For the second consecutive week, the Central Missouri Mules allowed the final 17 points of the game, and lost with less than a minute remaining. This time it was Missouri Western kicker Dustin Strickler who did the damage when he hit a 30-yard field goal with six seconds left to hand UCM a 42-41 loss on senior day at Walton Stadium/Kennedy Field.
It was also the sixth consecutive loss to Missouri Western (5-5, 4-4 MIAA) in the series, and ended the Mules postseason hopes.
Central Missouri (6-4, 4-4 MIAA) got a big day from senior running back Glenn Milner, who became the all-time leading two-year rusher with 1,895 yards, thanks to his 164 yards on the day. He also moved up to third on the all-time list with 34 career touchdowns, scoring four in the game (three on the ground).
Milner got the scoring started in the game, catching a 16-yard screen pass in the first quarter. Griffons’ running back Zach Walker scored the next two touchdowns of the game though, from 42 and 36 yards out, giving the lead to MWSU, 13-7 (second extra point was blocked by UCM). The Griffons closed out the quarter with a 32-yard field goal to make it 16-7.
The game of runs continued with Central Missouri grabbing the next three scores. Eric Czerniewski hit tight end DeMarco Cosby from 26 yards out to cap an 8-play, 63-yard scoring drive early in the second quarter. The TD toss made it 26 on the season for Czerniewski, moving into second all-time for a season (Toby Korrodi holds the record with 29).
The Mules defense held the Griffons to three-and-out on the next possession, and didn’t take long to answer, scoring four plays later on a 50-yard touchdown run by Milner. He had all 62 of the Mules yards on the drive and gave the lead back to Central Missouri, 21-16.
Senior linebacker Mike Dillon set up the next score when he picked off MWSU quarterback Drew Newhart at the MWSU 20 and returned it to the nine. The Griffon defense held at the three yard line though, and forced a 20-yard Mark Starks field goal to make it 24-16.
Missouri Western got some points before the break though, marching 52 yards in 13 plays before stalling. Strickler picked the offense up when he drilled a career-long 49 yard field goal with 1:52 left.
Central Missouri looked as if it was going to answer just before the half, but a Czerniewski fumble on the MWSU 14 yard line halted the effort with 36 second left. The Griffons sat on it to go into the break down only 24-19.
The second stanza started with a bang when Mules senior bandit backer Steven Ehase picked off a Newhart pass on the first drive and gave the ball to UCM on the MWSU 27. The Griffons held again though, forcing UCM to kick again. Starks then set a career-high, drilling a 42-yard field goal.
The Mules got good field position later in the quarter when Adam Parks returned a punt 22 yards to the Griffon 43 yard line. This time the Mules got a touchdown, handing the ball off to Milner, who trotted in from 37 yards out down the left side. That made it 34-19 with 3:04 left in the third.
Missouri Western marched back down the field and converted a third and goal from the three when Newhart was nearly sacked, but threw one out in the flat to tight end Alvaro Prado for a TD as he was being tackled.
The Mules made it 41-26 on the next drive with 12:48 left in the game as Milner struck from 23 yards away.
Another answer from the Griffons cut it to eight with 8:43 remaining, before the game changing play came on the next Mules drive.
After getting the ball in Griffon territory to start the drive again, the Mules converted on fourth and one from the 37. The Mules looked to have control after that, but linebacker Deondre Williams read a wide receiver screen on the next play and picked off the pass, returning it 60 yards for a touchdown. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the score pushed the two-point try back to the 18 and the Mules sacked Newhart to keep it 42-39 with 5:53 left.
The ensuing kickoff was returned by Bobby Guillory, who had a huge day on returns, giving the Mules an average starting field position of their own 47 yard line. He took this one 42 yards, up to the 50. He finished the game with 188 yards on six returns, with a long of 50.
The Griffon defense got UCM into a fourth and two from the MWSU 42 and the Mules elected to punt with Czerniewski. He kicked it 14 yards though, and the Griffons got the ball at their own 28 with 3:17 left.
Missouri Western methodically drove down the field to the UCM 13 and called a timeout with 10 seconds left to make the game-winning attempt. The Mules called their final two timeouts to try and ice Strickler, but it was to no avail as he drilled the 30 yarder.
The Griffons finished with 468 yards of offense and the Mules had 340 (mainly because their drives didn’t have to be as long due the outstanding average field position. Milner had 237 all-purpose yards (164 rushing, 73 receiving) to lead the Mules attack, while Ryan Nesbitt and Ehase each had 11 tackles on defense. UCM sacked Newhart four times to go with the two picks.
Story courtesy of Central Missouri Media Relations.