The Missouri S&T football team opened their season with a bang against Eastern New Mexico University on Thursday, Aug. 30. The Miner offense was clicking on all cylinders as they cruised to a 31-14 victory over the Greyhounds.
S&T got out to a fast start thanks to some excellent defense. After the Greyhounds elected to receive the opening kick, they ran right into some aggressive Miner defenders. ENMU runs an option offense and was caught off guard when they found Bo Brooks in the backfield on the first snap from scrimmage. That disruption led to a fumbled pitch, which Stefan Camplin was able to jump on to give the Miners a short field. It was smooth sailing from there on the opening drive, as Tyler Swart found Logan Armontrout in the back of the end zone for a six yard touchdown a few plays later for the game's first score. After an extra point, the Miners had an early 7-0 lead. Head coach Tyler Fenwick said that forced fumble and quick touchdown really set the tone for the game.
"That was a huge play because we were determining if we won the toss if we wanted to take the ball and try to steal a possession because of what they do offensively with the triple option and they can kind of grind you down," said coach Fenwick. "They won the toss, but we got the turnover and we stole the possession. We basically got to start the game off both halves. That was a big starting point early."
The Miners kept rolling after the quick touchdown. The S&T defense forced a quick three and out, but a solid punt put the Miners on their own 15. That didn't slow down the home team, as they marched down the field. ENMU gave the Miners a hand with a personal foul after a third down catch by Braxton Graham. That kept the door open for the Miners and a few plays later, Swart found Payton McAlister on a screen pass and the redshirt freshman swerved through the defense for a 26-yard score to give the Miners a 14-0 lead.
The Miners had a couple of hiccups after that with an interception from Swart and a rare missed field goal attempt by Ben Styron, but ENMU wasn't able to capitalize on either Miner mistake and S&T ended the first with a 14-0 lead. The second quarter was also pretty quiet, as a 40-yard field goal by Styron was the only scoring play for the rest of the first half.
After a relatively quiet end to the first half, S&T picked up the offensive momentum after the break. The Miners worked their way down the field after taking the opening kickoff and Swart connected on his third touchdown of the night, this time a 20-yard score to Graham to extend the Miner lead to 24-0. ENMU was able to get on the board for the first time in the quarter, as well, when Wyatt Strand punched in a one-yard score near the end of the third quarter.
That late touchdown from ENMU didn't slow down the Miners though. S&T started driving with the last couple of minutes in the third, before Swart opened the fourth quarter by hitting Josh Brown for a 36-yard score. The rest of the fourth quarter was spent by the Miners running the ball to let the clock tick away. ENMU scored another touchdown in the quarter, but it was too little too late and the Miners ran out the clock on a 31-14 victory.
S&T had great performances across the board offensively. Swart completed 21 of his 30 passes for 293 yard and four touchdowns, while throwing one interception. He added four rushes for 17 yards. Graham was the top dog amongst the receivers with seven catches for 108 yards and a score, but Brown wasn't far behind with five catches for 91 yards and a touchdown. Armontrout and McAlister each added touchdowns and a total of six Miners caught passes. Deshawn Jones led S&T on the ground with 22 carries for 106 yards, while Aaron Moya added 49 yards on seven carries. Six different Miners had at least 10 yards rushing on the night.
"Tyler's got a really good grasp of the offense right now, being in it for as long as he has and all the experience he's got. A lot of those big plays that we got were him executing the game plan and seeing things that we saw and checking out of a run to a pass," said coach Fenwick. "I think he hit Braxton on a couple things that he checked to and hit Josh on a couple that he checked to. Being able to have the conversation in a huddle and asking him what he likes, he can give some feedback. That's kind of the next step in the system, he can run it himself in a sense."
The Miner defense was also excellent all night long. ENMU had just 269 yards of total offense. The Miners, by comparison, had 512. The front seven did a great job of containing the Greyhounds' triple option and helped set the offense up for success throughout the game.
"I thought our defense played really well and I think there's a lot of credit to our coaches that put together a really good plan. They really did a lot of research over the offseason and put together a good plan and our scout team did a good job of giving them a look during the week," said coach Fenwick. "They did a great job of getting that going. They played hard, they were physical."
This was an important win for the Miners, because now they become road warriors for the next four weeks. S&T will travel to Northwood, Drake, Tuskegee and Southwest Baptist in each of the next four weeks, before they finally get their second home game of the season when they host Indianapolis on Oct. 6. This win gave the Miners a chance to build some momentum before hitting the road.
"To win at home against a good team knowing that you have to go on the road for four in a row, and these are four tough ones. We've got four tough teams that are all probably going to have winning records at the end of the season, so we've got our work cut out for us coming up," said coach Fenwick. "We've got to get back to the drawing board and come up with the next game plan and prepare for Northwood."