LINCOLN–(NWU Sports Sept. 14)–Nebraska Wesleyan held off a late Illinois College rally to improve to 2-0 with a 25-20 victory on Saturday afternoon (Sept. 14) at Abel Stadium in Lincoln.
The Prairie Wolves led 25-6 heading into the 4th quarter as the NWU defense had shut down the Blueboys for the majority of the game. Illinois College scored two 4th quarter touchdowns to pull within five points with five minutes remaining in the game, then had the ball again with a chance to go ahead but the NWU defense made one final stand.
It was the Jonathan Curti and Kevin Tims show in the first half for the Prairie Wolves offense. The Colorado Springs, Colo., natives connected for three touchdown passes in the half. Tims first career TD reception came in the 1st quarter on a 20-yard pass giving NWU a 7-0 advantage.
In the second quarter, Tims made a 27-yard grab in the back corner of the end zone but the extra point was blocked making it 13-0. The tandem made another key 3rd down connection right before halftime on a 28-yard TD with just eight seconds remaining. Once again the PAT was no good giving NWU a 19-0 lead heading into the locker room.
The Blueboys were able to take advantage of a NWU turnover to start the 3rd quarter and convert it into points. After a Prairie Wolves fumble, IC marched 72 yards in seven plays capped off on a 6-yard TD pass from Drew Chance to Seth Vaughn.
NWU was able to respond on their next possession as they promptly marched 65 yards in 11 plays and capped the scoring drive with a 2-yard TD pass by Curti who scrambled to find tight end Logan Hughes open in the back of the end zone.
Both teams traded turnovers the next three possessions, with the final turnover a costly interception by NWU that Illinois College returned to the 6-yard line. Chance found Allen Smith for a 3-yard TD pass and the 2-point conversion was good making it 25-14.
Another NWU fumble on a sack gave the Blueboys the ball at the 42-yard line. However, on the very next play Jacob Garnas intercepted a pass to halt the drive. NWU chewed up five minutes off the clock but couldn’t convert a 4th down play.
Chance wasted little time when he got the ball back finding a streaking Allen Smith going past the NWU secondary for a 78-yard TD making it a one score game. The 2-point try failed keeping it a five point Prairie Wolves lead.
NWU tried to chew up the clock as they converted one first down but were stuffed on a 4th & 1 play giving the Blueboys one last chance.
Starting at their own 34-yard line with just under one minute to play, Illinois College committed two penalties to get into a 3rd & 21. A completion setup a 4th & 7 when the Prairie Wolves defense tightened up and forced an incomplete pass with Justen Hall closing in on the quarterback.
Illinois College had only 204 yards of offense through three quarters and finished at 306 on the big play in the final period.
The Prairie Wolves had 456 yards of total offense in a balanced attack with 187 on the ground and 269 through the air. Curti ended the game 19-31 for 269 yards with four TDs and one interception. He now has 10 touchdown passes in the first two games. Tims led the receviers with seven catches for 114 yards and three touchdowns.
Ryan Lawrence came up big in the rushing game going for a career-high 111 yards on 22 carries. Monte Robinson Jr., rushed for 53 yards on eight carries in his first career start before suffering an injury.
Kaden Dawe and Jacob Garnas each had seven tackles to lead the Prairie Wolves defense. Dawe added a forced fumble and TFL, with Garnas getting an interception.