By KYLE MANTHE
The Washburn Review
After a walk-off win the week before Washburn football returned to action Saturday at Yager Stadium to face No.2 ranked Northwest Missouri State University in a game between top-five MIAA teams that was both an offensive struggle and defensive battle.
It was the Ichabods who came out on top, with a 17-16 comeback victory late to knock off the undefeated Bearcats and move to 5-2 overall and 4-0 at home on the year.
“I’m really proud of them, the kids stuck together and it is hard, the schedule we have had six games in a row with, those teams are quality teams,” Washburn coach Craig Schurig said of the Ichabods' recent stretch.
The Bearcats dominated possession early, with an 18-play drive in the first quarter that went over 80 yards but resulted in no points after a missed field goal. Offensively, the Ichabods were slow to get started after an injury to senior quarterback Mitch Schurig on the first possession of the game.
“I’ve been here two years and I felt like I was ready for it,'' said freshman Kellen Simoncic, who replaced Schurig (concussion protocol). "It was a little overwhelming at the start, but Mitch has been such a good leader and example of how to prepare,”
Midway through the second quarter Simoncic got the offense moving on a 13-play drive, setting up a 36-yard field goal by freshman kicker Trenton Brehm, putting the first points on the board.
The ensuing drive highlighted the stout defensive effort from Washburn, as senior defensive end Malick Fall picked up his second sack of the half and junior safety Peyton Lane recorded an interception in the end zone to end the drive and half.
After allowing Northwest Missouri into the end zone for the first time midway through the third quarter, the Ichabods responded with a touchdown drive of their own, capped off by a 15-yard catch by senior wide receiver James Letcher Jr. from Simoncic.
A third and goal sack from Fall the following drive would keep the Bearcats out of the end zone and set up another missed field goal early in the fourth quarter.
“I wasn’t thinking of anything crazy, I wasn’t trying to do anything extra, just trying to do my job and things fell my way,” said Fall.
An interception from Simoncic set up Northwest Missouri with good field position which they used to pound the ball into the end zone and take a four-point lead.
However, the Washburn offense remained unfazed and moved down the field to reclaim the lead on a 15-yard touchdown catch and run by sophomore Taylon Peters from Simoncic.
“You just try to take every drive like it’s 0-0 and just start over,'' Simoncic said. "We just tried to stay calm, and when adversity struck I think we took it head on and capitalized when we needed to.''
The Bearcats' desperate attempt to score was cut short by junior defensive back Kevin Neal Jr., who hauled in an interception with eight seconds left to seal the win.''
“Back-to-back weeks our kids figured out a way to come through, and defense played outstanding all game and our offense had just enough,” said Craig Schurig.
WASHBURN 17, NORTHWEST MISSOURI STATE 16
NORTHWEST MISSOURI (5-1, 5-1) 0 0 7 9
WASHBURN (5-2, 5-2) 0 3 7 7
Washburn –- Brehm 36 FG, 4:39.
Northwest Missouri -- Davis 4 pass from Hohensee (Lammel kick), 5:08.
Washburn -– Letcher Jr. 15 pass from Simoncic (Brehm kick), 1:16.
Northwest Missouri -– McKeller 1 yard rush (Lammel kick), 4:15.
Washburn -- Peters 15 pass from Simoncic (Brehm kick), 0:48.
Northwest Missouri – Simoncic safety, 0:05.
Rushing -- Northwest Missouri: McKeller 30-166, Green 6-31, Moya 2-14, Tatum 2-0. Washburn: Willis 7-25, Peters 10-17, Williams, 1-4, Letcher Jr. 1-2.
Passing -- Northwest Missouri: Hohensee 22-32-2, 217 yards. Washburn: Simoncic 15-29-1, 157; Schurig 2-3-0, 33.
Receiving -- Northwest Missouri: Tatum 8-59, McKeller 5-58, Donadelle 3-35, Davis 2-24. Washburn: Letcher Jr. 6-59, Williams 5-64, Peters 3-31, Simmons 2-28.
Punting -- Northwest Missouri: Williams 3-119. Washburn: Spiker 4-137.
Tackles -- Northwest Missouri: Smith 4 solo-0 assist-4 total, Strambler 4-0-4, Nimmers 2-2-4, Anderson 2-2-4. Washburn: Barnett-Kruger 6-3-9, Fall 6-3-9, Neal Jr. 3-3-6, Lane 5-1-6.
Attendance – 4,820