EXCELSIOR SPRINGS, Mo. – Missouri S&T allowed the first and last scores in Saturday's Mineral Water Bowl contest with Minnesota State Moorhead – but everything that happened in between went the Miners' way as they rolled to a 51-16 win in its first post-season contest since 1950.
The win allowed the Miners to cap their third 10-win season in school history with a 10-2 record and came as a result of dominating the second and third quarters of play, where S&T outscored the Dragons 48-3 and set a handful of records along the way.
Some of the record breaking came from quarterback Tyler Swart (Dickinson, TX/Dickinson), who had a hand in five of the Miners' seven touchdowns and broke the Great Lakes Valley Conference's career record for touchdown passes by throwing four in the game to finish his career with 79. The last of the scoring passes, which went to Logan Armontrout (Centralia, MO/Centralia) during the mid-game scoring flurry, broke the record held previously by Southwest Baptist's TJ Edwards.
Swart threw for 212 yards as he completed 13-of-22 throws and also rushed for 56 yards as he was named as the game's most valuable player on offense.
The Dragons (8-4), representing the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, broke on top with just over four minutes remaining in the first quarter when Bryce Meehl connected with Grady Bresnahan on a 62-yard touchdown pass over the top of the Miner defense. However, the Dragons failed on the extra point due to a bobbled snap to keep the score at 6-0.
When the second quarter started, the momentum quickly shifted to the Miners, beginning when Roderick Chapman (Los Angeles, CA/Jefferson) intercepted a Meehl pass – the third of seven turnovers eventually committed by the Dragons. Following a 25-yard run by Payton McAlister(Decatur, TX/Decatur) and a 26-yard on the next play by Braxton Graham (Seneca, MO/Seneca) on a reverse, the Miners were inside the MSUM 10-yard line and scored when Swart crashed over the goal line from the one.
Ben Styron's (Harrisonville, MO/Harrisonville) extra point put S&T into the lead, then the Miner defense made a key stop when the Dragons gambled by going for it on fourth-and-one from their own 23-yard line. Landon Compton (Lamar, MO/Lamar) stopped Zach Simons for no gain on the play and the Miners would add to the lead four plays later on a 10-yard scoring run by Deshawn Jones(Olympia Fields, IL/Rich Central).
MSU Moorhead went three-and-out on its next possession, then the Miners scored again as Swart connected with a wide open Austin Griffin (West Palm Beach, FL/Oxbridge Academy) for a 29-yard touchdown pass that gave S&T a 21-6 lead. The Dragons would get a field goal before the first half ended to cut the Miner lead to 12, but the turnover bug returned in the third quarter to allow the Miners to break the contest wide open.
The first of the turnovers came on Chapman's second interception of the game on MSUM's third play to begin the second half, which the Miners converted into points when Swart connected with McAlister for what turned into a 51-yard touchdown pass as McAlister caught the pass across the middle and ended up racing down the sideline to the end zone.
Chapman made another big defensive play on the next Dragon series by breaking up a pass on fourth down to give the ball back to S&T, after which the Miners scored again when Swart hit Graham for a 37-yard scoring pass. The Miner defense then got in on the scoring, as Tershawn Wharton(University City, MO/University City) – selected as the game's most valuable player on defense – scooped up a Meehl fumble and raced 48 yards for a touchdown just over a minute later.
S&T scored again before the end of the third quarter off another Dragon mistake, as Chandler Anderson (Columbia, MO/Battle) forced a fumble on a scrambling Meehl that Ben Straatmann(Washington, MO/Washington) recovered at the Dragon 40, leading to Swart's record-setting touchdown pass of 12 yards to Armontrout.
The Miners' final points in the game also broke a record, as Ben Styron (Harrisonville, MO/Harrisonville) kicked a 27-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter for his 14th field goal of the season, breaking the S&T's single-season mark in that category.
Among the other marks to fall or be tied Saturday besides the records set by Swart – who finished his career with a record 8.796 passing yards and 628 completions – and Styron was the mark for tackles for a loss, as Bo Brooks (Canutillo, TX/Canutillo) made two in the game to finish with 22 on the season and the record for passes defended in a season, as Chapman ended with 23 on the year to tie Will Brown's mark set in the 2013 campaign.
And while it was not a record, Graham's 40 receiving yards put him at 1,015 for the season, marking the seventh time in Miner history that an S&T receiver cleared the 1,000-yard mark in a year. It was the second time for the senior wideout, who also had 1,029 yards two seasons ago.
The Miners outgained the Dragons 437-250 on the day as they ran for 225 yards in the game, getting 81 from Jones also with the 56 from Swart and 48 more from McAlister. Defensively, Compton finished with 10 tackles – closing his S&T career with 359, the fourth-most in Miner history – and Wharton had eight stops that included 4.5 for a loss and 1.5 sacks to go along with the score on the fumble return.
Besides the seven turnovers, S&T also recorded three sacks and held the Dragons to a net 59 yards rushing; the defensive unit forced 79 yards in losses in the rushing department.
With the victory, the Miners also assured themselves of posting the best record among all of the 21 college football teams in the state of Missouri for the 2018 season.