With its offense sputtering, its quarterback trying to catch his breath after a hit on an interception and backed up inside its own 25-yard line late, the Emporia State defense had to step up to upend No. 12 Missouri Western on the road.
Gary Fortune intercepted a pass from MWSU quarterback Travis Partridge deep in the ESU end with under 15 seconds left to seal the No. 14 Hornets' 35-30 win in St. Joseph, Mo.
ESU had answered a stretch where Western scored 24 unanswered points in the second, third and fourth quarters to take a 24-21 lead by scoring two straight touchdowns and leading 35-24 midway through the fourth quarter. Wilson capped a lengthy drive with a 1-yard pass to Kavaski Ervin. Following an interception by Josh Monteagudo, Wilson found Ray Ray Davis on an acrobatic 1-yard pass to make the score 35-24.
Partridge, who was 22-of-40 for 298 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions, led the Griffons back down the field for a touchdown but threw short on the two-point conversion attempt to make the score 35-30.
On the ensuing drive, Wilson was hit trying to throw a pass. He was intercepted and a personal foul on the return put the ball at the ESU 23 with under two minutes left. Partridge moved the ball to the ESU 6 before Fortune's interception.
After a scoreless first quarter, Wilson threw a 13-yard touchdown to Ervin to give ESU a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter. Dozie Iwaugwa has added two scoring runs to pad the lead to 21-0.
Missouri Western answered with a lengthy drive, capped by an 8-yard pass from Partridge to Alek Ferbet to make the score 21-7 late in the second. A 47-yard field goal made the score 21-10 at halftime.
ESU and Missouri Western came into the game as among the leaders in the nation in turnover margin, and Emporia State created six turnovers while committing two. That stat was key because the Griffons were on the field for nearly 36 minutes and outgained the Hornets 525 yards to 351. MWSU ran 93 plays, 27 more than Emporia State.
Individually, Antonio Brown ran 14 times for 109 yards. Iwaugwa ran seven times for 49 yards and two scores. Wilson was 19-for-32 for 159 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Davis caught nine balls for 79 yards and a TD, with Ervin catching four passes for 45 yards and two scores.
Monteagudo had a huge game defensively with 12 tackles and an interception. Tariq Allen added 12 tackles and an interception, with Deshwn Dinwiddie adding 11 and Jordan Sanders 10. Chris Poston, in his first game back from a broken bone in his hand, added a pickoff.
The victory snapped an eight-game losing skid to Missouri Western.
The Hornets now are 8-0 overall and in the MIAA. They will close the season with two games against rated opponents -- Nov. 9 against No. 2 Northwest Missouri and Nov. 16 against No. 8 Washburn.
Northwest Missouri State 52 Washburn 21
Central Missouri 56 Nebraska Kearney 0
Central Oklahoma 49 Lincoln 42
Northeastern State 31 Southwest Baptist 3
Pittsburg State 70 Northwestern Oklahoma State 0
Fort Hays State 63 South Dakota Mines 17