MOUNT PLEASANT – Iowa Wesleyan College battled back from a 14-point deficit but came up a point short against Peru State College on Saturday, dropping a 21-20 decision to the Bobcats at Evans Field.
The Tigers missed an extra point attempt after a one-yard touchdown run by T.J. Tolliver (So.-Bellwood, Ill.) with 5:03 left in the game, and IWC was unable to get back in scoring range, dropping to 1-2 on the season while Peru State got its first win in four games.
IWC was not quite able to complete a spirited rally from an early two-touchdown deficit but showed it would not go quietly after some deflating moments in the first half. The Tigers moved the ball well in the opening 30 minutes but did not capitalize, but came back with three touchdowns in the second half by getting a mix of big plays from the offense and defense.
"It was a great football game, if you’re not coaching in it, if you’re not playing in it,” said Tigers Head Coach Jason Smelser, “(because) it’s a shame there had to be a loser.”
Freshman cornerback Damon Foster (St. Louis, Mo.) got things rolling early in the third quarter when he intercepted a Curtis Thompson pass and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown, making the score 14-7. Peru State answered with a touchdown on its next drive, but the Tigers came right back by going 65 yards in 11 plays with Jaren Maybin (Jr.-Baltimore, Md.) doing much of the work. Maybin gained 51 yards on the drive, 46 on the ground, and his touchdown from two yards out made it 21-14 with 3:08 left in the third quarter.
The teams traded punts to start the fourth quarter, but IWC got another big play when Eric Stepney (So.-St. Louis, Mo.) intercepted Thompson in Peru State territory, setting up the Tigers in good field position. Wesleyan drove 37 yards in eight plays, all rushes by Maybin and starting quarterback Bryan Abihider (Sr.-Hemet, Calif.). Tolliver scored on a sneak to make it 21-20, coming in after Abihider was temporarily knocked out of the game on the previous play. However, the Tigers had trouble with the snap on the extra point, and Peru State stopped the play.
IWC stopped the Bobcats to get the ball back one more time. Chris Owens (So.-Greer, S.C.), who spent much of the game in the PSC backfield, stopped the Bobcats for a loss of four yards on third down to force a punt. Peru State punter Zach Kohlhoff unleashed a 46-yard punt, though, pinning the Tigers inside their own 10-yard line, and Abihider’s second down desperation pass was intercepted at midfield, allowing Peru State to run out the clock.
The Tigers took the loss despite holding the Bobcats to 124 yards of offense in the second half and getting standout performances from a number of players, including Maybin, Owens and Alex Holmes (Fr.-San Diego, Calif.). Maybin posted the first 100-yard rushing day of his IWC career, running for 120 yards on 23 carries. Owens led the Tiger defensive attack with 10 tackles, including 4 ½ tackles for loss and a sack, while Holmes added eight tackles, a forced fumble and a pass break-up.
Peru State did most of its damage early in the first quarter, scoring twice to take a 14-0. The Bobcats took advantage of a pair of big plays from big halfback John Noojin, who broke a 41-yard run on the first drive and on the second drive took a short pass 65 yards. Both plays put the Bobcats inside the Tigers’ 5-yard line, and Noojin finished off both drives with short touchdown runs.
Noojin was injured early in the second quarter, though, and the Peru State offense was never quite the same. The Bobcats gained just 144 of their 377 yards after Noojin left the game, including 66 yards on their third quarter drive for a touchdown capped by a four-yard touchdown pass from Thompson to Cody Wallinger.
“I was most proud,” said Smelser, “of how we were down 14-0 in the first quarter, things weren’t going well, the offense was not moving the ball, the defense wasn’t stopping them much-and the kids kept playing. They kept believing and they fought back into it.”
The Tigers finished the game with 285 yards of total offense, 159 of those yards on the ground. Abihider completed 13 of 24 passes for 26 yards and was intercepted twice.
IWC will be back home next Saturday for the second game of a three-game homestand. The Tigers will host Grand View College in a rare night game at home, with kickoff at Evans Field at the Mapleleaf Community Complex set for 6 p.m.
For more information regarding the IWC football program or any of the Tiger athletic teams, contact sports information director Adam Glatczak (319-385-6306 phone; 319-385-6384 FAX; firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail) or log on to IWC's athletics web site at www.iwc.edu/athletics.
Box score Peru State 21 IWC 20