By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
EMPORIA, KS - Things got off to a strange start for Missouri Western right from the get-go.
On a third down play inside their own five-yard-line, Griffons' right guard Evan Clark was called on a holding penalty in his own endzone, resulting in an Emporia State safety. It was 2-0 Hornets less than two minutes into the game.
The Griffons got behind, and never recovered. Missouri Western (2-1) got down 16-0 in the second quarter, 22-6 at halftime and fell behind even further after a two-hour and 40-minute rain delay, falling to Emporia State 36-12 Saturday at Welch Stadium in Emporia, Kansas.
The loss snaps a five-game winning streak for the Griffons dating back to last season, and Emporia State got its first win over MWSU on the gridiron since 2017.
"We came out here and just freaking laid an egg," Missouri Western head coach Matt Williamson told KFEQ Radio on postgame. "Just didn't play very well. Did not play Missouri Western football. We got punched in the face and didn't react to it."
The Griffons had trouble getting anything going offensively for much of the first half. Missouri Western had just one first down and 25 yards of offense in the first quarter. In fact, the Griffons went three-and out on five of their first six possessions.
"Offensively, just totally nonexistent," Williamson said of the first half. "It was embarrassing, I think. I truly believe Emporia's defense outplayed our offense."
Emporia State (2-1) was a bit slow to start too, going three-and-out on their first three drives. The Hornets woke up midway through the first quarter, and put together an 11-play, 95-yard drive to get the offensive scoring started.
Faced with a 4th-and-2 at the Missouri Western 30, Emporia quarterback Braden Gleason took off on a 30-yard touchdown run to give the Hornets a 9-0 lead with with 3:35 left in the first quarter.
After another Griffon three-and-out, Emporia State marched down the field again, this time going 68 yards on 12 plays. After converting another fourth down, Gleason fired a seven-yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Varner, putting Emporia up 16-0 with 12:30 left in the second quarter.
Later in the second, the Western offense finally got going, piecing together an 11-play, 57 yard march, sparked by a 21-yard run from Jared Scott and ending with a three-yard touchdown run from quarterback Reagan Jones.
The Griffons completed a successful two-point conversion on a pass to Brandon Hall, but it was called back due to offensive pass interference. The Griffons went for a long point-after and missed, making it a 16-6 game with 4:44 left in the first half.
Emporia State methodically went down the field again in the final 1:54 of the second quarter, milking the clock along the way, and scoring with just 12 seconds left until halftime. Gleason hit Cole Schumacher on a 17-yard touchdown throw. The point-after was blocked, but the Hornets took a 22-6 lead into the locker room.
Then, the rains came. Toward the end of the halftime break, a lightning delay went into effect, as a slow moving, severe thunderstorm hung around the Emporia area, delaying the game for over 2.5 hours.
Once the second half started, the Griffons went on offense first. However, a fumbled kickoff return by Cooper Burton pinned Western deep, and then a lost fumble by Brandon Hall set Emporia State up with a first-and-goal at the six.
Two plays later, Gleason ran it in for a four-yard score, putting Emporia State ahead 29-6, just 53 seconds into the second half.
After a two-and-a-half hour wait, Missouri Western turned the ball over on its first play from scrimmage in the second half, and were suddenly faced with its largest deficit of the day.
Things just never improved much for Missouri Western, especially on offense. The Griffons punted twice more in the third quarter, before scoring their first points of the second half with 1:20 left in the third quarter.
Jones found junior tight end Ty Harvey in one-on-one coverage down the sideline, and Harvey went 38 yards to the endzone for the score. Missouri Western again went for two, but a pass to Cooper Burton fell incomplete, leaving the score at 29-12 late in the third.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Emporia basically called game, as Gleason found Corey Thomas on a short completion to the sideline. Thomas broke a tackle and took it 54 yards to the house to put Emporia ahead 36-12 with 14:50 to play.
The Griffons tried to answer, and had fourth-and-goal at the four-yard line early in the fourth, but came up short, as a short pass to Burton fell incomplete.
Gleason had a stellar outing for Emporia, completing 27-of-42 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 62 yards and two scores on seven carries.
Jones had a tough day for Western, taking his first career loss as the Griffons starting QB. He completed 16-of-33 passes for 158 yards, a touchdown and interception. He rushed for 40 yards and a score on 11 carries.
"He was off, man," Williamson said of his quarterback. "We have to tighten him back up and get him ready to rock and roll and doing our thing again."
In all, Emporia had 83 snaps on offense, compared to 69 by Western. The Hornets also outgained the Griffons in total yardage, 443-311.
"Total consistency of dropped balls, fumbles, miscues offensively altogether," Williamson remarked. "Our defense, it feels like they were on the dang field the whole time."
"The biggest thing that's frustrating to me and it's one of my staples, you can't walk off the field and say, 'Hey, that team played harder than you.' (Emporia) did and it frustrates me."
Missouri Western is home next Saturday to host Washburn at Spratt Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. Coverage starts at 5 on KFEQ (680, 95.3).
You can follow Tommy on Twitter @TommyKFEQ and St. Joseph Post @StJosephPost.