DUBUQUE, Iowa – The University of Dubuque Spartans were looking to remain unbeaten in Iowa Conference play on Saturday, but the visiting Wartburg College Knights scored on a 17 yard pass play with :35 seconds left of the game to take the lead and the victory by a 22-15 score.
UD opened the day with a safety after a blocked punt by Darren Myles deep in the Wartburg half of field. A mad scramble to secure the ball as the the ball rolled out of the back of the endzone resulted in a team safety to give UD a 2-0 lead. The game's defensive battle would continue for most of the opening half of play. The Spartans missed on a 44 yard field goal attempt with 3:41 left of the second quarter when the ball bounced off, half way up the right upright. The Knights scored with :23 left of the second to take their first lead 7-2. The Spartans held the Knights to 76 total yards and just four first downs in the opening half.
UD took the lead again in the third quarter on a five yard touchdown run by Bryan Bradshaw with 4:07 remaining. The Spartans went for the two point conversion and failed as Bradshaw was sacked in the backfield with the score 8-7 in favor of the host Spartans. Wartburg scored on a three yard pass with 1:14 remaining of the third to once again retake the lead 15-8.
The Spartans Chris Bagley caught a six yard touchdown pass from Bradshaw with 11:47 left of the final quarter of action to tie the game 15-15. UD's defense held the Knights to three and out in next series. The Knights defense stopped the Spartans in the following series, but it was UD's defense making the big play. As Wartburg was third and 13 yards to go, they threw a pass which was picked off by Vincent Whipple and he returned it 14 yards to the Spartans 39 yard line. The Spartans were once again stopped and punted to the Knights 32 yard line.
Wartburg received the ball with 3:13 left of the contest. They started their drive with a 16 yard pass to their 48 yard line. On first down, a seven yard rush. The second down was held to a rush of two yards. Third down was for no gain and the Knights called a timeout. Unfortunately for the Spartans the fourth and short ended in favor of the Knights on a seven yard scamper to keep their drive alive. A pair of passes, one for a gain of 19 yards a 17 yard touchdown with just 35 seconds left of the game pushed the Knights in the lead once again by a score of 22-15.
The final Spartan drive started with 31 seconds left on UD's own 27 yard line. Two quick pass plays moved the ball to the Wartburg 38 yard line with only 10 seconds left. UD next pass was intercepted at the Wartburg 25 yard line ending the chance for a Spartan comeback.
UD led in just about every statistical category, but the score. The Spartans finished with 25 first downs and held the Knights to 12. Possession time UD finished with 39:04 while Wartburg held the ball just 20:56. The Spartans held the Knights to 1 of 11 third down conversions.
Last week's IIAC Male Athlete of the Week, Bryan Bradshaw, completed 27 of 43 pass attempts for 266 yards and a touchdown. Tyler Rutenbeck caught nine passes for 78 yards and teammate Chris Bagley grabbed eight for 73 yards and a touchdown. Kyle Acker rushed for 66 yards in the loss. Doug Lillibridge punted inside the Knights 20 yard line twice. Vincent Whipple led the defense with eight tackles and an interception return for 14 yards. Ryan Arnold had five tackles with three for losses including two sacks for losses of 12 yards. Reggie Cole Jr. added an interception with a return of 20 yards for UD.
The loss was the Spartans first league loss (4-3 overall, 3-1 in IIAC) and the Knights improved to 4-0 and 6-1 overall. Next week UD will travel to Indianola to face the Simpson Storm (5-2, 3-1 in IIAC) with a 4:00 p.m. kick-off. Simpson beat Coe 41-38 in two overtimes on Saturday.