LEBANON, Ill. – Despite being eliminated from contention for the Great Lakes Valley Conference championship Saturday afternoon – a matter outside of its control – Missouri S&T's football team put together an impressive performance to keep itself in post-season contention with a 49-20 victory at McKendree.
After spotting the Bearcats a touchdown on their opening possession, it was all Miners for the rest of the first half as they built a 35-10 lead by the intermission to improve to 8-2 overall and 5-1 in the GLVC. The win also gave the Miners a season with at least eight wins for just the sixth time in program history.
McKendree (5-5, 3-3 GLVC) scored just 2:02 into play on a nine-yard run by Matt Cole, but the Miners answered right back with a 76-yard march down the field that culminated with Tyler Swart's (Dickinson, TX/Dickinson) 17-yard scoring pass to Braxton Graham (Seneca, MO/Seneca).
Swart completed all seven of his throws on S&T's opening drive and connected on his first 12 of the day, including a six-yard toss to Logan Armontrout (Centralia, MO/Centralia) on the final play of the first quarter that preceded a three-yard scoring run by Aaron Moya (Canutillo, TX/Canutillo) to put the Miners in front.
Josh Lazaro's 34-yard field goal drew the Bearcats to within four, but the Miners proceeded to reach the end zone on each of the next three possessions to close out the opening half. The first score came following a heavy dose of runs by Payton McAlister (Decatur, TX/Decatur), who carried the ball on each of the first six plays as the Miners reached the Bearcat 38-yard line,
Following a 36-yard pass from Swart to Josh Brown (Gainesville, FL/North Marion HS), D'Luis West(Troup, TX/Troup) crashed in from the two to extend the Miner lead. The Miners got a 16-yard touchdown run from Moya to make it 28-10, before the defense came up with its biggest play of the afternoon, as Ben Straatmann (Washington, MO/Washington) recovered a McKendree fumble forced by Ryan Kirkendall (Silsbee, TX/Silsbee) at the S&T three to halt a Bearcat scoring threat.
S&T capped its first half performance by going 94 yards in just under two minutes before the half ended, as Swart – after his first incompletion of the day – completed four straight passes to reach the Bearcat 29, with an unsportsmanlike conduct thrown in to get the Miners into the red zone.
Two plays later, Graham caught his second scoring pass of the day from Swart of 15 yards to complete a perfect half of drives for the Miner offense, as it scored touchdowns on all five possessions.
The Miners racked up 366 of their 532 total yards in the first half alone, then traded scores with the Bearcats in the second half. Armontrout caught Swart's fourth touchdown pass of the day from six yards away late in the third quarter, then Swart scored on the ground himself on a one-yard run late in the contest.
Swart completed 24-of-29 passes for 226 yards and the four scores, completing passes to seven different receivers along the way. Brown had seven receptions for 68 yards, while Graham had the two scoring catches among his five catches.
McAlister also caught five passes and had his most impressive day as a Miner as the redshirt freshman rushed for a career-high 133 yards. Moya added 77 on the ground as S&T posted a season-high 273 yards rushing in the contest.
Meanwhile, the Miner defense held the potent Bearcat offense to 313 yards in the game – well below its seasonal mark of 455.9 yards a game entering the contest – with Landon Compton (Lamar, MO/Lamar) and Justin Onwugbufor (Maize, KS/Northwest) leading the way with seven tackles apiece. McKendree quarterback Reece Metcalf, who set a school record with 391 yards passing just a week ago, was held to 198 by the Miners on Saturday.
The Miners, ranked 10th in Super Region 3 this week, were denied a chance to gain a share of the GLVC championship after Indianapolis defeated Truman State 31-7 Saturday. However, the Miners will look to improve their resume to try and gain a post-season berth in the process when they host Truman next Saturday in a 1 p.m. contest at Allgood-Bailey Stadium.
Next Saturday's game will be Military Appreciation Day and Rolla Youth Football Day at Missouri S&T, while the Miner seniors will also be honored prior to the start of the contest.