MIDLAND, Mich. – After the Missouri S&T offense put together touchdown drives on its first two possessions of the game, the Miner defense took care of matters from there to lead S&T to a 27-16 win over host Northwood Saturday afternoon.
The win that pushed the Miners to 2-0 on the young season marks the first time since 2012 that S&T has opened a season with back-to-back wins and much of that effort came courtesy of the defensive unit, which held down the Timberwolves (0-2) for a large portion of the afternoon.
Northwood was held to minus 11 yards in the first half of play before a couple of late drives boosted its final total to 130, but the Miners also forced three Timberwolf turnovers and also stopped Northwood on downs twice in the second half.
The Miners took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards to get on the scoreboard, with the drive culminating in a five-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Swart (Dickinson, TX/Dickinson) to Braxton Graham (Seneca, MO/Seneca). Swart connected with Graham on a 28-yard pass play during the drive to get the Miners into Timberwolf territory before throwing the scoring pass to him seven plays after that completion.
S&T's defense was put to the test in the first half, as the Timberwolves started three drives inside the Miner 10-yard line as the result of two turnovers and a long punt return. The first of those turnovers, a fumbled punt, led to a 36-yard field goal by David Riser.
But the Miners answered right back, as immediately after Josh Brown (Gainesville, FL/North Marion HS) caught a pass for a first down, freshman running back Aaron Moya (Canutillo, TX/Canutillo) raced 49 yards to set up the second touchdown pass to Graham for six yards that gave S&T an 11-point lead.
However, the second S&T turnover late in the opening quarter set up the Timberwolves at the Miners' six-yard line and Grant Dunatchik went over from the one three plays later to make it 14-9 after Riser missed the extra point.
S&T added to the lead midway through the second quarter, after Tershawn Wharton (University City, MO/University City) forced a Northwood fumble that Josh Lowden (Monrovia, CA/Monrovia) recovered at the Northwood 24-yard line. On the third down play that followed, Swart fired his third touchdown pass of the afternoon covering 22 yards to Logan Armontrout (Centralia, MO/Centralia) to give the Miners the 21-9 lead they would take to the locker room.
Before the half ended, S&T's defense had to thwart another scoring opportunity for the Timberwolves after Christian Martinez returned a punt to the S&T seven-yard line. The Miners halted that chance when Wharton forced another fumble that Bo Brooks (Canutillo, TX/Canutillo) recovered.
The Miners struggled to get their offense untracked in the second half, seeing two third quarter drives end with a blocked field goal and an interception. However, the Miners did add to their lead late in the quarter when Ben Styron (Harrisonville, MO/Harrisonville) booted a 36-yard field goal.
Northwood, which ended the third quarter with 19 yards of offense, got a 43-yard pass from Dunatchik to Gary Landless to get into the red zone and eventually reached the six-yard line, but on a fourth-and-goal play, linebacker Ben Straatmann (Washington, MO/Washington) stopped Tajae Leslie for no gain to force a turnover on downs.
The Timberwolves did score the next time they got the ball – after getting it on the S&T 24 following a short punt into the wind -- when Dunatchik hit Landless for a 29-yard scoring pass to make it a one-possession game. But when the Miners got the ball back after the kickoff, they were able to chew just over seven minutes of the clock on a 73-yard drive that ended with a 19-yard field goal from Styron to ice the victory.
S&T picked up five first downs on that final drive, including a conversion on fourth-and-one and also avoided a turnover when Moya recovered his own fumble with the Miners inside the Northwood 10-yard line.
Swart completed 24-of-34 passes for 196 yards and the three touchdowns as he completed passes to eight different receivers. Graham caught five passes for 47 yards and Brown had five catches for 43 as S&T ended the day with 298 yards of total offense.
Thanks in part to his big run, Moya led the ground game with 62 yards on 12 carries.
Wharton had a big day on the other side of the ball, recording nine tackles with four of them for a loss and one and a half sacks, as well as the two forced fumbles. Straatmann had eight tackles on the afternoon as did Brooks, who had one of the three fumble recoveries by S&T.
The Miner defense had 16 tackles behind the line of scrimmage on Saturday and recorded five sacks while posting its lowest yardage allowed total since the final game of the aforementioned 2012 season, when S&T held South Dakota School of Mines to 117 yards.
Missouri S&T defensive end Tershawn Wharton (University City, MO/University City) and punter Jonathan Banowetz (O'Fallon, MO/Fort Zumwalt North)were named today by the Great Lakes Valley Conference as "Players of the Week," as Wharton was selected as the league's top defensive player and Banowetz earned the special teams honor following the Miners' 27-16 win at Northwood on Saturday.
Wharton led the Miners with nine tackles in the game, which included four for a loss and 1.5 sacks. In addition, he forced two fumbles in the game – both of which were recovered by the Miners. The first forced fumble came at the Northwood 24-yard line midway through the second quarter, which S&T turned into its third touchdown of the first half.
His second forced fumble later in the quarter came after the Miners had fumbled inside their own 10-yard line; Wharton sacked quarterback Grant Dunatchik and knocked the ball free in the process, which was recovered by Bo Brooks (Canutillo, TX/Canutillo) to halt that scoring opportunity.
It is the second time that Wharton has been honored by the GLVC, as he also earned the league's weekly award last season following a victory over Southwest Baptist.
Banowetz was honored for the first time by the GLVC after a game in which he averaged 40.4 yards on seven punts, including a 53-yard boot that was fumbled by Northwood on the return. In the second quarter of the game, Banowetz averaged 44 yards per kick as he kept the Timberwolves pinned back in their own territory, with two of the punts being downed inside the 20-yard line.
Missouri S&T will take its 2-0 record into Saturday's 1 p.m. contest against Drake in Des Moines, Iowa.