Oct. 23, 2010
Late 2-pt conversion stop keeps Northwest in first place
TOPEKA, Kan.-Northwest Missouri State's defense was ready for the challenge. Washburn coach Craig Schurig liked the momentum the Ichabods had to try a go-ahead, two-point conversion.
Once again the Bearcats made one final winning play, breaking up a pass with 56 seconds left and securing a thrilling 41-40 victory over Washburn Saturday afternoon at Yager Stadium.
"We just had to get a stop," said senior cornerback Ryan Jones, who finished with two interceptions. "That was the main thing on my mind the whole time.
"I'd like to say this is more of a rivalry than any other team we play in the MIAA."
Junior wide receiver Jake Soy called it the toughest game of the year.
"We absolutely know we are going to get their best," Soy said. "We know it is going to be a last-second play and it's not going to be more than three points."
Senior tight end Josh Baker experienced his first Washburn-Northwest game and was left with one word: sore.
"It was definitely fun," said Baker, who finished with nine receptions for a season-best 107 yards and one touchdown. "It kind of shows what kind of team we have to win a close game. We pick each other up and feed off each other's energy."
The players who leave this game are usually mentally and physically drained. Last year Northwest beat Washburn 22-19 in overtime.
It's understandable why Schurig wanted to avoid the extra period this year, especially after senior wide receiver Joe Hastings caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Dane Simoneau on 4th and 7.
"We talked it over and we thought we had a good play for the two-point conversion," Schurig said. "We wanted to seize that moment. They defended it well and that's why they are such a good team."
Simoneau tried Hastings again for the two-point conversion. Northwest settled into a zone defense. The pass was incomplete.
"I was relieved they went for two because at least then we wouldn't have to go into overtime," Northwest coach Mel Tjeerdsma said. "We regrouped and did a great job on the attempt and that's all we needed."
The Bearcats needed so much more to get in a position to win. They faced deficits of 14-0 and 24-14 in the first half.
Northwest then scored 20 straight points and held a 34-24 lead with 4:55 left in the third quarter.
The Bearcats ended the first half on fire offensively and then took the opening drive of the third quarter 80 yards in four plays, scoring on a 57-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Blake Bolles to tight end Kyle Kilgore.
"It was huge for us," said Bolles, who passed for 333 yards and three touchdowns. "We were down at the half and we had a good drive right away and scored. It was huge for our defense as well. They played well the whole game."
It was a big day for the tight ends. Baker caught the last touchdown for Northwest on a 31-yard reception from Bolles with 11:23 left in the game that gave the Bearcats a 41-34 lead.
Based on previous history between the two teams, the Bearcats knew they still faced a stiff challenge to finish off the victory.
Both defenses stepped up until Washburn finally broke through on a fourth-down play that left the Ichabods one-point shy of a tie.
"We came through at the end and everybody stuck together. It's a really good feeling," said senior running back Kelvin Austin, who ran for 66 yards and a touchdown."
Northwest gave up the first 14 points and later a 74-yard touchdown run on the Wildcat formation, but went into halftime down only 24-21.
"We got off to such a great start. Everything was going our way but when the half ended we were up by three," Schurig said.
The Bearcats were fortunate.
They also made up for some miscues like a block punt that led to Washburn's second touchdown.
"We couldn't let our heads down because if we did we would get beat," Jones said. "We had to keep our heads up."
Northwest made a huge play on special teams when Graylon Sanders blocked a Washburn punt and Justin Eiken got the ball and raced 31 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 14-14.
But just when the Bearcats appeared to have the momentum, Washburn quickly turned it back around on the 74-yard touchdown run by Vashon Moore who ran from the Wildcat spot.
Moore broke through the middle and late in the run, busted free from another tackle to put Washburn ahead by seven.
The Ichabods later added a field goal for a 10-point advantage.
"The thinking was we got to come back and change the momentum of the game," Austin said. "We knew we could do it. We just had to come out and make plays and handle the adversity and come through."
Northwest finally looked like itself offensively with 3:23 left in the second quarter. The Bearcats started at its 9 and drove 91 yards in 11 plays and scored a touchdown on an 8-yard pass from Blake Bolles to Jake Soy.
The Bearcats were crisp and efficient on the drive that ended with 19.2 seconds left until halftime.
"That was a big-time drive for them," Schurig said.
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