Mineral Water Bowl win
By Kerry Woods
Missouri Western defeated Wayne State 20-13 to become the all time leader with four Mineral Water Bowl wins. But it wasn't easy. Wayne State was in position to tie or win twice in the fourth quarter but the Griffon defense came up big both times.
Trailing with 9 minutes left in the game, linebacker Luke Hoffman forced a fumble by MWSU quarterback Drew Newhart on the Griffons 39. WSC quarterback Silas Fluellen hit sophomore receiver Logan Masters with a pass to the 22 then a pass interference penalty on the next play gave WSC a first and goal on the Griffon 9. But freshman defensive back Kendall Davis intercepted Fluellen's next throw, returning it 14 yards to stop the threat.
Missouri Western then started a drive that included a 32 yard run by J.R. Graham on fake punt from their own 15. A score could have given them a commanding lead but Ryan Reeves of the Wildcats recovered another Newhart fumble at the WSC 19. The Wildcats mounted their last scoring effort as Fluellen marched them as far as the Missouri Western 15 before his fourth down pass to Frederick Bruno fell incomplete with 1:05 remaining.
The game was played in cold, wet and windy weather and scoring in the first half was scarce. Late in the first quarter Missouri Western mounted a 10 play, 94 yard drive that resulted in an 11 yard touchdown pass from Newhart to sophomore Andrew Mead that gave them a 7-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter. Wayne State's best drive of the half was stopped when senior linebacker Jamie Schoonover knocked the ball loose from a windmilling Silas Fluellen and Ryan Long recovered on the Missouri Western 11. Wayne State started two drives inside their 10 in the half, once due to a booming 76 yard punt from Western's Jamie Hanson. Hanson averaged 48.4 yards on 5 punts.
Wayne State tied it at 7-7 at 5:39 of the third quarter when sophomore Eric Meyer ended an 11 play, 91 yard drive with a 29 yard touchdown run. But Missouri Western took only three plays to regain the lead. Running back La'Darrian Page, a freshman from Lees Summit West, took a third and seven run for 55 yards and a touchdown to make it 14-7. Page was the game's Offensive Most Valuable Player with 147 yards on 15 carries despite suffering a concussion late in the game.
After a three and out and a short punt from Wayne State, Missouri Western started their next drive at the WSC 38. Three plays later and six yards closer, kicker Dustin Strickler tied a Mineral Water Bowl record with a 48 yard field goal to increase the Western lead to 17-7. Early in the fourth quarter Strickler kicked a 30 yarder into the wind and the lead was 20-7.
Fluellen, who was 22 of 43 for 207 yards and two interceptions on the day, and Masters connected for 16 yards twice on the Wildcats next drive. Fluellen hit Aaron Nielsen with a six yard touchdown pass to make the score 20-13. The extra point attempt sailed wide right at 10:50 of the fourth.\
Missouri Western's Soane Etu, Seth Hane and Andrew Gilmore put pressure on Fluellen, sacking him five times and forcing him to scramble or hurry his throws all day. The Griffons Jacob Schoonover was named Defensive Most Valuable Player with 14 tackles, 1.5 for loss and a crucial forced fumble in the red zone. The Wildcats made good on only one of four trips to the red zone.
Newhart had a tough day passing in the gusting wind, completing 14 of 29 for 146 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Page was the Griffons leading rusher and Mead the leading receiver with 5 catches for 45 yards and a touchdown.
For Wayne State, Fluellen had 75 rushing yards and tailback Travis Rhone had 67. Masters was the leading receiver with 11 catches for 119 yards. The 11 catches tied a Mineral Water Bowl record. Linebackers Ryan Reeves and Nick Baldetti each had 8 tackles and defensive end Troy Pribnow had three tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.
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