The Missouri S&T football team's defense sure picked a fine time to turn in its best outing of the season.
After losing two more key pieces of its offense to injury in the first half, the Miner defense tossed a shutout after intermission to ignite a 14-13 come-from-behind Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) victory over Saint Joseph's in the S&T Homecoming Game at Allgood-Bailey Stadium.
The Miners get closer to the .500 mark, improving to 3-4 overall and 2-1 in the GLVC. The Saint Joseph's Pumas, who have yet to play a team with a winning record this fall, drop to 5-2 and 2-1.
S&T had to overcome a 13-0 deficit and the loss of starting quarterback Reed Brown and running back Anthony Moore after a painful first half and four lost fumbles.
And that's exactly what they did behind reserve freshman quarterback Peter Simpson, who was forced into action after Brown went down late in the second period with an ankle injury, and a defense that forced four SJC turnovers in the fourth period.
"Our defense played really well," said S&T head coach Tyler Fenwick. "We had a lot of pressure in the backfield. Except for one play we did a great job against the run. And we got the turnovers in the second half."
The Pumas took the lead quickly on one of the few breakdowns by the Miner defense on the game's first play from scrimmage, as Kobi Cook took a handoff, went around the left side and got loose for a 62-yard TD run. The PAT attempt was no good, which would come back to haunt the visitors.
There was only one other scoring drive in the first half. The Pumas followed with a 72-yard, 10-play drive after S&T missed a field goal try. The drive ended on a three-yard TD run by GLVC rushing leader Braxton Shelton.
S&T's best first-half scoring chance ended when Brown, at the St. Joseph's 20 yardline, was sacked by the Pumas' Andrew Soulis, fumbled and St. Joseph's recovered.
The Miners opened the second half by taking advantage of a Puma turnover. S&T defensive lineman Dan Mauszycki recovered a Shelton fumble at the Saint Joseph's 39 yardline. From there the Miners put together a scoring drive, capped by Chris Kennard's three-yard TD run.
The Miners were threatening to take the lead in the third period, as Simpson sprinted out of the pocket toward the goal line. However, he fumbled and Puma linebacker Gary Yeoman recovered at the one yardline, killing the drive.
S&T finally got its game-winning score midway through the fourth period. Simpson hit junior wideout Melvin Stovall with a 22-yard pass to get into St. Joseph's territory. Simpson followed by connecting with junior wideout Nick Taylor with a 38-yard TD pass with 8:22 remaining. Senior Adam Peden added his second PAT to snap the tie.
Page 2 of 3 - From there the Miner defense took over, making four straight interceptions to kill St. Joseph's drives. Three of those picks came from Puma backup QB Tate Borlik after SJC starter Billy VandeMerkt was injured on a sack by Miner Jacob Nutt.
Interceptions by Sean Martin and Mark Hopkins on the Puma's final two possessions wrapped up the Miner Homecoming win.
S&T had just 288 yards of total offense compared to 279 for SJC.
Simpson completed 12-of-19 passes for 177 yards while Stovall caught eight passes for 100 yards and Taylor seven for 101.
Moore, a senior, went down in the second period with an apparent injury to the head and neck area. He was strapped to a board and taken to Phelps County Regional Medical Center for precaution before being released later Saturday afternoon.
Brown went down later in the second quarter with an ankle injury.
Fenwick said test results on both Moore and Brown will be available sometime today, although he said Brown is likely to miss this week's action.
Earlier this month S&T also lost starting running back Zenel Hudson (ankle) and starting offensive lineman Mark Parra (knee). Parra is out for the season.
Simpson is likely to be under center again Saturday when the Miners travel to Kirksville for a league game against Truman State (1 p.m. kickoff).
"He gets a lot of reps in practice," Fenwick said of Simpson. "We try to prepare him like a starter in case of a situation like this. He doesn't get rattled - he kind of goes with the flow. He'll most likely be the guy this week, and we're okay with that. He does some good things in practice."
S&T 14, Saint Joseph's 13
First downs: SJC 18, S&T 20
Yards rushing: SJC 168, S&T 39
Yards passing: SJC 111, S&T 249
Total Yards: SJC 279, S&T 288
Passing: SJC 13-33, S&T 22-36
Int. thrown: SJC 4, S&T 0
Fumbles lost: SJC 1, S&T 4
Penalties: SJC 11-64, S&T 4-55
Punting: SJC 7-33.6, S&T 9-37.6
The score by periods:
Saint Joseph's 6 7 0 0-13
S&T 0 0 7 7-14
The scoring plays:
Saint Joseph's: Cook 62-yard run, kick fails (14:43).
Saint Joseph's: Shelton 3-yard run, Voss kick (10:53).
S&T: Kennard 4-yard run, Peden kick (8:55).
S&T: Taylor 38-yard pass from Simpson, Peden kick (8:22).
Page 3 of 3 -
Rushing: S&T - Dickson 10 for 32, Kennard 17 for 31, Moore 5 for 21, Brown 6 for minus-15, Simpson 9 for minus-27, TEAM 3 for minus-3. Saint Joseph's - Cook 16 for 109, Shelton 17 for 69, Wilson 3 for 7, Borlik 1 for minus-5, Vandemerkt 4 for minus-12.
Passing: S&T - Brown 10-17-72-0, Simpson 12-19-177-0. Saint Joseph's - Vandemerkt 13-28-111-1, Borlik 0-5-0-3.
Receiving: S&T - Stovall 8 for 100, Taylor 7 for 101, Giljum 3 for 24, Corbid 2 for 11, Moody 1 for 9, Moore 1 for 4. Saint Joseph's - Walker 4 for 35, Piekarski 2 for 20, Bishoff 2 for 15, Woody 2 for 13, Hines 1 for 17, Callaghan 1 for 16, Cook 1 for minus-5.
Interceptions: S&T - Hopkins 1 for 0, McKay 1 for 3, Martin 1 for 0, Brown 1 for 0. Saint Joseph's - none.
Sacks: S&T - Mauszycki 2 for 7, Rascon 1 for 3, Nutt 1 for 6, Davey 1 for 9. Saint Joseph's - Yeoman 3 for 18, Wimbley 2 for 17, Heinzman 1 for 12, Soulls 1 for 7, Exford 1 for 6.
Tackle Leaders: S&T - Horn 4 (solos)-8 (assists), Emesih 3-7, Hopkins 4-4, Rascon 4-4, Melber 2-4. Saint Joseph's - Wimbley 6-8, Yeoman 9-2, Cornelle 4-5, Byrd 3-4.