Vikings fall to nation’s No. 3 team

 

Football Game 1

 Thomas Elness

tkelness12@ole.augie.edu

Hope quickly departed Kirkeby-Over Stadium after a missed extra point Saturday afternoon.

Augustana’s football team fell to University of Minnesota-Duluth in overtime after failing to tie the game with an extra-point kick, losing by a final score of 23-22 to the nationally-ranked Bulldogs.

UMD nailed two first-half field goals, taking a 6-0 lead into the locker room.

Augustana’s outlook seemed positive at the break, as UMD averaged 41.5 points per game last season.

Augustana kicker Lucas Wainman drilled a 26-yard field goal to start the second-half scoring for the Vikings. Through three quarters, the Bulldogs led 6-3, but scoring quickly ensued.

Quarterback Trey Heid connected with senior wide receiver Grant Gebhardt on a 44-yard pass to give Augustana its first lead. The snap on the extra-point attempt sailed over the head of holder Justin Heinrich, leaving the Vikings ahead 9-6.

Two minutes and four seconds later, Heid returned to the air, this time finding senior Matt Gerry in the end zone for another score. After a successful point-after attempt, the Vikings led 16-6.

But UMD returned the favor.

Augustana’s high hopes wavered as UMD’s Drew Bauer completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to a speedy Beau Bofferding.

Later, UMD kicker Andrew Brees booted a 27-yard field goal to tie the NSIC squads 16-16 with 1:10 left in the fourth quarter.

UMD needed three plays in overtime to drive in a touchdown with a quarterback keeper. Brees added the extra point, leaving Augustana one drive to win, lose or force another overtime.

Worries grew as Augustana’s Heid hit the turf after a 10-yard sack on first down. Heid regained the 10 yards on a second-down pass to Gebhardt, leaving Coach Jerry Olszewski and the Vikings with third down and ten yards to go. Heid threw an incomplete pass intended for senior tight end Nick Lee.

One play remained.

Olszewski entrusted Heid with one last chance to gain a first down. Heid rolled to his right with immense pressure from the UMD defense, and launched the ball up in the air in hail-mary fashion, hoping the pass might find someone in blue. It did.

The pass hit a swarm of players near the goal line and tipped directly into the hands of Lee, re-energizing the anxious Vikings sideline and fans.

“I saw Trey (Heid) throw the ball and I looked to see where it was going,” Lee said. “Running to the group of people, I just anticipated the ball to be hit down somewhere and made myself ready to catch a tipped ball. We have a Hail Mary play that receivers practice, but I have never been in on it.”

With energy at its highest point all day, the zealous Vikings scored a touchdown to make it a one-point game. They attempted an extra point to tie the game and force another overtime with the   nation’s third-ranked team.

“I had contemplated prior to the score if we would go for two or if we would kick the extra point,” Olszewski said. “In that scenario of reduced field and the success of our defense in the red zone throughout the game, as well as being at home, I made my decision to go to a second overtime.”

Wainman pulled the game-tying extra point left, hit the goal post and fell short of the uprights, giving UMD the win, 23-22.

Silence quickly surged through the crisp fall afternoon air, as the teams quietly began to shake hands and accept the heartbreaking loss. Olszewski went straight to his discouraged kicker.

“I just shared with Lucas how much I love him and that the game was not decided by one play,” Olszewski said. “I also told him that, in my opinion, he is the best [Division II] kicker in the country and that he will win so many games for us after this day.”

Moving forward, the Vikings hope to carry the momentum from their battle with one of the nation’s top-tier teams.

Despite the devastating loss, freshman Blake Ziegler enjoyed his first football game at Augustana.

“My first football game here at Augie was an awesome experience,” Ziegler said. “It’s so much livelier than my old high school football games. Getting to be a part of all the excitement in the crowd and the energy focused around watching a great football game was exhilarating.”

Olszewski expressed his disappointment with the loss, but acknowledged many positives from the game.

“We will learn as a team how to close out games like this going forward,” Olszewski said. “Duluth has been in many games like this, including playoff games. We will be there, and [we] are better for the experience. I am so proud of our young men and the effort they demonstrated throughout this game.”

Augustana travels to Aberdeen Saturday to take on Northern State. The Vikings defeated NSU 35-14 two years ago in their most recent meeting. NSU is currently 1-1, after falling to Winona State in the season opener, followed by a win over Concordia-St. Paul.

The Vikings return to Kirkeby-Over Stadium for the homecoming game against University of Mary on Saturday, Sept. 27.

 Football Game