Game Stats: GCCC vs. Independence
Garden City, Kan (westernkansasnews.com)-Buster Head Coach Matt Miller continues to preach mistake-free football. On Saturday afternoon, despite a few hiccups, his team appeared to receive the message well.
Freshman Danarious Graham threw for 208 yards and four scores; he also ran for another 98 and a touchdown as Garden City rolled over winless Independence 41-14 at Buster Stadium.
“This win tells me we’re pretty darn good when we play fundamentally-sound football,” Miller said after the game. “I can’t say enough about what our defense did today.”
That defense held the Pirates to a minuscule 192 total yards, just the second time this season Independence (0-5, 0-4) was held under 200. They also forced two turnovers and sacked Evan Lassiter twice.
Meantime the offense hit 400 or more total yards for a second straight week. And although they stumbled early when Kejuan Daniels intercepted a wobbly pass thrown by Danarious Graham on the game’s opening possession, the mistakes were few and far between.
After the defense forced the first of six three-and-outs on the day, the Buster offense went to work. Graham called his own number four times on the drive for 59 yards, including a 46-yard scamper down the right sideline that ended in the Pirates’ end zone.
“He’s (Graham’s) a special talent,” Miller said. “There’s no question about that. If he cuts out the mistakes, he’s going to be pretty good.”
Then it was the defense’s turn to make a play. After the Pirates crossed midfield for the first time, Independence offensive coordinator Matt Lott called for a post pattern down the middle. Lassiter loaded up on first-and-10 from the Buster 42 and sailed a pass over intended target Xavier Amerson’s head that was picked off by Sam Green. The play epitomized the vision defensive coordinator Oscar Rodriguez, who missed the game while undergoing chemotherapy treatments in Kansas City, had been hoping to see through the previous three games.
Leading 7-0 early in the second, Graham had Garden City (3-1, 2-1) on the move again. But after marching to the Independence 30, the drive stalled. Facing a fourth-and-16, Miller kept his field-goal unit on the sideline and rolled the dice. If he (Miller) was a riverboat gambler, he would have cashed out a millionaire. Graham rolled left on fourth-and-16 and lofted a spiral towards Brandon Snell. The sophomore made the catch at the goal line and tucked the ball inside the pylon for a touchdown. It was the first of four, fourth-down scores on the afternoon.
The second one came on the very next series when the Busters were staring at a fourth-and-15 at the Pirates’ 32. Graham went back to Snell on a drag pattern across the middle and watched the All-Jayhawk Performer outrace Cody Brown to the endzone-giving Garden City a 21-0 lead going into the locker room.
“I trust him (Graham) and he trusts me,” Snell said. “We’re building a great relationship, and it’s showing on the field. It’s all about execution.”
Independence finally showed some life on their first possession of the second half-driving 75 yards in 11 plays and scoring when running back Josh Wilhite, a transfer from Wake Forest, broke containment and raced 18 yards to the house. The Pirates misfired on the two-point conversion and trailed 21-6 with 11:36 remaining in the third.
After stopping Garden City’s next drive, the Pirates had a chance to swing the momentum. But Lassiter’s third-down pass from his own 38 fell incomplete, and Independence was forced to punt.
Garden City took advantage of a short punt by driving 46 yards to the Pirates’ 11. Then on second down, Graham eluded pressure to the right and fired a dart to Darryl Terrell in the end zone for a 27-6 advantage (Ismael Hernandez missed the extra point) with 3:55 to play in the frame.
That lead swelled to 34-6 when the Busters got the ball back following a turnover on downs at the Independence 37-yard line. Two plays later, Graham found Snell, who bounced off linebacker Kyle Brown and strolled into the end zone.
“Obviously the kid at quarterback is special,” Miller said. “And when you have the best receiver in the country in Brandon Snell, it just works; it’s that simple.”
Snell finished the afternoon with nine catches for a season-high 185 yards and three touchdowns. His 10th reception was waived off in the first half because of a holding call.
Both Snell and Graham earned a break for the final quarter as Miller inserted backup Tyler Lasalle. The freshman from Holcomb made several nice plays with his legs, including a 20-yard run in the first half when Graham had the wind knocked out of him. But when Lassale threw his first pass of the season, it was intercepted by Derrick Banks and returned 80 yards for a touchdown.
“That was on me,” Miller said. “It was third-and-long and I called that play. I have to put him in a better situation.”
The Busters responded later in the quarter-taking advantage of a Wilhite fumble inside his own 10. Four plays later, Dondre Cooksey scored his first collegiate touchdown: a nine-yard run on fourth-and-goal.
The ground game produced a workmanlike 198 yards on 45 carries-an average of 4.4 yards per clip. Lasalle finished as Garden City’s second leading rusher-carrying eight times for 32 yards.
Lassiter, the former walk-on at Florida Atlantic, was 14-of-26, for 94 yards and an interception. Wilhite carried it a team-high 18 times for 64 yards, and Amerson led the way with seven catches for 55 yards.
Notes: Busters’ Wide Receiver Monterio Burchfield missed the game with a sprained ankle (he was a game-time decision and was fully dressed)…LB Tyler Gastineau reinjured the same knee that nearly cost him his senior season at Goodland; he’s out for the year…The 41 yards in penalties was the fewest since October 27, 2012 when Garden City was flagged for just 23 against Coffeyville…the Pirates losing streak in Garden City reached 28 years (last win 1986)…Garden City has won 30 out of the last 31 meetings in the series…With his performance vs. Ellsworth, Undre Williams became the first Buster back to rush for 100 yards in back-to-back games since Jamal Tyler did it in 2012; he was held to just 27 yards on seven carries
Next up: Garden City vs. No. 2 Iowa Western-Saturday, October 4-12:30 p.m. pregame; 1 p.m. kick on 98.1 FM; z98mobile.com and the mobile app: KSKZ
Listen to the complete game in our archives section