Defense prevailed for No. 10 Augustana football as they took down their in-state rival Northern State 21-13 on Saturday, Sept. 24.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Wolves gained possession of the ball at their own 20-yard line. With the score 14-10 Augustana, Northern looked to take the lead. On the first play, however, senior Ben Kemp and a swarm of Viking defenders made their way into the backfield, chased down Northern State quarterback Will Madler and strip-sacked him near the five-yard line.
With the ball loose, last week’s NSIC Defensive Player of the Week, senior Grayson Diepenbrock, scooped the ball up and lept into the endzone to give the Vikings a 21-10 lead and momentum that would carry the team to a 4-0 start in its 100th season.
“It was huge,” Diepenbrock said. “It doesn’t matter who it is. Somebody’s number is going to get called, and you just have to go out there and make that play.”
The Vikings’ defense-forcing takeaways became key to the game early on. They scored their first touchdown from a turnover. With the Wolves threatening early in the game, Peyton Buckley intercepted a pass at the Vikings’ own 1-yard line to set up an 11-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 32-yard rushing touchdown by senior David Addo. The run gave the Vikings a 7-0 lead with 3:39 to play in the first quarter.
Northern State responded almost a whole quarter later, kicking a 44-yard field goal with 4:32 minutes left in the second quarter.
Coming out from halftime, the Wolves were able to take the lead courtesy of a 10-yard passing touchdown from Madler to Kaleb Skelly. The pass capped off an eight-play, 69-yard drive.
On the ensuing drive, the Vikings were able to answer back, going for their own eight-play drive that ended with a five-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Thomas Scholten to senior Matt Francis. The touchdown gave the Vikings a 14-10 lead with 6:09 left in the third quarter.
“To respond and take the lead back again, we had a couple other ones where we missed a field goal or had a walk-in touchdown, but that stuff is the game,” coach Jerry Olszewski said. “That drive was huge to respond on.”
Defenses took over the game before the big play by Kemp and Diepenbrock.
Northern State kicked a field goal with 3:22 minutes left in the game, bringing the score to a final of 21-13. Northern State could tie the game, getting the ball at Augustana’s 47-yard line with 2:54 left in the game.
As they had done the entire day, the defense stepped up and made a stop to give the Vikings the ball back. The drive was halted by a Diepenbrock sack on fourth and 11.
The Vikings’ offense accounted for 230 total yards, less than the Wolves’ 290 total yards. Augustana accounted for 97 yards rushing and 133 through the air. Scholten ended the day with 12 completed passes out of 30 attempts, one of which was a passing touchdown. Addo led the way on the ground after a foot injury took senior Jarod Epperson out of the game; he ran for 60 yards and the touchdown.
Along with Buckley, junior Kade Lynott recorded an interception and totaled five tackles on the day with one for loss. Senior T.J. Liggett led the Vikings’ defense with seven tackles on the day.
“You know, we’re four games into this thing and we haven’t collectively, offense, defense and special teams, played our best game yet,” Olszewski said. “That’s a comforting thing to know, but we also have some urgency to get there.”
The 4-0 Vikings will look to defend their home turf for the 14th time in a row as the University of Sioux Falls Cougars head across the street to Kirkeby-Over for the “Key to the City” game. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m on Saturday, Oct. 1.
“This thing is far from over,” Olszewski said. “The reality is this for our team, our biggest opponent is Augustana. We just need to play good against ourselves and play well. Then the outcome will be what we want it to be, but we’re not there yet.”