The first glimpse of the Missouri S&T football team in the post-Gronewold era provided a bit of a shock.


Even with the loss of All-American wide receiver Ashton Gronewold, who holds almost every record possible at the school and has an outside chance at being drafted in this weekend’s 2008 NFL Draft, most believed the prolific S&T offense would still be heavily relied upon to shoulder most of the burden for the Miners.


However, the S&T defense showed Friday night that it’s going to have something to say about that. The Miner defense produced stops on the first seven possessions of the Missouri S&T spring football game at Allgood Bailey Stadium and held on for a 44-31 victory.


The first glimpse of the Missouri S&T football team in the post-Gronewold era provided a bit of a shock.

Even with the loss of All-American wide receiver Ashton Gronewold, who holds almost every record possible at the school and has an outside chance at being drafted in this weekend’s 2008 NFL Draft, most believed the prolific S&T offense would still be heavily relied upon to shoulder most of the burden for the Miners.

However, the S&T defense showed Friday night that it’s going to have something to say about that. The Miner defense produced stops on the first seven possessions of the Missouri S&T spring football game at Allgood Bailey Stadium and held on for a 44-31 victory.

The defense, which allowed 35 points per game last season, did a great job of disrupting the Miner offense in the backfield all night and forced three turnovers. They held the offense to an average of just 4.31 yards per play.

S&T head coach Kirby Cannon said the performance wasn’t just a fluke or a matter of the offense not being ready.

“I think it’s that we are better on defense. We have improved there,” Cannon said. “We have the ability to run, be quicker, and we are playing a much more pressure-oriented style. It’s very legit. We have a lot of good players running around. ... I was impressed with the defense.”

Yes, it’s hard not to be impressed. Over the past month, there have been many spring games played at colleges across the country, and almost always the offense wins, even at schools known for their defense. The scoring systems used favor the offense more often than not.

I went to the University of Illinois spring game, and I thought the defense dominated, but you look on the scoreboard and the offense won. So, for the defense to win, you have to have a good start and you have to get some turnovers,” Cannon said. “I like how our system has the penalty points for turnovers. If there is one thing we need to do to be good next year, it’s to not turn the football over.”

S&T’s scoring system is like a normal football game for the offense (a touchdown is worth six points, etc.). Meanwhile, the defense gets 3 points for a stop, 4 points for a stop on fourth down, and a bonus three points for a turnover. The offense gets eight possessions each half, starting at different points on the field.

After being held down early, the offense rebounded by scoring touchdowns on the last possession of the first half and the first two possessions of the second half to cut its deficit to 25-21. But, Robbie Woodard made sure the defense would end the night with the bragging rights,  coming away with interceptions on each of the next two possessions.

“I was very pleased with the game. We had every reason in the world -- we hadn’t hit that much, the rain -- to come out here and slop it up. But, I felt we were sharp on both sides of the ball,” Cannon said. “We were definitely physical on both sides. This is the best hitting spring game I’ve seen in a long time.”

If you enjoy watching local prep stars play for the Miners, it was a great night to be at Allgood Bailey Stadium. St. James native Chad Shockley spent much of the night playing in Gronewold’s old spot, and looked more than capable of taking over. He caught three balls for 36 yards and had five carries for 22 yards.

Shockley did fumble once, but he got some redemption two series later when he made a wonderful  one-handed sliding grab that helped lead to S&T’s first offensive score. Later on that drive, it looked like he might score the touchdown, but was interfered with on a fade in the end zone.

“Chad was not all the way back from his broken leg last year. He was not 100 percent,” Cannon said. “This year he is back and ready to put up some numbers.”

Rolla’s Jake Drallmeier and Jared Bahr also shined. Drallmeier used his bruising running style to lead the Miners in rushing, gaining 60 yards on 12 carries. He also had two catches for six yards. Bahr, a tight end who missed last season because of back surgery, caught two passes for 17 yards. Twice in the first half the pair had nice gains on back-to-back plays.

S&T’s first score came under the direction of Jason Schleuter. He hit Chad Stanley on consecutive third-down-and-longs to reach the 2-yard line. David Shields capped the drive a few plays later, escaping some foot tackles in the pile on a nice run for a touchdown.

The Miner offense was facing another 3rd-and-long on the first possession of the second half, but surprised the defense with a nice screen play over the middle to Bryan Crider. But, Crider did a lot of the work too, as he broke multiple tackles and took it to the house right down the middle of the field for a 24-yard touchdown. Crider finished the game with a team-highs in receptions and receiving yards with nine catches for 97 yards.

Schleuter kept the ball rolling on the next possession. And, on a 3rd-and-goal from the 3, he found Mike Greaving in the corner of the end zone for the S&T’s offense’s third straight touchdown.
After Woodard’s two interceptions basically sealed it, the Miners added points down the stretch on a 2-yard touchdown run by Jerome Miller and a 36-yard field by Joe Drahos.

As for the big questions S&T had coming into spring football practice, the one best answered was how the Miners’ new aggressive defensive scheme would pan out. It certainly looked great Friday.

“We had more blitzes tonight than we called all last year,” Cannon said. “We know going into the post Gronewold era that we’ll need more consistent play from everybody. We won’t have the magic man to make something from nothing. The kids understand that. That era is over. We could always rely on him to make four or five special plays a game. Now, we are hoping that several players will step up to make up for that.”

As for the who is going to replace “the magic man”, that is still up for grabs. Shockley looked good in his audition for the role, but Greaving is the more established receiver, and he’s fighting for the job as well. Cannon also has three transfers coming in to play wideout, but he said they’ll most likely battle for the last of the three spots.

“It’s a competition there. Chad and Mike both know that there are 70 catches there to be had along with handful of touchdowns,” Cannon said. “They both want that job.”

As for the three-way battle for the quarterback spot, you had to know Cannon would let that rage on deep into fall. It’s become a Miner tradition with him at the reigns. Brad Guidry, who began last season as the starter, but suffered a season-ending broken leg, did not play in the game.

Schlueter, who was his main competitor for the job, but who also suffered a season-ending injury before seeing time, completed 18 of 21 passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns. Steve Watson, who started the Miners’ final seven games, completed eight of 15 passes for 87 yards.  

“The quarterback situation is not resolved, and it won’t be until fall. Steve has shown that he is capable of being the quarterback. Jason had moments tonight that showed he is ready to start. And, Brad will probably have something to say about that,” Cannon said. “I’m not afraid for this battle to carry over to fall. I’ve never believed that a quarterback battle tears a team apart. I want a guy to win the position. Until somebody does, we’ll keep having them fight for it.”