VIDEO: Washburn falls to Abilene Christian

Joe Hastings goes up to snag a catch as he leads Washburn's offense in a disappointing loss to Abilene Christian University

Robert Burkett

The Washburn Ichabods opened the home slate of the 2010 season with their first test of the year against a top opponent in No. 7 ranked Abilene Christian University Saturday.

The Ichabods, who came into the game ranked in the top ten, were looking to get a win against a top non-conference opponent to build on their success from the previous week.

Unfortunately, many of the same problems that plagued Washburn on the road against Colorado School of Mines continued to plague them throughout the game Saturday.

Despite the misfires, Washburn was still able to put together a solid game and started out in the contest running the ball efficiently down the field resulting in the first score, a touchdown run carried into the endzone by Vershon Moore, sophomore running back.

“We had most of the momentum coming out and I felt like we established the tempo well,” said Craig Schurig, Washburn head coach.

Unfortunately for the Ichabods, the extra point after the touchdown was the first in a series of misfires with the football snapped to the holder while he was looking at the kicker, hitting him in the head and resulting in a missed opportunity to extend the lead.

Abilene Christian responded by taking the ball down the field and with three and a half minutes left in the first quarter, kicking a field goal to make the score six to three.

Going into the second quarter, Washburn attempted to reestablish their offensive presence by taking the ball down the field midway through the quarter deep into Wildcat territory. Washburn’s Dane Simoneau, junior quarterback though, threw his only interception of the game at the eight yardline, killing the Ichabod drive and allowing Abilene Christian to take back the momentum.

The Wildcats responded by going down the field on a drive that was highlighted by a 27-yard scamper into the endzone by Daryl Richardson, junior runningback.

The Ichabods then continued their trend of mental errors with a personal foul penalty to keep Abilene Christian’s next drive alive. The penalty, combined with mental lapses in the secondary, led to a 51-yard touchdown for Abilene Christian throw with just over a minute before halftime remaining.

Washburn, hoping to get something positive going before the half, managed to march down the field in a lightning quick drive that culminated with a 6-yard pass into the endzone from Simoneau to Joe Hastings, senior wide receiver.

Coming out of the half, Washburn attempted to get their offense back on track.

After a initially scoreless second half, Abilene Christian took the ball on a marathon drive that began with a little over ten minutes left to go in the quarter and ended with a touchdown at roughly, the four minute mark.

Washburn then took the ball back and responded with a drive that struck pay dirt through a 44-yard pass from Simoneau to a downfield open Hastings, bringing the score to 24-19 just before the start of the fourth quarter.

The fourth quarter that followed was a final crescendo of scoring as both teams worked furiously to be on top at the end of the game.

After initial punts on unsuccessful drives for each team, Abilene Christian drew first blood of the quarter by taking advantage of a blocked field goal attempt by Washburn kicker Steve Ivanisevic.

Abilene Christian immediately seized control of the momentum as they marched down the field that included another breakdown in discipline for the Ichabods as they surrendered 15 yards on a personal foul penalty. The mistake allowed the Wildcat drive to continue down the field, culminating in a 41-yard touchdown for Abilene Christian, putting them up 34-19.

As had been the case the entire evening, Washburn frantically shot down the field, riding the performance of Simoneau and Hastings as the two hooked up for an acrobatic catch midway through the drive that set up Moore and the running game in the red zone for a score to finish off a minute forty one drive bring the lead back down to 34-26.

Washburn then attempted an onsides kick with just under three minutes left in the game. Abilene Christian, after a small scrum was able to come away with the ball.

After running down the clock, Abilene Christian got the ball back on a punt that was fumbled by Washburn. The Wildcats kneeled the ball down to end the game as Abilene Christian snuck out of Topeka with the win.

Despite the loss, the Ichabods felt they were in the game the whole evening, attributing their loss to mental errors.

“Take away those penalties and it’s a whole different ball game,” said Dane Simoneau, junior quarterback.

Not all of the game though, was Washburn’s problems. The Wildcats of Abilene Christian delivered a command performance from Mitchell Gale, quarterback who threw 24-30 for 247 yards and three touchdowns. Gale’s main target, Edmund Gates also played an outstanding game catching five passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns.

Washburn countered with solid performances from Simoneau who finished the night throwing 19-26 for 319 yards, two touchdowns but one interception. Simoneau’s leading target, Joe Hastings, put out a highlight reel performance, making acrobatic catches at points throughout the game and accumulating seven catches for 156 yards and two touchdowns.

“They were keying in on [Hastings] all tonight but we’ll keep going back to him because he was working all night and really opened up other guys for us underneath,” said Craig Schurig, Washburn head coach.

Despite all the solid performances by the Ichabods, nine penalties for almost 100 yards combined with two forced fumble and an interception thrown in the red zone were just too much for the Ichabods to overcome.

“It was a tough game and we just have to overcome the mental mistakes and get better for the rest of the year,” said Michael Wilhoite, senior linebacker  

Next Game

Washburn must now turn their attention to their next opponent Missouri Western State University.

MWSU comes off their first game against Mesa State University in which their defense sacked the quarterback once and intercepted five passes as they won 36-3. The Griffon offense had only modest production in their season opener with Thomas Hodges, running back gaining 109 yards on 23 carries while Drew Newhart, quarterback led the team through the air completing 16-28 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns.

Missouri Western State University will play their second game at home against Lincoln (Mo.) University this coming Thursday.