The Missouri S&T football team (5-3, 3-1 GLVC) returned home after a long five weeks on the road to host McKendree for a GLVC matchup on Saturday, Oct. 21. Turnovers were the death of the Miners, as two straight pick-sixes by Austin Weltha helped McKendree win 39-31.
Offense was at a premium in the opening half, as the two teams combined for just 16 points in the first two quarters. The Miners opened the game with a pair of field goals by Ben Styron for 29 and 27 yards to take a 6-0 lead. McKendree responded just before the end of the first quarter with the lone touchdown of the half when Reece Metcalf found Josh Revay on a 26-yard touchdown. The only other scoring came on a third field goal by Ben Styron early in the second quarter. The Miners had a chance to add to the lead as the half expired, but Tyler Swart (Dickinson, TX/Dickinson) threw an interception in the end zone with 36 seconds left in the opening half.
Things then got out of hand quickly in the second half. McKendree opened the third quarter with a four-yard score from Metcalf to Zach Bobos before the Miner passing game melted on the ensuing drive. Swart, who faced a lot of pressure all night long, threw his second interception of the game and it was caught by Weltha on the 25-yard line. He had nothing but green in front of him and he returned the interception for a touchdown. S&T then looked to respond, but Swart's first pass was tipped into the air and Weltha found it again, returning it 43 yards for a touchdown. McKendree added a field goal with 4:19 left in the third quarter and S&T went into the fourth quarter trailing 32-9.
The Miner offense woke up in the fourth quarter, but the clock was not on their side. The Miners opened the fourth quarter with a one-yard touchdown by Swart on the first play of the quarter, but McKendree responded when Metcalf found Revay again, this time for a 30-yard touchdown. Swart added another another one-yard touchdown run with just over four minutes left to play and the Miners elected to kick the ball onside to see if they could complete the comeback. McKendree fumbled the onside kick and the Miners were able to jump on the ball to give themselves a chance. The Miners worked their way down the field and Swart was able to find Logan Armontrout (Centralia, MO/Centralia) for a 15 yard touchdown. The two point conversion was good to get the Miners within eight, but McKendree recovered the onside kick to finish off a 39-31 victory over the Miners.
"Well, we're past moral victories," said head coach Tyler Fenwick about the comeback after the game. "I am proud of the fact that we didn't give up, we kept fighting, we kept going after them. Our kids never felt like they were out of it. Obviously that third quarter just demoralized us and honestly after a third quarter like that I think there are a lot of teams that would just give up. I've been a part of teams that would just give up. They just kept battling back.
Fenwick continued, "But we did it to ourselves. We just handed them 14 points, we couldn't come away with points at the end of the half. There's just things we didn't take advantage of. I think they did a great job defensively of making some adjustments, taking some things away and maybe creating some of those interceptions, but we've gotta eliminate the mistakes and we've gotta play a whole 60 minutes of football."
While he couldn't punch it into the end zone, the fourth quarter was all Deshawn Jones (Olympia Fields, IL/Rich Central). He rushed for 102 yards in the fourth quarter alone and rushed for a total of 221 yards in the loss. Thus marks the second time this season Jones has rushed for 200 yards and the sixth consecutive game that he's rushed for at least 100. Jones leads the GLVC in rushing and has already topped 1,000 yards on the season.
"He runs hard every week. I mean, we've seen it every week. He's rushed for over 100 yards in the last six games and two games he's had over 200 yards, so that's what he does," said Fenwick. "When we got that far behind, we knew they were sitting back and we just felt like we could exploit the run game and eat up some big yards in that. He's just so strong and passionate and plays so hard."
Swart ended the night with 254 yards, but threw the three interceptions and was sacked a staggering eight times in the loss. The Miner offensive line needs to shore things up to give Swart some time to make plays in the passing game.
"We've gotta protect better, we gave up eight sacks," said the S&T head coach. "We've gotta find ways to get the ball out of our hands a little bit quicker. We knew they were going to be difficult to protect against because they do a lot of things up front, they have a very good defensive line. We've just gotta get better. We've had games where we've done well up front, but this was a tough one for us."
After a loss at home, it's good that the Miners have an experience quarterback in Swart that can shake off a rough night and turn things around.
"Swart is a competitor. He made things happen and was buying time and finding guys down the field. He just competes," said Fenwick. "He's a fifth year senior, he's been through a lot of experience and been through a lot of games. He'll be alright."
The Miners will look to get their first home victory of the season when they host Southwest Baptist for Homecoming on Saturday, Oct. 28.