Turnover mistakes haunt Badgers in second loss to Iowa team
COUNCIL BLUFFS, IOWA—The No. 4 ranked Snow College football team handled the travel and the weather, but in the end the Badgers couldn’t overcome their own mistakes in losing the first ever NJCAA playoff game 30-29 to the Reivers of Iowa Western in overtime.
The loss sent the Badgers home, while Iowa Western will play in the championship game later this month.
“I’m so proud of the effort our players showed,” said Snow’s Coach Zac Erekson. “We fell behind, but never gave up. Our team showed that they are strong and resilient and that they deserved to be here.”
The Badgers once again battled the turnover bug that plagued them in the first game against Iowa Western in Ephraim back in October, when they turned the ball over five times on their way to a 14-17 loss, which dropped Snow out of the No. 1 ranking.
“We knew coming into this game that if we take care of the ball, we win the game during the regular season,” said Erekson. “So our number one priority was to take care of the ball in the game this time as well.”
That was easier said than done again as the Badgers suffered a fumble, three interceptions and a blocked punt that turned into a touchdown and led to a 20-2 halftime deficit. Special teams did cause two safeties that accounted for all of Snow’s scoring in the first three quarters.
“In big games you just need to take care of the ball, treat it like it’s your prized possession,” said Erekson. “I’m disappointed in the turnovers and the slow start, but I couldn’t be more proud of the determined effort and the hustle and playing through all the adversity until the very end.”
Trailing 20-4 going into the final quarter things looked bleak for the Badger faithful; but with a fourth and long Gabe Sweeten found Caden Leggett on a 32 yard pass play that not only netted the much needed first down, but also ended with a touchdown as Leggett stretched out to haul in the pass and give the Badgers the spark they needed to mount the dramatic comeback.
“Leggett played really well,” said Erekson. “He had a dislocated finger in the first quarter and to play through it and play as well as he did after that point was inspirational.”
Iowa Western answered with a 39-yard field goal, but on the ensuing kick-off, Keionte Scott ran for 85 yards into the end zone to electrify the team and bring the Badgers back to within six points, making the score 23-17.
“We needed a big play,” said Erekson. “Keionte gave it to us and that is one of the reasons everyone in the country wants this kid on their team next year.”
With a short field on their next possession, Snow College got another touchdown on a one-yard run by Targhee Lambson. The score came after Leggett completed a 46 yard pass to Dionte Davis with nine minutes still remaining in the game. The Badgers scored 19 points in less than six minutes of the fourth quarter, but still left opportunities to score on the field.
Snow had two more possessions before the end of the game; one ended with a punt and the other an interception. But the defense stepped up and forced the game into overtime.
“Our defense played really, really well,” said Erekson. “They had their backs to the wall on several possessions and came up big.”
Iowa Western’s offense only scored two touchdowns in regulation and both were on short fields from Snow’s 31-yard line and Snow’s 43-yard line. The third touchdown was on the blocked punt.
In overtime, the Reivers struck quickly on a pass from Nate Glanz to Moses Bryant on the first play. The extra point was good and the Badgers then faced the challenge of answering. After working their way to the 17-yard line, the Badgers’ offense stalled and faced a fourth down. They needed to get to the four-yard line for the first down. Sweeten instead found Leggett in the end zone for the touchdown. The Badgers decided to go for the two-point conversion and the win, but Snow came up short on a quarterback power sweep.
Looking at the box score shows how well Snow College played, leading in almost every statistical category: 23-18 in first downs; 388-198 in total yards; 215-251 in passing yards; 173-53 in rushing yards; and 48:16 to 26:44 in time of possession. But in the score that matters most, the Badgers came up just short 29-30.