Oct 17, 2021 2:42 AM

Seven turnovers, 34 third quarter points gives Missouri Western big homecoming win

Posted Oct 17, 2021 2:42 AM
Photo by Tommy Rezac.
Photo by Tommy Rezac.

By TOMMY REZAC

St. Joseph Post

Missouri Western found itself in a unique position Saturday - they were ahead by double-digits at halftime. It was the first time the Griffons led at the break all season.

"We got together (at halftime) and said, 'Alright. We have to keep swinging,'" Missouri Western head coach Matt Williamson said. "'This is the second round. Let's finish out this second half and get after it.'"

The Griffons (3-4) rode that momentum big time in the second half, scoring 34 points in the third quarter and forcing seven turnovers on their way to a 57-24 win over Northeastern State at Spratt Stadium Saturday in the annual homecoming game.

"Good night," Williamson said. "Great to be back at the Spratt. Awesome crowd. Beautiful day. Great to get a win."

Missouri Western, which snapped a three-game losing streak, got the scoring started midway through the first quarter when Shen Butler-Lawson Jr. polished off an eight-play, 67-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run to give the Griffons an early 7-0 lead.

Northeastern State (2-5) answered with a five-play, 92-yard drive of their own. Quarterback Grant Elerick fired a pass down the middle to a wide open Isaiah Davis, who caught a 26-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 on the first play of the second quarter.

That's as close as the Riverhawks would get to having a lead.

The Griffons answered on the ensuing drive, moving 68 yards on seven plays. The drive ended with a seven-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Reagan Jones to receiver C.J. Parks, putting the Griffons back in front 14-7 with 12:24 to go in the first half.

Missouri Western's defense started to come up big in the second quarter, forcing four total turnovers in the first half. The Griffons turned three of those four first-half turnovers into points. Those points all came via field goals from Thomas Kopcho, who made field goals of 44, 33 and 37 yards in the second quarter, giving Missouri Western a 23-7 lead at the break.

Kopcho was 0-for-1 on field goal tries on the season coming into Saturday. He missed his only previous attempt of 36 yards in the first game of the season at Central Oklahoma.

"Thank goodness Thomas Kopcho came out on fire," Williamson said. "I know he has it in him. I knew he always did. Those kickers are all about confidence and I was trying to build that. He was trying to build it."

Kopcho made his fourth field goal, this one from 21 yards out, early in the third quarter to put the Griffons ahead 26-10 to get the scoring started in the second half.

Northeastern State kicker Tyler Crawford responded on the ensuing drive with a 42-yard field goal of his own, making it a 26-10 game with 7:50 to go in the third.

On the ensuing kickoff, Missouri Western's Cooper Burton fielded a bouncing kick inside the five and ran it down the sideline for a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, putting the Griffons ahead 33-10.

The Riverhawks scored on their next possession. Backup quarterback Jacob Frazier threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Davis, making it a 33-17 ballgame with still 6:34 to go in the third.

Kopcho then made his fifth and final field goal from 36 yards out, giving the Griffons a 36-17 advantage. On Northeastern State's ensuing drive, Missouri Western linebacker Isaac Wallace tipped a third down pass into the air, which was then intercepted by fellow linebacker Terrance March, who took it the other way 70 yards for a pick-six, putting the Griffons ahead comfortably at 43-17.

Northeastern State threw yet another interception, their fifth, on their first play from scrimmage on the next drive. Safety Kobe Cummings snagged this one and returned it roughly 60 yards to set the Griffons up in the red zone.

Just two plays later, Cooper Burton got the ball on a reverse and threw it to a wide open Reagan Jones in the end zone from 10 yards out, putting the Griffons ahead 50-17 with 1:36 to go in the third.

Missouri Western wasn't done scoring in the third quarter yet. Northeastern State had turned to their third quarterback, freshman Ben Ward, who threw a 26-yard pick-six to Kameron Langford on his very first pass attempt of the game.

Langford's return gave MWSU a 57-17 advantage entering the fourth.

In total, the Griffons scored 34 points in the third quarter - two pick-sixes, a kick return for a touchdown, two field goals and one offensive touchdown as well.

"It was fun to watch a lot of scoring and a lot of things," Williamson said. "Not a lot of great, great defense on the day, but it is what it is. We had some big kickoff returns. Did some good things on special teams."

In all, Missouri Western turned seven turnovers into 30 points. Kopcho accounted for 21 points all by himself - a new school record for points by a kicker in a single game.

"He was so frustrated at the beginning of the season," Williamson said. "He was a little bit inconsistent, and those guys get in their heads a little bit. It was really good to see him do that."

Cummings finished with three interceptions, while March had two. Defensive end Dakari Streeter had a strip sack and fumble recovery in the first half. Parks' touchdown catch in the first half was his first as a Griffon.

Not perfect. Williamson was a bit frustrated as Northeastern State had 456 yards of offense, including five plays of 40 yards or more. But, hey. When your team wins by 33 to snap a three-game losing skid and forces seven turnovers in the process, it's hard to complain.

"Great feeling," Williamson said. "Get a win, enjoy and get ready to rock 'n' roll and get after Pittsburg State."

Missouri Western stays home to host Pittsburg State (5-2) on Saturday, Oct. 23 at Spratt Stadium at 4 p.m. The game will be carried live on KFEQ Radio (680 AM, 95.3 FM). The Gorillas beat Lincoln Saturday, 59-7.

You can follow Tommy on Twitter @TommyKFEQ and St. Joseph Post @StJosephPost.