(From Northwest Sports Information)
ST. JOSEPH, Missouri – The No. 6-ranked Northwest Missouri State University football team jumped out to a 28-7 lead and then had to rally to score a 45-35 victory over Missouri Western State University in the season opener for both schools.
Northwest’s defense came up with the first score of the season when the Phillips brothers combined for fumble return for a touchdown. A bad snap shotgun snap sent the ball over Missouri Western quarterback Wyatt Steigerwald and Spencer Phillips scooped up the loose ball at the Griffon 43-yard line. Spencer Phillips found himself in some traffic and delivered a lateral to his brother, Sam. Sam Phillips was able to take it the final 38 yards for the touchdown.
Northwest’s defense stopped the Griffons on a 4th and 2 at the Bearcat 40-yard line giving the ball back to the Bearcat offense. Northwest wasted little time as quarterback Braden Wright connected with wide receiver Imoni Donadelle on a 60-yard scoring strike on the next play to give the Bearcats a 14-0 lead with 5:24 left in the first quarter.
The Griffons used some trickery to score their first points. Missouri Western holder Wyatt Steigerwald threw an eight-yard touchdown pass to tight end Luke Vang on a fake field goal with 3:26 left in the first quarter.
Isaiah Strayhorn scored on a 6-yard rushing touchdown with 11:32 left in the second quarter to up the Bearcat lead to 21-7. Strayhorn’s score capped an eight-play, 75-yard drive.
******Other MIAA Scores*******
Washburn 49, Lincoln 27
Nebraska-Kearney 39, Missouri Southern 27
Pitt State 37, Central Oklahoma 35
Emporia State 51, NE State 14
Central Missouri 34, Ft Hays State 30
Sam Phillips nabbed his first career interception and returned it 29 yards for his second defensive score of the game. Phillips’s pick six gave Northwest a 28-7 lead with 10:35 left in the second quarter.
The Griffons marched 99 yards and scored on a two-yard quarterback keeper by Steigerwald with 28 seconds left in the opening half. The Missouri Western touchdown cut the Northwest lead to 28-14.
Missouri Western pulled to within one score at 28-21 following a 23-yard touchdown pass from Steigerwald to Burton Cooper with 10:35 left in the third quarter.
Parker Sampson notched a 38-yard field goal with 4:37 left in the third quarter to put the Bearcats back up by two scores at 31-21. Sampson’s field goal capped a seven-play, 35-yard drive.
The Griffons refused to go away and tightened the score to 31-28 on a touchdown pass from Steigerwald to Devon Holmes with 2:02 to go in the third quarter. Steigerwald found Holmes down the middle on a third-and-goal from the 27.
Steigerwald gave the Griffons their first lead of the contest when he scored from three yards out with 12:38 to play in the fourth quarter.
Wright scored his first touchdown of the season on the ground when he found the end zone from 10 yards out on first and goal with 8:50 to go in the fourth quarter. Wright’s score gave Northwest a 38-35 advantage. Wright’s touchdown finished an eight-play, 89-yard drive. Wright scored 11 rushing touchdowns last season.
The Bearcat defense came up with a three-and-out on the ensuing drive for the Griffons. Trey Washington recorded a sack that forced a Griffon punt and gave the ball back to the Bearcats.
However, Northwest’s offense also went three-and-out and returned the ball back to the home squad with 5:57 to play in the contest.
Washington stepped up for the second straight series and picked off Steigerwald with 5:21 left in the game. Washington’s pick gave Northwest the ball at the 20-yard line.
Northwest used the short field and punched it in the end zone on a four-yard pass from Wright to Kyle Raunig. It was Raunig’s first career catch. Raunig’s score gave Northwest a 45-35 lead with 4:00 left in the fourth quarter.
The Bearcats then grounded out the victory on the legs of senior running back Justin Rankin. Rankin rushed 20 times for 130 yards in his Bearcat debut.
NOTES: Northwest recorded its seventh straight win over Missouri Western … Northwest won its ninth consecutive season opener … Northwest holds a 28-13 all-time series lead vs. Missouri Western … the Bearcats rushed for 230 yards on 44 carries, while limiting the Griffons to 79 yards on 37 carries … Northwest outgained Missouri Western in total yards, 360-349 … Marqus Andrews and Rankin tied for the team lead with two receptions … Donadelle led the Bearcats with 60 receiving yards … Mike Hohensee punted six times and had four of the punts downed inside the 20-yard line, including one at the one-yard line … Zach Howard notched a team-best eight tackles.