TOPEKA, Kan. – Anthony Vespo set a new Missouri Western record with 448 passing yards against Washburn on Saturday, but the Griffons came up on the short side of a 47-41 shootout. Traveon James (11 rec./188 yards) and Hezekiah Trotter (5 rec./122) yards led the receiving corps for MWSU on the afternoon.
It was clear from the opening kick that Saturday’s game was going to be a high-scoring affair, as each team scored on its first two drives. Washburn opened with a seven-play, 78-yard drive and Missouri Western answered with a 13-play, 90-yard march down the field.
The Griffons defense picked up the first stop of the afternoon, holding the Ichabods to a three-and-out near the 12:00 mark of the second quarter, forcing a 32-yard punt from Lane Spiker.
Missouri Western assembled a 70-yard drive to take its first first-half lead of the season, capped by a one-yard run by Shen Butler-Lawson, Jr.
After the PAT attempt rattled off the left upright, Washburn mustered a quick five-play scoring drive to equalize at 20-20. The score remained tied, however, as the Ichabods kicker shanked his extra-point kick wide.
After each team scored on its first two drives of the second half, a high, arching kickoff from Washburn’s Trenton Brehm pinned the Griffons deep in their own territory. Trey Vaval ran into a herd of Ichabods on the return, and MWSU wasn’t able to pick up a first down. Washburn scored on its next drive to take a 41-34 lead.
An unfortunate mistake from Vespo on the next Griffon drive turned into a 13-point swing, as Marquise Manning was able to keep an inside position on James to grab an interception at the Washburn 17-yard line and the Ichabods ground down the field for a touchdown.
MWSU blocked the extra point attempt, and despite its next drive getting snuffed at the 1-yard line by an interception, the defense forced Washburn into a punt with 3:28 to play.
Inspired by the defensive effort, the Griffons rolled down the field looking to cut into the 13-point lead. Vespo found James for a 32-yard touchdown strike with 1:04 on the clock to close the gap to 47-41.
The onside kick was recovered by Washburn, but Garrett Watson and the Griffon defensive front came up with their biggest stop of the game, forcing Washburn into a three-and-out.
With the ball on its own 10-yard line and three seconds to play, Missouri Western still had a narrow window of opportunity to force overtime, but after a completion and a pair of laterals, the ball popped loose and Washburn fell on it to end the game.
The Griffons posted 584 yards of total offense to just 532 for the Ichabods, and had 28 first downs while holding Washburn to 22.
Missouri Western returns to Spratt Stadium next Saturday, Oct. 2. The Griffons are set for a 6 p.m. kickoff against Northwest Missouri State, part of a home doubleheader. MWSU Volleyball hosts Nebraska-Kearney to open the afternoon.