As members of the Missouri Western football team addressed reporters following a narrow Week 1 loss to Northwest Missouri State, they didn’t appear as a group satisfied with the result.
The 45-35 loss to the No. 6 Bearcats likely would’ve been a morale booster in the past. In recent seasons, close losses in which the Griffons showed potential drew praise, including a loss to Washburn two seasons ago. Follow the 34-24 loss, one Griffon even said it felt like the team had won.
With goals of contending for a conference championship and being a bigger factor in the postseason discussion, those emotions are longer inside the offices of the Griffon Indoor Sports Complex.
“We’re right there on the cusp of dominating and being that team we wanna be,” third-year head coach Matt Williamson said. “That’s my job, that’s my responsibility. We’ve come a long way since I’ve gotten here, but we’ve gotta go deeper and get into a deeper passion with that.”
In that loss, the Griffons turned the ball over twice in the first half and once more on a failed third-down conversion. That led to 21 Bearcat points and a 28-7 deficit in the waning moments of the half.
Then the Griffons caught fire with a 99-yard drive to pull within 14 at the break, starting a 28-3 scoring run to capture their first lead against Northwest since Halloween 2015.
“It was a big confidence boost and a good momentum boost going into half,” senior quarterback Wyatt Steigerwald said after throwing for 270 yards and five total touchdowns, the best passing day by a Griffon since mid-2016.
“I thought he did real well. We looked better passing as a team than we have in two years, there’s no doubt,” Williamson said of the Steigerwald-led passing attack. “He has a good arm, a good mind. He made a couple mistakes that cost him. He’ll grow up a bunch and learn.”
The Griffons didn’t close out down the stretch, being outscored 14-0 after taking the lead. As they prepare for another top-25 foe in No. 25 Fort Hays State on Thursday in Hays, Kansas, they are working to fix those mistakes to close the gap and become that team that is there at the end of every game.
“We got hit low real early, came back, started fighting and knocking them out, taking advantage and put ourselves in a chance to win the game,” Williamson said. “We were up against a very good football team. I talked about all the tiny little factors when you play a very talented team — you can’t make those mistakes. Those mistakes ended up costing us the football game when we had it in our hands.”
Though the Griffons have as much talent as ever in Williamson’s third campaign, they’re not focusing on it as they look to bounce back on the road against a team they upset as the No. 5 squad last year.
“I think it’s not about having more athletes but having guys that hold themselves to a higher standard. That’s what we’re trying to do, this whole team, bring us from this level to a much higher level. The goal is to contend for a natty. That’s what we wanna do. To get there, we have to contend for the MIAA first.”
Odds and ends
Missouri Western women’s golf will finish up competition at the UIndy Fall Invitational today in Carmel, Indiana. … Men’s golf finished in seventh at the Watkins Invitational in Lake City, Minnesota, with Luke Horseman finishing ninth. … Western soccer (0-2) will look to bounce back from a pair of home losses when it hosts Wayne State on Friday and Sioux Falls on Sunday. … Griffon volleyball dropped just two sets in a 4-0 weekend at the Gorilla Classic Tournament in Pittsburg, Kansas. The Griffons travel to Springfield, Missouri, for the Drury Invitational on Friday at Saturday.