WARRENSBURG — Central Missouri notched its second home playoff win in program history on Saturday, Nov. 23, taking down the University of Indianapolis 37-27 at Walton Stadium.
“They had a great football team and it took everything we had to beat them today,” Central Missouri coach Jim Svoboda said.
The Greyhounds started the game with a strong opening statement, driving 75 yards on seven plays, capped off by a 32-yard touchdown strike from TJ Edwards to Ryan Topper on fourth and sixth.
Sophomore Shae Wyatt started his monster day with a 45-yard catch-and-run on the opening play for Central Missouri.
The Mules got down to the two-yard line before getting stopped and having to settle for a 20-yard chip shot by Sam Knowlton.
UIndy looked poised to open up a two-score lead, driving down to the Mule one-yard line. The Central Missouri defense held on second and third down to keep the Greyhounds to a field goal and a 10-3 lead at the four minute, 48 seconds mark of the first quarter.
“That gave us a lot of energy on defense,” Central Missouri defensive lineman Ubong Udom said. “It made a lot of guys step up throughout the rest of the game.”
Wyatt set up the next UCM score with a 40-yard reception, taking the Mules from deep inside their own territory to the Greyhound 39.
Devante Turner, who finished with 60 yards on 18 carries, needed just a yard to pick up the first down on fourth and one to keep the drive alive after Wyatt’s reception. Instead, he motored for 19, putting the Mules inside the red zone for a second time.
Once again, UCM had to settle for a field goal with Knowlton trimming the deficit down to 10-6 with 12:59 left in the half on a 26-yard kick.
Of Central Missouri five trips into the red zone, three ended in field goals by Knowlton.
“It’s a little frustrating,” Central Missouri quarterback Brook Bolles said. “You want to obviously score touchdowns, but points are the big thing.”
After scoring 10 points on their first two drives, the Greyhounds were held scoreless in the first half, punting three times and turning it over on downs once.
The Mules got their offense humming after Knowlton’s second field goal.
Bolles found Zach Davidson, who fought off defensive pass interference to make the snag, for a 33-yard score to cap off a 10-play, 87-yard drive with 7:11 left in the half.
Central Missouri closed the half with a 14-yard strike from Bolles to Wyatt to go into the break leading 20-10.
Coming out of the break, UIndy put together a 10-play, 70-yard drive to get within four, 20-16. Greyhound running back Al McKeller, who finished with 84 yards on 15 carries, took in the score from 17 yards out.
“He was a big dude,” Udom said. “It was tough bringing him down. I thought we all did a good job of not just getting one guy to the ball, but getting two, three, four to him, but definitely the biggest back we’ve seen all year.”
UIndy’s drive was kept alive with an unsportsmanlike conduct flag on Davidson on the sidelines after the Mules held on third and eight. The extra first down allowed the Greyhounds to draw within a score.
Davidson made up for the flag on the following drive, catching three passes for 41 yards including a 26-yard pick up on fourth and three that put UCM at the Greyhound seven but the Mules once again stalled out in the red zone.
A reverse to Drew Slager on second and goal lost 13 yards, which was picked up on third down, leading the Knowlton’s third chip shot, this time from 21-yards out to put UCM back up a touchdown, 23-16.
The Greyhound worked the game back down to a one-score contest at 23-19 with a 30-yard field goal by Paul Buisman with 10:40 left.
Central Missouri put the game away with back-to-back touchdowns to go up 37-19.
The Mules ran 13 plays to score their final two touchdowns with nine passing plays and four rushing. UIndy held UCM to 87 yards rushing — the second lowest total of the season.
“They were really committed to taking away the run,” Svoboda said.
With the Greyhounds shutting down the run, Central Missouri was more than comfortable turning to its potent passing attack.
“We strive for balance, but we got to the point in the game where I told coach (John McMenamin, the offensive coordinator) we need to dial up a series where we throw it every snap,” Svoboda said. “Obviously that worked out pretty well for us.”
Wyatt put the finishing touches on his playoff masterpiece with the new directive, accounting for all 65-yards on a 10-play drive with four catches to give the Mules a 30-19 lead.
The sophomore picked up a pair of first downs with two 10-yards receptions, then hauled in a 22-yard catch on third and 16 to keep the drive moving.
A sack of Bolles for -6 yards and a rush of 6 yards by the senior quarterback put the Mules in fourth down and four from the UIndy 23.
Central Missouri turned to Wyatt again for the fourth down conversion. The Omaha, Nebraska-native spun away from a would-be tackler to turn a first down pick up into a 23-yard score.
“On the hitch route, I thought we were going to get seven or eight (yards) and he made one guy miss and then went to the house,” Bolles said.
Wyatt finished the day with nine receptions for 176 yards and two scores.
“That’s kind of per usual for that kid,” Svoboda said. “He has got tremendous hands and a knack for the big play.”
The UCM defense, which held the Greyhounds to a 372 yards of offense, set up the final score.
Udom notched the lone sack of the day for Central Missouri at the best time, bring down Edwards for a 12 yard loss on third and seven from the UIndy 24 yard line.
“The tackle had been kicking out to me fast all game, and figured if I got a good get-off and then just used my speed off the edge, we’d see what would happen,” Udom said. “I got off the edge and he still had the ball.”
Udom’s sack led to a short field for the Mules, who needed just three plays to score for a final time.
Bolles hit Ryan Flournoy twice for gains of 13 and 11 yards, setting up Koby Wilkerson for a 11-yard dash to the end zone. Wilkerson tallied 37 yards on 11 touches for the afternoon.
UIndy added a late score and two-point conversion, but Central Missouri recovered the ensuing onside kick to keep the game out of reach.
“It was just a good football game and that’s a team that brings out the best in you,” Svoboda said.
Central Missouri racked up 464 yards of offense. Bolles accounted for 377 on 27 of 37 passing, eclipsing 8,000 career yards and 4,000 for the season — just the second UCM quarterback to reach either milestone.
The win evens Central Missouri’s playoff record at 3-3 and keeps the Mules perfect at home in the playoffs at 2-0.
Central Missouri will head to Big Rapids, Michigan, for the second round of the playoffs to tussle with Ferris State.
The Bulldogs, the No. 1 seed in Super Region 3, received a bye in the first week and are 10-0 on the season and have not played since Nov. 9.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. Eastern Time.