ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — After suffering from fourth-quarter woes the last two weeks, Washburn did enough damage during the first three quarters on Saturday against Missouri Western to leave some margin for error down the stretch.
The Ichabods didn’t completely slam the door shut on the Griffons after opening up a 31-point third-quarter lead, but a clock-chewing final drive was enough to finish what the Bods started after dominating much of the game.
Missouri Western crept within 10 with 9:21 left before Washburn, aided by Western penalties, went on a 16-play, 62-yard drive that ran off 8:54 on the clock and sealed up a 34-24 victory at Spratt Stadium.
The Ichabods, who struggled late in back-to-back losses to Fort Hays State and Central Missouri, put the Griffons on their heels by scoring on their first four possessions to race out to a 24-0 lead.
“It wasn’t the greatest fourth quarter, but we hung in there and overcame it,” WU coach Craig Schurig said. “It’s good from a confidence standpoint. Mo West is a good football team, and we felt like we handled them pretty well other than a few big plays.”
Washburn went up 34-3 on a 2-yard TD run from Mickeel Stewart with 11:31 left in the third quarter, but Western scored 21 answered and cut it to 10 on an 8-yard catch by Brock Broughton from Dom Marino early in the fourth.
WU (6-3) then stopped the two-point try to keep it a two-score game and ate up time on the ground to prevent a Griffons rally.
“We knew what we needed to do. We knew we had to churn out the clock,” Stewart said. “Two years ago here, we had an eight-minute drive. Coach (Eric Eisenbarth, WU offensive line coach) made sure we knew about that. We just had to execute and the O-line played great. They opened up some great holes.”
Western was in position to get the ball back down 10 after the Griffons blocked Perry Schmiedeler’s 33-yard field goal attempt with about 3:20 left. However, WU quarterback and holder Blake Peterson picked up the ball after the blocked kick and Western was called for a facemask, allowing WU to take off more time and move it to the Griffons’ 1 before turning it over on downs with just 24 seconds left.
“I guess I probably could have just fallen on it, but I thought I might as well pick it up and try to run,” Peterson said. “They probably could have called a facemask on me, too. I was trying to stiff-arm the dude. He definitely grabbed my facemask, but when I saw the flag, I was like, ‘Dang, that’s on me.’ Obviously, a little luck always helps out.”
Washburn took advantage of a Western fumble on the opening kickoff and cashed in with an 8-yard TD on a swing pass to Stewart. Peterson had a 21-yard touchdown on a quarterback keeper and Carey Woods scored on a reverse from 16-yard out while Schmiedeler had field goals of 24 and 27 yards as WU took a 27-3 lead into the break.
“Everything worked, whether it was run or pass,” Schurig said. “We were making the right decisions. Sometimes you get a lead and and you get a little complacent and you’re not the aggressor. But we did want to establish the run in the fourth quarter and I’m glad we did that.”
Schmiedeler, WU’s junior kicker and punter, was responsible for two of the biggest offensive plays in the first half.
With WU up 17-0 late in the first quarter, Schmiedeler bobbled a low snap and then decided to take off when presented a wide-open lane. He picked up 11 yards for a first down to prolong a drive that was finished off by Woods’ TD run.
Late in the second quarter, he again took off after UCM’s punt return unit dropped back, running for 15 yards to move the chains. He finished off that drive with a field goal with three seconds left in the half.
“That was awesome, man. That is insane,” Peterson said. “Our freshman year of high school, he was one of my receivers (at Washburn Rural). I knew he was fast. He’s an athletic kid, for sure. He needs to slide on that second one, though. I told him, ‘C,mon, Perr, you’ve got to slide on that one, man.’
“Both of them were big-time plays. That was 10 points right there and we won by 10.”
It was a strong bounce-back game for WU’s defense, which allowed 62 points last week to UCM.
“The last two weeks, we’ve struggled a little bit,” WU safety D.J. Olmstead said. “We’ve been playing good ball, but we haven’t been playing our type of football. All week, we’ve just been really focusing on coming out and being disciplined and running to the ball. It was good to come out in the first half and just be dominant the whole half.”
“Really proud of them,” Schurig said of the defense. “They came out here and played well and played confident.”
News broke before that game that Missouri Western standout running back Josh Caldwell was dismissed from the team by Western coach Matt Williamson. Caldwell was the second-leading rusher in the league, running for 856 yards and eight TDs in eight games.
Stewart rushed for 89 yards and caught five passes for 53 while accounting for two TDs. Peterson went 14 of 33 through the air for 181 yards.
Skyler Windmiller and Dom Marino split time at quarterback for Western, combining 228 yards passing and 90 on the ground.
WU has two games left in the regular season. The Bods play host to Central Oklahoma next Saturday before closing the season at Emporia State.
Washburn (6-3, 6-3) 17 10 7 0 — 34
Mo. Western (4-5, 4-5)0 3 15 6 — 24
WU — Stewart 8 pass from Peterson (Schmiedeler kick), 12:44. Drive: 5-28, 2:10.
WU — Peterson 21 run (Schmiedeler kick), 9:44. Drive: 6-66, 1:39.
WU — Schmiedeler 24 field goal (24 field goal), 4:43. Drive: 13-53, 3:33.
WU — Woods 16 run (Schmiedeler kick), 14:36. Drive: 11-65, 3:38.
MW — Basch 32 field goal, 2:24. Drive: 13-62, 6:41.
WU — Schmiedeler 27 field goal, 0:03. Drive: 13-67, 2:16.
WU — Stewart 2 run (Schmiedeler kick), 11:31. Drive: 8-53, 3:20.
MW — Gray 15 run (Basch field goal), 6:04. Drive: 1-15, 0:07.
MW — Marino 15 run (Burau pass from Windmiller), 1:57. Drive: 3-65, 1:09.
MW — Broughton 8 pass from Marino (pass failed), 9:21. Drive: 10-87, 3:23.
GAME IN FIGURES
First downs 28 16
Rushes-yards 58-223 30-186
Passing yards 181 228
Comp-Att-Int 14-34-0 14-29-0
Punts-Avg. 5-38.4 4-35.2
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-2
Penalties-yards 5-40 9-79
Time of possession 35:58 24:02
RUSHING — WU: Stewart 23-89, Willis 16-41, Peterson 8-32, Schmiedeler 2-26, Woods 2-11, Brania-Hopp 1-10, Williams 3-8, Peroo 2-(minus 3). MW: Marino 10-52, Griffith 7-46, Gray 7-38, Windmiller 3-38, Broughton 2-15, Owens 1-(minus 3).
PASSING — WU: Peterson 14-33-0 181 yards. MW: Windmiller 9-21-0 163 yards.
RECEIVING — WU: Stewart 5-53, Woods 2-51, Hamilton 2-30, Peroo 1-13, Horner 1-11, Meier 1-5. MW: Ussery 4-84, Broughton 4-75, Mack 2-47, Cunningham 2-10, McIntosh 1-9.
PUNTING — WU: Schmiedeler 5-38.4. MW: Theis 4-35.2.
LEADING TACKLERS — WU: McGreevy 3 solo, 6 assisted, Olmstead 4-4, Emerick 4-7. MW: Lindsay 6-7, Owens 4-9, Williams 6-6.
SACKS — MW: Bass 1.5, Iloilo 0.5.
MISSED FIELD GOALS — WU: Schmiedeler 33.