Mules get ready for Missouri Western in season opener

Written by Muleskinner Staff

The Mules open their 2013 football season against the sixth-ranked Missouri Western Griffons on Thursday at home. The game will be featured as the first MIAA Television Network Game of the Week. Neil Harwell will provide the play-by-play broadcast with Rich Baldinger providing the color-commentary. KMOS TV will replay the game on Sunday night at 10 p.m.

In their last meeting, the Griffons jumped out to a 28-0 first half lead before the Mules forged a furious late-game rally that ultimately came up short. UCM out-gained MWSU 432-342, but UCM threw three interceptions and turned the ball over on downs three times.
Colter Smith finished the game 20-of-28 for 250 yards and two touchdowns. LaVance Taylor gained 109 yards on 12 carries for a 9.1 yards per carry average. Ronrei Llyod and Cullen Rosine each scored their first career touchdowns.
Michael Hill rushed for 169 yards and two touchdowns and Travis Partridge was 14-of-20 for 126 yards and three touchdowns to lead Missouri Western.
It was just the second loss for UCM under Jim Svoboda when scoring 21 or more points. It was the second straight loss to MWSU and the ninth loss in the last 10 meetings. The loss was the first in a season-opener for the Mules since 2007 and their sixth straight defeat to the Griffons in St. Joseph.

UCM looks to runningback LeVance Taylor who carried the ball 150 times for 672 yards and eight touchdowns. On defense they return a veteran linebacking core led by Ricky Spratley who had 53 tackles including two sacks last season. Griffons quarterback Travis Partridge is back after averaging 193.3 yards per game passing with 30 touchdowns last season. Defenseman Stephen Juergons led the Griffons with 95 tackles and two interceptions.

Quick Hits
• The Mules kickoff the 2013 season facing the sixth-ranked and defending MIAA Champion Missouri Western Griffons. This is the second straight year that these two teams face each other in the season-opener.
• UCM looks to start a new streak of season-opening wins after having their four-game winning streak snapped by the Griffons in last year’s season-opener in St. Joseph.
• Central Missouri went 6-4 last season finishing in seventh place in the MIAA standings. It was the sixth straight winning season for Mules Football and the 14th in the last 15 seasons.
• The Griffons went 12-2 last season, winning the first MIAA championship in school history. MWSU advanced to the NCAA-II Quarterfinals before falling to Minnesota State 17-10.
• This is the first of five home games for the Mules in 2013. UCM will play a 10-game schedule again in 2013, but only nine conference games. This is the fourth straight season that the Mules only have five regular season home games.
• The Central Missouri offense was third in the MIAA in passing last season averaging 291.3 yards per game. They were seventh in scoring offense at 28.8 points per contest.
• The Mule defense was second in the league in scoring defense allowing 22.1 points per game and third in turnover margin. UCM also led the league in net punting at 39.2 yards per kick.

In other MIAA games:
Central Oklahoma at Missouri Southern 
Central Oklahoma will open the 2013 campaign on the road with a trip to Missouri Southern. The two teams faced off last year to open the season in Edmond, Okla. as the Lions held off a fourth quarter charge by the Bronchos to pull out a five point victory. UCO returns the league’s second best rusher in Joshua Birmingham who scored 13 touchdowns and averaged 107.3 yards per game. Quarterback Adrian Nelson averaged 197.4 yards passing per game. On defense Devoris Dozier led the team with 77 tackles.  Missouri Southern led the league in rushing offense last season, but must replace their two top rushers. Runningback Travis Hurd is their top returner after carrying the ball 45 times for 275 yards. Defensively Gaitlin Ridgeway had 57 tackles last year including 8.5 which were for a loss.
Washburn at Nebraska-Kearney 
Washburn will hit the road to open 2013 as they face the Nebraska-Kearney in their season opener. The two squads opened the year last year in Topeka with Washburn driving for touchdowns in the third and fourth quarter to pull out a 24-14 victory. On offense the Ichabods return Mitch Buhler at quarterback who averaged 173.7 yards per game and threw for 16 touchdowns. On defense Bryce Atagi led the team with 114 tackles including 11.5 tackles for a loss. The Lopers sported the league’s best run defense led by returner Kellen Werner who had 82 tackles including 14.5 tackles for a loss. On offense UNK will have to replace some production but Matt Berry will return at receiver after playing eight games at quarterback last year. He had nine catches for 60 yards at wideout last year.
#22 Saginaw Valley State at #4 Northwest Missouri 
Northwest Missouri will open the season with an non-conference match-up on their home turf against Saginaw Valley State. The match-up features the nation’s 22nd ranked team against the nation’s fourth ranked team. The Bearcats led the MIAA in scoring offense last year led by Trevor Adams who averaged 193.5 yards per game passing and threw for 23 touchdowns. The league’s top passing defense returns Brandon Dixon who pulled down five interceptions in 2012. For the Cardinals on offense Jonathon Jennings averaged 298.4 yards per game and threw for 27 touchdowns. On defense Brian Johnson had 102 tackles including eight that went for a loss.
Emporia State at Fort Hays State 
Emporia State and Fort Hays State will open the year facing off for the third straight season. When the two teams met to open last year ESU scored 24 second half points to win 41-18 at home. As the Hornets hit the road this year they return a strong receiving core that led the league in yardage last year. They will look to Ray Ray Davis who caught 61 passes for 899 yards and eight touchdowns. On defense Jordan Sanders was tenth in the league in tackles with 96 including two sacks. On offense for the Tigers wide receiver Tanner Hageman had 31 catches for 388 yards and four touchdowns. On defense cornerback Michael Jordan racked up 87 tackles including two for a loss.
Lincoln at Lindenwood 
Lindenwood will open their first season as full members of NCAA Division II at home when they face Lincoln. The two teams faced off last year in Jefferson City and the Lions outscored the Tigers 21-7 in the second half to pull out a 49-28 victory. On offense they return Ben Gomez who threw for 1,891 yards and 15 touchdowns. On defense Pierre Desir led the MIAA with nine interceptions for the Lions. For the Blue Tigers Jacob Morris returns at quarterback after throwing for ten touchdowns and rushing for six in 2012. On defense lineman Darryl Blackmon returns after having 45 tackles including 14.5 for a loss.
Northeastern State at #21 Pittsburg State 
#21 Pittsburg State will open the year at home when they face Northeastern State. When the two teams met last season in Tahlequah, PSU jumped out to a 21-6 halftime lead on the way to a 41-20 victory. John Brown, who racked up 2,000 all-purpose yards, returns to lead the PSU offense and special teams. On defense Nate Dreiling led the team with 83 tackles and 9.5 tackles for a loss last season. The RiverHawks have the league’s top returning rusher in Joel Rockmore who averaged 113.8 yards per game last season with ten touchdowns. On defense last year Langston Jones led the league in tackles with 110   finishing with two sacks.
Southwest Baptist at Truman 
Southwest Baptist will open the season on the road at Truman State in a non-league game with the GLVC opponent. The Bearcats return receiver Derwyn Lauderdale who caught 76 passes for 697 yards and five touchdowns. On defense Shaquille Shedd was fifth in the MIAA in tackles with 105 on the year, 3.5 of which went for a loss. Truman, in their first year since leaving the MIAA, won the meeting between the two teams last year 24-14 in Bolivar. TSU quarterback Conrad Schottel threw for 2,103 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012. On defense Jeramey Dockery had 58 tackles on the season.