The No. 13 University of Wisconsin-Platteville Pioneers late comeback efforts fell just one play short, as the No. 4 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks narrowly escaped with a 27-26 win in the George Chryst Memorial Bowl Game.
The George Chryst Memorial Bowl Players of the Game for the Warhawks were Cole Klotz, who totaled 4.5 tackles and an interception in the contest, and running back Nick Patterson, who gained 114 yards on 20 carries with a touchdown.
For the Pioneers, Aaron Loferski was named Offensive Player of the Game for his six catch, 114 yard and one touchdown performance, and Tommy Magna was named Defensive Player of the Game for his five tackles, and interception return for a touchdown.
The one point margin is the closest in series history since a 7-6 win by the Pioneers.
The Pioneers came out firing in the first quarter. Senior quarterback John Kelly engineered two early scoring drives. The first was a five-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Trevor Whitehead. It was the fourth consecutive game that the Pioneers have scored on their opening possession. The second was a season-best, 78-yard touchdown catch and run by senior wide out Aaron Loferski.
With the Pioneers leading 14-0, late in the first quarter, following a third down incompletion Kelly went down with an injury to thrust sophomore quarterback Bryce Corrigan into action.
In the second quarter, the Warhawks found their stride on both sides of the ball. The offense put up 10 points in the last six minutes of the quarter, taking advantage of a pair of interceptions inside the 20-yard line. Despite the late turnovers, the Pioneers head a 14-10 advantage at the half.
After a three-and-out to start the Pioneers' second half, the defense put six points of their own on the board. Pioneer senior defensive back Tommy Magna stepped in front of a Lee Brekke pass on a third down play and took it 40 yards to the end zone. A missed extra point resulted in a 20-10 Pioneers lead. The interception return for a touchdown was Magna's second of his career, the other coming in the 2010 season opener against Buena Vista.
Then, UW-Whitewater bounced back with a seven play, 76 yard scoring drive, ending with a two-yard plunge from Nick Patterson to cut the Pioneer lead to 20-17 with 7:00 left in the third quarter. Later in the quarter, the Warhawks marched down the field, converting two third downs and a crucial 4th and 1 late in the quarter. With first and goal to start the fourth quarter, the Pioneer defense rose to the occasion to force a field goal. The Warhawks' Eric Kindler made a 21 yard field goal to tie the contest at 20.
The Warhawks picked off Corrigan again on the following possession, setting up a two yard touchdown run by Warhawk running back Desmin Ward, giving UW-Whitewater their first lead of the contest, 27-20.
Later in the quarter, the Pioneers offense caught a rhythm as Corrigan went five for seven on the final drive of the game, culminating with a two-yard touchdown run by Lee Vlasak to bring the score to 27-26. It is the fourth-straight game with a rushing touchdown for Vlasak on the season.
The Pioneers chose to go for the win with a two-point conversion try. Corrigan had Ryley Bailey open momentarily on a corner route in the back corner of the end zone, but the pass was deflected away by a Warhawk defender. An unsuccessful attempt at an onside kick by the Pioneers ended the contest.
The Pioneers will next take the field again Saturday, October 6 on the road against University of Wisconsin-La Crosse at 1 p.m.