Special to The Sun
It was another 1,000-yard offensive explosion at Wantland Stadium Saturday night but the University of Central Oklahoma Bronchos again came out on the losing end of a 63-30 decision to visiting Missouri Western Griffons.
What is a Griffon, you may wonder?
Griffons are powerful, majestic creatures with the characteristics of both lions and eagles. From nose to tail, an adult griffon can measure as much as 8 feet. Neither males nor females are endowed with a mane. A pair of broad, golden wings emerge from the creature’s back and span 25 feet or more. A griffon weighs about 500 pounds. Griffons prefer to pounce on their prey, either diving to the attack or leaping from above. Mythical, of course.
The Bronchos probably jump to endorse that theory of attack as the Griffons came at them in waves all evening.
The loss was the fifth in a row for the season for UCO, four of them against teams ranked in the NCAA Division II top 20 and all are fighting for the top spot in the rugged Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
And, it doesn’t get any better as the Bronchos journey to Northwest Missouri, which happens to be ranked No. 3 nationally. NMWSU scored a Wantland Stadium record 70 points in last year’s 70-3 triumph over the Bronchos.
Central Oklahoma got off to a fast start Saturday night taking the opening kickoff at the 25 and scoring in just six plays. Adrian Nelson connected with Christian Hood for a 56-yard gainer on the game’s first play and that set the Bronchos up at the 19. Nelson went back to Hood for six more and then Marquez Clark for 11 more to set up first-and goal-from the two.
Two plays later, Nelson banged in from the one and Seth Hiddink made it 7-0 with less than three minutes into the contest. Things really looked up when the Broncho D forced a punt on Missouri Western’s first possession, giving UCO the ball on their own 20.
But the Griffons turned fierce and forced the Bronchos back to the 12 where Hiddink had to punt.
After Raphael Spencer picked up 50 yards in two plays, quarterback Travis Partridge tied the score with a touchdown run from the two at the 7:39 mark. Less than a minute later, the Griffons went ahead to stay when Austin Baska intercepted a Nelson pass and returned it to the 34. Two plays later, Dalton Krysa was into the end zone and the Bronchos were down, 14-7.
But the Bronchos showed some life after Clark returned the kickoff 19 yards to the 34. Josh Birmingham, who was held without a touchdown for the first time this season, nevertheless continued his assault on the all-time UCO rushing record, picking up 17 yards before yielding to Fort Gibson freshman Jake Gandara, who got the crowd on its feet with a nifty 38-yard jaunt that moved it down to the seven.
From there, it was Nelson on a keeper for the TD and Hiddink tied it at 14-all with just under five minutes left in the opening quarter.
After Hiddink pinned the Griffons on their own eight with a booming 65-yard kickoff, Partridge unlimbered his passing arm after scrambling 11 yards on the opening play of the drive. He accounted for 64 yards passing and Spencer took it in from the 11 for the TD.
Hiddink got the Bronchos on the board again on the second play of the second quarter when a UCO drive stalled at the four and the Texas A&M transfer booted a 21-yard field goal to draw to within 21-17.
The Griffons tacked on two more touchdowns before halftime, one of them on a Broncho fumble deep in their own territory, to make it 35-17 at halftime.
Missouri Western scored on its first possession of the second half as Spencer on the ground and Partridge through the air covered 58 yards in four plays, the last one for Partridge’s third TD of the evening.
T.J. Eckert, a redshirt quarterback from Bixby, took over the signal-calling duties and picked up 28 yards on scrambles to go with a 17-yard gain by Birmingham to advance the ball to the 24, but Hiddink’s field goal was short of the mark.
However, an Eckert pass of 31 yards to Clark set up a 33-yard field goal by Hiddink on UCO’s next possession to make it 42-20 and that was the score going into the final period of play.
The Bronchos forced a punt on the next possession and Clark brought the crowd to its feet again as he weaved his way to the end zone for an apparent 80-yard punt return for a TD only to see it wiped out by a needless block in the back that moved it back to the 30.
Hiddink salvaged something out of the drive, hitting a 34-yard field goal on the first play of the final quarter to make it 42-23.
The Bronchos literally saved the best for last as Clark gathered in a Missour Western punt on his own 40-yard line, followed a wall of blockers to midfield and then turned on a burst of speed to reach the end zone for the 60-yard punt return touchdown, erasing the memory of his earlier penalty-failed attempt.
But the Griffons appeared determined to pad their offensive stats as Partridge rushed for a five-yard run and another one-yarder while Derek Libby ran back a Broncho punt 79 yards for the final score, all in the last five minutes of the game.