Clark uncorks 54-yard game-winner

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Junior Mike Clark drilled a school record 54-yard field goal as time expired to lift Augustana to a pulsating 27-26 non-conference victory over UW-Platteville. Clark, who had a 46 yard field goal and three extra points earlier, capped a miracle finish for the Vikings to secure their first victory of the year after two non-conference losses. His kick erased the old mark of 51 yards set by Barry Reade on Sept. 17, 1988. It was the second-longest game-winning play to end a game in Division III football history.

Less than a half minute earlier UW-Platteville had taken a 26-24 lead on a 30 yard field goal by Jason Borchardt. After Borchardt's field goal, which capped a 13-play, 67-yard drive, Augustana took over at its own 33 after a squib kick. With just 29 seconds left on the clock the Vikings took over. Quarterback Brad Wendell hit Kyle Zick with a 10-yard pass to the 43 and then completed one to Anton Steinhart for 5 to the Vikings 48. After an incompletion, Augustana caught a break when Platteville was called for interference on a third-and-5 pass play. With just two seconds on the clock Clark came on and nailed his game winner.

The Augustana offense, which had scored just 15 points and was averaging only 175.5 yards of total offense in the first two games, came to life on a day when the school's athletic program was honoring the 1983 national championship squad. With junior fullback John Quinlan leading the way with 89 yards rushing on 16 carries, the Vikings rolled up 284 yards rushing.

Defensively the Vikings had to survive the Pioneer onslaught led by Tom Stetzer, who threw for 302 yards on 25 of 51 and rushed for 31 yards on 12 attempts. Linebacker Steve Szpejnowski led the way with 12 tackles.

Clark kicked a 46-yard field goal midway through the first quarter to give the hosts an early 3-0 lead. Borchardt answered for Platteville with a 46-yarder of his won at 12:43 of the second quarter. Wendell's 9-yard run made it 10-3 with 9:02 left in the second quarter and a 1-yard run by Aaron Kuzniar with just 1:15 left in the first half.

With the wind howling from the west, Platteville made good use of it in the third quarter. With the strong breeze at his back, Stetzer went to work. His 25 yard scoring toss to Matt Kent with 3:48 left cut the lead to 17-10. That score capped a 30 yard, three-play drive that was set up by a 14-yard punt from Clark that was held up by the wind. The next time he got the ball back Stetzer hit Kent for a 49 yard score with just nine seconds left in the quarter. 

Heading into the fourth quarter the game was knotted at 17-17 but a fumble by Kuzniar at the 31 set the Pioneers up in good position. Darren Droessler scored on a 1-yard run with 9:59 left in the game. Once again the wind played a factor as a Dan Lilla punt from his own 7 traveled just 12 yards and with 5:18 left in the game Augustana was in business at the Platteville 19. Four plays later Kyle Zick powered over from 7 yards out and Clark's extra point gave the Vikings a 24-23 lead with just 3:30 left to play.

Stetzer was tough against the wind as he whipped his team 67 yards on 13 plays to set up Borchardt's field goal from 30 yards out that gave the visitors a 26-24 lead with just 29 seconds left on the clock.

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