By Andy Krutsinger, Mt. Pleasant News
The Iowa Wesleyan football team had to scrap and claw all game long on Saturday, but the Tigers gritted out a 24-17 win to the delight of their homecoming crowd.
The Tigers took on Minnesota-Morris, another defensive-minded team, which meant it was going to be a struggle all-game long to gain yards. Both teams struggled to move the ball in the first quarter and the teams were scoreless after one period.
DeMarcus Collins, who was starting his first home game of the year, got the Tigers on the board early in the second period. The Tiger quarterback capped off a four-play, 37-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown run. The PAT was no good but IW led 6-0.
The IW offense was shut down for the rest of the quarter, however, and Tiger mistakes allowed the visiting Cougars to steal the lead before halftime.
IW lost three fumbles in the first half and the Cougars made them pay, scoring 10 points in the second quarter to take a 10-6 lead.
Things were looking rough early on in the third quarter. The Tigers lost two more fumbles early, running their total giveaways to five, and Minnesota-Morris turned one of them into a touchdown drive, stretching the lead to 17-6.
IW got a big play out of their offense to turn the game around midway through the third quarter. Collins found Tyree Thomas on a short pass and Thomas took it 71 yards to the end zone for the biggest play of the day. The PAT was no good but IW cut the lead to 17-12.
The Tigers got a huge play from special teams towards the end of the third quarter. After a stop on defense, Joseph Mosley blocked a punt and gave the Tigers great field position, starting their go-ahead drive at the Cougar 30-yard line.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Collins punched in a four-play 30-yard drive with another five-yard touchdown rush to give the Tigers the lead back at 18-17. Minnesota-Morris picked off the two-point try and started to run it back the other way towards the end zone, but an inadvertant whistle ended the play, much to the dismay of the visiting fans.
Disaster nearly struck on a Tiger punt in the fourth quarter, but punter Harrison McIntyre made what coach Michael Richtman called the play of the game. After a snap went over McIntyre?s head, the Tiger punter retrieved the ball and alertly booted it away with his left foot to avoid getting it blocked. The punt didn?t go far, but it got the ball out of field goal range and the Cougars couldn?t capitalize.
Akenyon Bagley put icing on the homecoming cake with just one minute remaining in the game. After an interception by Austin Ferguson gave IW the ball in the final minutes, Bagley found a hole and went 43-yards to the end zone. The PAT was no good, but the Tigers led 24-17 with just one minute remaining.
On the first play of the final Minnesota-Morris drive, Mosley made yet another big play, picking off the pass and sealing the win.
?It was really exciting to see how resilient we were,? Coach Richtman said after the game. ?We had a lot of mistakes, a lot of things that could have ended the game for us (but) the guys kept battling.?
Collins finished the game 7-15 for 119 yards and a score, and rushed for 76 yards and two touchdowns. Thomas? 71-yards and a score lead the team in receiving, and Rodolfo Amezcua had 45 yards on five catches.
Bagley lead the Tigers in rushing, going for 91 yards and a score. Jacquez Hall added 41 yards on the ground.
The IW defense had three takeaways on the day. Mosley, Ferguson and Corice Spann each had one interception.
The Tigers snapped a five-game losing streak to move to 2-6 overall and 2-5 in the conference. They will host Greenville University in their final home game on Saturday, Oct. 28, at 1 p.m.