ROCK ISLAND, Illinois – Looking for its first home win of the season, the Augustana football team outgained 17th-ranked Wheaton by nearly 200 yards Saturday, but was unable to overcome four turnovers and a pair of missed field goals, falling to the Thunder 20-14 at Ericson Field. Wheaton improves to 8-0 on the year and 5-0 in the CCIW while the Vikings are now 5-3 overall and 3-2 in the league.
Saturday's game was the latest in a series of heartbreaking setbacks to the Thunder. After falling behind 20-14 with 4:42 remaining on a 43-yard Jordan Roberts-to-Teddy Watkins touchdown pass, the Vikings went on a 16-play, 74-yard march that reached the Wheaton 2-yard line with under a minute remaining. However, a sack, a penalty and a pair of incompletions ended the threat as Wheaton came away with its ninth win in the last 11 meetings between the teams—seven of them by a touchdown or less.
With Augustana leading 7-6 and under 20 seconds remaining in the first half, Wheaton's Tyler Langs intercepted a David Lee pass and returned it 38 yards to set up Scott Roche's third field goal of the half, a 42-yarder, to give the Thunder a 9-7 halftime lead.
The Vikings came out strong in the second half, taking the opening kickoff and going 70 yards in six plays with Robert Wood finishing off the drive with a 33-yard touchdown run and a 14-9 Viking lead. The Augustana defense, which was tremendous all day, forced a pair of Thunder three-and-outs on their first possessions of the second half. After the first, the Vikings were stopped on downs at the Wheaton 27-yard line and after the second, they drove 68 yards in 10 plays, but came away empty when Arnie Fitzwater's 22-yard field goal attempt was wide right.
The Thunder got their initial first down of the half on the second-to-last play of the third quarter, but nothing more and were again forced to punt. Augustana's Joe Weber burst through and blocked Tony Vargyas' kick, setting the Vikings up with great field position at the Wheaton 31. They drove to the Thunder 15, but the kicking game failed them again when Eric Chandler's 32-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
Wheaton was forced to punt again, but the Thunder got the ball right back when the Vikings fumbled at their own 15. Once again the defense came up huge, allowing the Thunder just one yard before they cut the lead to 14-12 on Roche's fourth field goal of the day.
The Vikings went three and out on their next possession, setting up Roberts' game-winner to Watkins.
Wheaton jumped out to a 6-0 lead on Roche's first two field goals of the day. The first was set up when a Lee pass bounced off the hands of Zach McCullough and into Langs'. That was the second of three interceptions Langs would have in the first half. Augustana took a 7-6 lead when Lee found Keith Abbey from 20-yards out in the second quarter. Langs' third interception would set up Roche's go-ahead kick at the end of the half.
Augustana outgained the visitors 430 to 249 in total yards and held a 19-11 edge in first downs, but Wheaton won the turnover battle 4-0 and was much better in the kicking game, including a 52-yard Roche field goal in the first half.
Wood finished with 89 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries and Lee threw for 323 yards on 26 completions in 52 attempts. Two of his three interceptions came on balls that bounced off the hands of his receivers. McCullough caught 10 passes for 127 yards and Corbett Ball eight for 60 yards. The Augustana defense held the CCIW's top offense to just 98 yards on 35 rushing attempts and 151 yards through the air. John Mago was in on 14 tackles including nine solo and two sacks. Curt Perschnick also had a pair of sacks for the Vikings.
Augustana heads to Elmhurst, Illinois on Saturday, November 6 to face the Elmhurst Bluejays. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.