Currently ranked first in the MIAA in scoring defense and total defense, No. 4 Northwest Missouri State has made a season-long habit of shutting down the league's top offensive units or otherwise.
In all 10 games, the Bearcats have prevented their opponents from reaching their current scoring averages.
And with the exception of Central Missouri's 31-point outing in week two, it hasn't been close.
Most recently, the Bearcats (9-1, 8-1) limited No. 25 Emporia State's third-ranked MIAA scoring offensive unit to a season-low 10 points and under 300 yards.
That makes eight times in 10 games where the opposition has failed to reach 14 points against Northwest.
Playing as well as any unit in the country right now, Northwest's defense will go toe-to-toe Saturday with an offense that is a cut above everything they've seen over the first 10 weeks.
No. 11 Missouri Western (9-1, 8-1) ranks second to Northwest in scoring offense at 44.5 ppg and has topped 55 points in each of its last three wins over Pittsburg State, Emporia State and Washburn.
The Griffons also have the MIAA's No. 1 total offense, the No. 1 rush offense, and while ranking 11th in pass offense, they are tops in terms of efficiency.
In short, they are the total offensive package.
"Their offense is so much better than the last three we've played," said Northwest Missouri State head coach Adam Dorrel. "It's a night and day difference. They're complete. They've got a veteran quarterback. They've got a veteran offensive line. They've got a tailback whose really good and he's got receivers around him. They're just complete and they're balanced."
A large part of what makes Western's offense so dynamic is the backfield presence of senior Michael Hill, a serious contender for MIAA Offensive Player of the Year.
Arguably the nation's best running back, Hill ranks first in the MIAA and second nationally in rushing with 1,688 yards. He's scored 14 touchdowns and averages better than seven yards per attempt.
Only once all season has Hill been held under 100 yards in a game and that came in Western's only loss to Missouri Southern, 31-30.
He attained his water mark of 259 yards in last week's 56-28 win over Washburn.
Hill runs behind an offensive line consisting of five seniors that weigh in at 285 or above.
And much more so than last year, the Griffons have the ability to be balanced.
Quarterback Travis Partridge, the son of head coach Jerry Partridge, has improved by leaps and bounds from his sophomore debut season to present day.
The second-year starter is the MIAA's most efficient passer with a rating of 158.9.
He has the third highest completion percentage of 62.8 with a league-high 23 touchdown passes to only seven interceptions—fewest among full-time starters.
A renowned runner as well, Partridge has picked up 363 yards and scored 10 touchdowns this year.
"He's a coaches kid and he makes good decisions," said Dorrel. "You look at when he started playing quarterback for them, they've been pretty good on offense. He loves football. He's probably going into coaching. He grew up around coaching and he understands the game. He understands the defenses."
Much like Northwest, Western's fleet of receivers isn't high on name value, but contains plenty of play-making ability.
One of the conference's best at his position, tight end Reggie Jordan is the team leader in touchdown receptions with eight.
Receivers Kyle Knox and Tyron Crockum are tied for the team lead with 27 catches.
Northwest Missouri State will go into its conference title-deciding showdown with Missouri Western Saturday as healthy as can possibly be this late in the season.
The Bearcats three main health question marks—starting quarterback Trevor Adams, back-up quarterback
Brady Bolles and starting wide receiver Bryce Young—were given medical clearance to practice Tuesday and should be full-go for the game.
Adams was taken out of Saturday's 55-10 win over Emporia State in the third quarter and went to the locker room to get evaluated by the team's medical staff after taking two hard hits earlier on.
Bolles and Young both sat out the game with injuries.
It was Young's second straight game being inactive after playing in the first eight.
Tickets going fast
Northwest Missouri State announced Tuesday that is has already run out of reserved seating tickets for Saturday's game against Missouri Western.
Standing room only tickets are still available for $12 for adults and $10 for student's K-12 or visiting students.
These can be purchased in person or by phone at 660-562-1212.
This marks the fourth time this season Northwest has sold out of reserved seats, joining the home contests against East Central, Northeastern State and Emporia State.
Northwest has won its last 14 home games, the third longest such streak in school history.
By Joey Falkoff firstname.lastname@example.org
The Maryville Daily Forum - Maryville, MO
By Joey Falkoff email@example.com
Updated Nov. 6, 2012 @ 10:10 pm
» EVENTS CALENDAR
Connect with The Maryville Daily Forum - Maryville, MO