It came down to the final minute of the game, the NAIA 12th ranked Northwestern Red Raiders were down 27-28 to the Briar Cliff Chargers, and sophomore Jameson Rexilius pulled in a 32-yard touchdown pass from senior Ryan Morgan to give the Raiders a 33-28 victory Friday.
“It was a tough one,” said Head Coach Kyle Achterhoff. “Briar Cliff played really well, and the field conditions became a factor in the game, but our guys made the plays when they needed to. We’re excited to get the win.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Morgan was able to throw for two touchdowns: a 69-yard pass to junior Taylor Malm to begin the second quarter and a 22-yard pass to senior Kyle DeBoer to finish out the quarter.
Briar Cliff scored two touchdowns of their own between the passes to make the game tied at 14 going into half.
Briar Cliff started out the second half with a 74-yard pass for a touchdown that went unanswered by the Raiders until five minutes into the fourth.
That’s when everything started.
“There was that sense of urgency that hit our guys, and we really stepped things up and made some huge plays that won the game for us,” Achterhoff said. “That’s what I love about these guys, they
never quit and they believe in each other.”
NW was able to tie the game at 21 after a 3-yard burst by Morgan with 7:23 remaining.
Briar Cliff responded soon after with a touchdown pass to give them their last lead at 28-21 with 4:13 to play.
With 2:40 remaining, Malm broke off a 46-yard run on fourth down to bring the Raiders within an extra point of tying the game. The Raiders missed the extra point, however, and the game appeared over.
”All units, offense, defense and special teams, all came together and made that decision that they were going to find a way to win,” Achterhoff said.
After a defensive stop, the Raiders were able to put together a four-play 51-yard drive in 40 seconds to score the final touchdown with 34 seconds left in the game. The two point attempt failed, leaving the final score at 33-28.
Although he had four interceptions, Morgan had a career day, going 21-of-33 for 321 yards and three touchdowns, adding another touchdown on the ground.
Malm lead the rushing attack with nine carries for 63 yards and sophomore Kevin VanderSchaaf added 12 carries for 43 yards.
Saturday, NW hosts USF, the No. 1 team in the nation, in this season’s toughest matchup.
“We have a very tough test ahead of us this week with the top rated team in the nation coming to Orange City,” Achterhoff said. “We are looking at this game as a great opportunity to play our best game of the year and see what happens.”
NW plays the University of Sioux Falls Saturday, Oct. 30, on Korver Field at 1 p.m.