WU's Rose gets memory of a lifetime with 75-yard touchdown ramble

Rick Peterson



Washburn University defensive end Braden Rose isn't likely to make the switch to running back any time soon.

But the 6-foot-1, 255-pound junior did record the Ichabods' second-longest touchdown of the 2021 season last Saturday, scooping up a Central Oklahoma fumble in the closing seconds and rambling 75 yards for Washburn's game-clinching TD in a 29-17 road victory over the Bronchos.

Rose admitted he was out of gas by the time he reached the end zone, but said that was a small price to pay to achieve what he called the biggest moment of his football career. 

"I definitely didn't have a lot left,'' Rose said. "It took everything I had to get the touchdown because obviously I don't do that type of running all the time, but the experience of a lifetime scoring that was what kept me going.

"That's No. 1 for sure. That's definitely a play I'll never forget.''

Ironically, Rose's 75-yard TD with nine seconds remaining came just three minutes after James Letcher Jr. recorded Washburn's longest scoring play of the season on a 90-yard kickoff return as the 6-2 Ichabods rallied from a late 17-16 deficit.

Washburn junior defensive end Braden Rose (right) battles for a loose ball in the Ichabods' 17-16 win over then-No. 2-ranked Northwest Missouri. [File photo by Rex Wolf/TSN]Washburn junior defensive end Braden Rose (right) battles for a loose ball in the Ichabods' 17-16 win over then-No. 2-ranked Northwest Missouri. [File photo by Rex Wolf/TSN]

Rose's highlight-reel score was part of another strong performance by the Washburn defense, which has not allowed an opponent to score more than 20 points over its current three-game winning streak.

Going into Saturday's 1 p.m. MIAA home game against 2-6 Northeastern State at Yager Stadium, Rose has registered 22 tackles (16 solos), with 3.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and three quarterback hurries.

"It's a great time, just having the camaraderie of our defense as a whole,'' said Rose, also a standout thrower for the Ichabods' track and field team. "I feel like we all get along very well and it's just fun playing with your brothers out there, making plays and getting things done. I love our defense.''

Rose, a former state high school champion in the shot put and javelin, said that the Ichabods used the COVID-canceled 2020 season to get closer as a team, which is paying dividends this fall.

"I think that whole year was just a year to get through it all because obviously we didn't know what was going to happen, we didn't know when we were going to play again,'' Rose said. "But at the same time everyone showed up every day, everyone came back to practice, came back to weights and I definitely think that showed that everyone wants to be here.

"It definitely built that closeness for us.''




Big-time player, big-time plays: Neal's takeaways help key Ichabod wins

Rick Peterson



How big were Kevin Neal Jr.'s defensive takeaways in back-to-back Washburn University wins over then-No. 2-ranked Northwest Missouri and Central Oklahoma?

Big enough that Neal himself isn't sure which play he enjoyed the most.

Neal, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound junior defensive back, came up with a game-saving interception at the goal line in the Ichabods' 17-16 win over perennial MIAA power Northwest two weeks ago and turned in another huge takeaway in 6-2 Washburn's 29-17 road win at Central Oklahoma last Saturday, preventing a Broncho touchdown when he stripped the ball away from a UCO ball-carrier in the first half.

"To be honest, in both circumstances I was just trying to make a play for the team, do whatever I could to help the team,'' Neal said. "They were both super cool and both big plays in the game obviously, but neither one of them sticks out.

"I was just glad to make the plays for the team.''

KevinNealJrNWKevin Neal Jr. is congratulated by his Washburn teammates after a game-saving interception against Northwest Missouri. [File photo by Rex Wolf/TSN]

Neal said big defensive plays, particularly the strip against Central Oklahoma, come down to anticipation and a little bit of gambling.

"It was just taking a chance,'' said Neal, a native of Platte City, Mo. "I saw the ball-carrier running with the ball and I could tell that he didn't know I was behind him, so I thought if I could get close enough before he got to the end zone hopefully I could pop it out.

"I saw the ball at the last second so I just took a chance and it worked out.''

Neal, who ranks third on the team with 37 tackles (28 solo), said Ichabod co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Zach Watkins works with Washburn's players on putting themselves in position to get takeaways.

"Coach Watkins does a great job of having us work on different types of situations and drills on how to take the ball away,'' Neal said. "That's something we definitely practice and we've been trying to make big plays and help our offense out for the whole season.

"We've done a pretty good job of it, so that's definitely thanks to coach Watkins and having us do drills and extra work.''

 KevinNeal2Washburn junior defensive back Kevin Neal Jr. makes a game-saving interception in the Ichabods' 17-16 win over Northwest Missouri. [File photo by Rex Wolf/TSN]

Washburn's defense has been solid most of the season, but has stepped up its game during the Ichabods' current three-game winning streak, with none of WU's last three opponents scoring more than 20 points.

"We have a lot of trust in each other and we've been with each other a long time and played a lot of snaps together,'' said Neal, whose Ichabods will host 2-6 Northeastern State Saturday at Yager Stadium (1 p.m.). "Everything's based on us getting better each week and we try to make sure we don't get too high or too low and just try to get better and I feel that's what we've been doing a great job of.

"It's been pretty good so far, but we know how much better we can still get and we just keep working at practice to get better and better and reach our maximum potential.''