Joplin, Mo. -- The Missouri Southern football team committed six turnovers and despite leading 21-17 at the half, the Lions fell 35-21 tonight at home to fourth-ranked Missouri Western.
Southern (5-2, 4-2 MIAA) out gained the Griffons (7-0, 5-0 MIAA) 389-331, including 276 yards on the ground and 113 yards through the air.
Turnovers proved to be costly for the Lions as Southern fumbled twice on the opening kickoff, giving the ball to the Griffons on the ten yard line. Western used two plays and Travis Partridge connected with Daylon Harper for a touchdown pass.
Another fumble by the Lions on their next possession again gave the ball to Western at the 12 yard line and the Griffons would take three plays to use a Raphael Spencer one yard run for the score and go up 14-0.
The Lions would settle down and start their comeback on their next drive. Chris Barnwell ran the ball for the first four plays picking up a first down, before Jay McDowell hooked up with Josh Jones for an 11-yard catch and another first down. McDowell added two more runs and a big pass to Michael Nelson for 21 yards to put the Lions on Western's 22 yard line. Three-straight runs for three yards each put the ball at the 13 and JJ Jones scampered for the score 14-7.
Western drove to the Lions' five-yard line, but the Southern defense came up strong and stopped Partridge on two-straight passing attempts and the Griffons settled for a 22-yard field goal from John Schmiemeier.
Southern would take over on their next drive on its own 22 and on the first play from scrimmage, Barnwell raced out for a 53-yard run to give the Lions the ball on the Western 25-yard line as the time ran out of the first quarter. McDowell added a 13-yard run to the 11 and Ejay Johnson scampered five yards putting the ball on the six, setting up a McDowell six-yard rushing touchdown to cut the Western lead to 17-14 with 11:40 left in the half.
Both teams would trade punts and the Lions' defense would force a three and out out to pick up the ball with 2:17 left in the half. Scott Groner punted the ball 25 yards to the Western 46 yard line and Nelson returned the punt for 13 yards giving the Lions the ball at the Western 33. Jocqui Davis rushed for nine yards to start the drive and Terrance Allen followed that up with a 21-yard run to the Western three-yard line. Griesse Forchu would take the ball in to give Southern a 21-17 lead heading into the half.
Western wasted little time in getting back on the board as the Griffins used a nine-play, 61-yard drive and Schmiemeier connected from 41 yards to cut the score to 21-20 Lions.
A McDowell interception would end a Lions drive on their next possession, but the Southern defense would come up big and forced a fumble on a sack of Partridge. Paco Varol had the force and Dalvin Taylor picked up the loose ball. Southern, however, would turn over the ball, this time on a fumble from Johnson. Western made the Lions pay and Partridge hooked up with Stephon Weaver for a six yard score and the two-point conversion was good, giving the Griffons a 28-21 lead.
The Lions punted on their next drive to give the ball to the Griffons on their own seven to start the fourth. The defense held strong and forced a Groner punt to the Lions'44. McDowell ran for 26 yards on the first play of the drive getting to the Western 30-yard line and he hooked up with Davis for a 27-yard catch to the Griffons' four-yard line, setting up first and goal. Three runs of a yard each from McDowell put the Lions on the Western one-yard line, but Southern would fumble giving the Griffons the ball at their own one yard line.
Here's where it got interesting. On the first play from scrimmage, there was movement from the Western line, but the ball was not hiked. No call was made and after the Lions' defense stood up, Partridge took the snap and found Josh Walker on the near sideline for the 99-yard touchdown pass. The play was the longest pass from scrimmage in Griffons' history and put the game on ice.
Barnwell led the rushing attack for the Lions with 128 yards on 21 carries. McDowell had 63 yards and a score, while Jones and Forchu had a touchdown each. McDowell was 10-17 through the air for 113 yards, while six different Lions caught a pass.
Defensively, Varol led the effort with nine tackles, including a half sack, 1.5 tackles for a loss and one forced fumble. He added two quarterback hurries. Gatlin Ridgway had eight tackles, while Dalvin Taylor had a fumble recovery.
The Lions will be back in action next week when Southern travels to second-ranked Northwest Missouri. Kickoff is slated for a 2 pm start.