Northwestern and Nebraska Wesleyan fans alike sat on the edge of their seats as the dramatic game neared an end during the fourth quarter on Saturday. The mood was tense as junior quarterback Ryan Morgan connected with sophomore Jameson Rexilius to give the 18th ranked Red Raider’s a 24-20 win over Nebraska Wesleyan.
In the first half, Nebraska Wesleyan quarterback Matt Hagge completed a pair of touchdown passes, 26 and 35 yards respectively, to put his team up 13-0. However, Northwestern got on the board soon after with a blocked extra-point ran back 98-yards by junior Caleb Blauwet.
Late in the second quarter, junior running back Taylor Malm scored on a 1-yard burst. The Raiders converted the 2-point conversion to put them within three going into halftime.
“The blocked extra point that we returned was a very big play,” said head coach Kyle Achterhoff. “That helped turn momentum in the second quarter. In the fourth quarter, it was improved play on both sides of the football.”
Nebraska Wesleyan ended the third quarter with a third touchdown pass by Hagge. After that, Northwestern’s defense was able to shut out the opponent the rest of the game.
“We could have given up when we were down two scores,” Achterhoff said. “But we persevered and made some big plays in the fourth quarter.”
Freshman running back Brandon Smith rushed for a 12-yard score early in the fourth quarter to put the Raiders within one score.
Starting at their own 23-yard line with a little over three minutes to play, Morgan led his team down the field through two third-downs and a crucial fourth down conversion to get to Nebraska Wesleyan’s 14-yard line. After Morgan’s touchdown pass, the game was nearly done.
As Nebraska Wesleyan got the ball back, they began to attempt to drive down the field until senior linebacker Grant Hegstad picked off Hagge’s pass to seal the win.
Northwestern visits Dana next week in another GPAC conference game.
“Dana is winless at this point but they always play well at home, and they love to throw the ball which allows them to put points on the board quickly,” Achterhoff said, “It will be important for us to play good sound pass defense and control the ball offensively.”