No. 9 Washburn overcomes second half scare

No. 9 Washburn overcomes second half scare

Drew Egnoske

Saturday night’s game between the Ichabods and the Northeastern State University Riverhawks was the hardest test of the year for Washburn.  A game that appeared to be well in hand for the Bods turned quickly into a nail biter in the second half.

Early in the first quarter, the Riverhawks marched down the field and made a 46-yard field goal on their first possession.  The Ichabods answered back with a touchdown from quarterback Mitch Buhler to Tore’ Hurst on their first series to take a 7-3 lead.  The lead was short lived as NSU scored a touchdown of their own on the next drive.

The first quarter ended with Washburn stopping NSU on a three and out.  The punt by the Riverhawks was the first play of the second quarter and also the first score by the Ichabods when cornerback Devon Connors blocked the kick and also retrieved the ball for a score.

“Devo came up big,” said Head Coach Craig Schurig.

The second quarter was all Washburn as kicker Jeremy Linn knocked in a 26-yard field goal and running back Kameron Stewart capped off the quarter with a 1-yard score.  The Ichabods held NSU scoreless to finish out the first half, taking the lead into the locker room 24-10.

The game turned into a tale of two halves.  NSU managed to make some key halftime adjustments and came back out to hold Washburn scoreless in the 3rd quarter.  The Riverhawks were unable to score in the third either, but scored early in the fourth quarter, The touchdown brought the Riverhawks back within one score as they now trailed 24-17. NSU then held the Ichabods to a three and out and came back down the field to score a field goal cutting the lead to just four with seven minutes still left to play.

Washburn hoped to run out the clock much like they had done in the first game against Kearney.  This would not be the scenario that would play out and the Ichabods found themselves in a position where they might lose this game. 

“It was a tough game.  This was the toughest team we’ve played so far.  A more physical team,” said Hayden Groves, Washburn running back.  “We were having a tough time getting anything going.”

With 1:42 left, the Riverhawks had one last chance to score.

At this point, the leaders of the Ichabods’ defense needed to step up and lead their team to victory.  Connors was the man who stepped up for a second time.  An athlete can go their whole career and only dream of being able to carry a team to victory by making a huge game winning play.  Connors was able to live out that dream on Saturday when he made a diving interception to deny the Riverhawks their last hope.

“We knew we had to make a big play.  We just kept saying ‘make a big play, make a big play’.  And the game turned around and ended in our hands,” said Connors. 

Connors was later named the MIAA special teams athlete of the week.

Schurig, not overly pleased with the performance, was relieved to get out of this one with a win,

“It’s a lot better going into next week with a struggling win than with a struggling loss,” said Schurig.

NSU gained more total yards on the game than the victorious Ichabods. The Riverhawks ended the the game with 423 total yards to WU’s 286. The Bods managed to force three key turnovers and Connors’ blocked punt turned out to be the difference in the game.

Next week the Ichabods travel to Edmond, Okla. to face the Central Oklahoma Bronchos.  The Bronchos are looking for their first win of the season and are currently 0-3.  If the Ichabods win on Saturday they will be 4-0 for the second time under Schurig.