VIDEO: Washburn defeats Abilene Christian 52-49

Washburn’s playoff game opened much like the regular season with drives in the first quarter of 60 and 74 yards highlighted by long pass catches by senior quarterback Dane Simoneau to sophomore DeJuan Beard of 35 yards and sophomore Matt Kobbeman of 67 yards respectively.

The real stars of the first half were the running back duo of senior Justin Cooper and freshman Sean McPherson. Cooper ran for 11 carries and 69 yards for three touchdowns in the first half while McPherson added another touchdown on 10 carries for 37 yards.

Not to be left in the dust, Abiliene Christian also managed 14 points in the first quarter keeping the Wildcats in the game.

The second quarter started off with fireworks as Washburn opened the period with a 2 play 71 yard drive, most of which came a 67 yard Simoneau pass to Kobbeman to retake the lead 21-14.

ACU responded immediately on the next drive scoring on a quick strike drive of its own, going 78 yards in three plays, capped off with a 73 yard pass for a touchdown.

That score capped off ACU’s points for the half as Washburn’s defense clamped down the rest of the half forcing two straight three and out drives while the offense scored 17 unanswered points on the legs of Cooper and McPherson to end the half 38-21.

“The game really started going our way and we thought it was going to be smooth one,” said Washburn head coach Craig Schurig. “Hats off to Abilene [Christian] they came roaring back.”

The second half picked up where the first ended with Washburn playing opportunistic defense resulting in two ACU drives ending in interceptions by senior outside linebacker Marty Pfannenstiel and sophomore defensive end Adebayo Oladapo.

Washburn managed to convert the first turnover into another touchdown by Cooper, pushing the score to 45-21 midway through the third quarter.

With roughly five minutes left in the third quarter, ACU broke its scoring drought putting up a 71 pass reception for a touchdown to bring the score to 45-28.

ACU, trying to claw its way back into the game, moved the ball down the field on its next drive in 3 plays in under one minute. Most of the drive’s yards came on a 58 yard pass by Mitchell Gale to Darrell Cantu-Harkless. Gale completed the following throw for 10 yards and a touchdown to wide receiver Taylor Gabriel pushing the score to 45-34. The score was the last one of the third quarter.

After stopping Washburn near its own 35 yard line, ACU got the ball back to start the fourth quarter and moved down the field on a 10 play 86 yard drive culminating in a 34 yard pass to running back Daryl Richardson from Gale to bring the score to 45-42 with roughly 11 minutes left to play in the game. The touchdown was the third unanswered score of the half for ACU as they continued to push Washburn for the lead.

Washburn’s next drive stalled out after just one yard on three plays. Washburn punted giving the ball back to ACU.

ACU started out initially moving the ball in the hands of Richardson before Washburn’s defense, which spent most of the early fourth quarter on the field, was able to get two sacks from junior inside linebacker Jahmil Taylor and defensive linemen Bryan Dale and Ian Williams.

“You never like to see the offense score points on you,” said Taylor. “We played with a bend don’t break mentality.”

Washburn’s next possession resulted in a 9 play 75 yard drive, chewing up 4:19 seconds. The drive was capped off by a 61 yard completion by Simoneau to sophomore Ronnell Garner for 61 yards and a touchdown. The score put the game at 52-42 with just over four minutes left to go in the game.

Abilene Christian got the ball back and attempted to move the ball down the field as they fought to put themselves back in striking distance. However it was not to be as DeJuan Beard, playing both ways, capped an impressive day with an interception at just over 2 minutes left to go in the game.

“DeJuan and Matt [Kobbeman] go up and consistently get the ball at the highpoint of the ball,” said Schurig. “When you get to this point of the year, you have guys get hurt. We don’t have a lot of depth at corner but we feel confident that we have guys that can step up.”

Team Leaders:

Passing- Dane Simoneau: 23-39 424 yards 2 TDs

Rushing- Justin Cooper: 24 att 107 yards 4 TDs

Receiving- Matt Kobbeman: 6 rec 131 yards 1 TD

Defensive Leaders:

Tackles: Jahmil Taylor: 10 solo 2 ast

Sacks: Jahmil Taylor: 2.5 sacks

Interceptions: DeJuan Beard 1 int for 43 yards

With the win, Washburn notches their first 10 win season in school history and advance beyond the first round of the playoffs since joining Division II football.

Washburn will now prepare to travel on the road for the next round of the playoffs. The Ichabods will take on a familiar opponent in Pittsburg State University, a fellow MIAA conference team. Washburn beat PSU earlier in the season on the road and will look to repeat the accomplishment.