CORTLAND, N.Y. — The Augustana football team accomplished one of its weekly goals in Saturday's opener here at Red Field against the hosting SUNY-Cortland Red Dragons.
"We got into the fourth quarter with a chance to win,'' Augustana coach Steve Bell said.
In fact, the Vikings held the lead with one minute, 50 seconds to play after Ryan Pitra's third touchdown run of the game.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, they couldn't hold on.
A long kickoff return, the poise of senior quarterback Steven Ferreira and a 31-yard game-winning field goal from senior William Holscher with 22 seconds left handed the Vikings a tough-to-swallow 34-32 setback.
“It's disheartening when you have the game won and then give it away at the end,'' Bell said. “Obviously, there are a lot of things that go into a loss. It's not one play, it's not one series, not one moment. We had an opportunity to win that one.
“I'm getting tired of almost. We should be tired of almost.''
But it was another one of those “almost” moments for the Vikings, who hurt themselves with 17 penalties for 146 yards. One holding call wiped out Antonio Cannon's nifty 34-yard third-quarter touchdown run on a drive that ended in a punt.
The Vikings showed flashes, especially in the fourth quarter as they rallied from a 24-16 deficit that stood through a scoreless third period.
Augie cut into the gap with a 38-yard Jacob Stytz field goal with 9:49 left. A huge turn of events followed on the ensuing kickoff. The Red Dragons returned the kick out of the end zone and attempted a reverse, but the handoff was fumbled and recovered by Augie's Rich Matway at the Cortland 2.
An illegal substitution penalty moved Augie back 5 yards, but junior fullback Ryan Black worked out of the backfield for a 7-yard TD pass from QB Zach Fuller. Fuller's two-point conversion pass failed, but the Vikings led 25-24 with 9:11 left.
Cortland answered with a 7-play, 75-yard drive capped by Ferreira's 29-yard scoring strike to Alex Wasserman. After Holscher's PAT, the Red Dragons led 31-25 with 5:46 left.
The roller-coaster ride ahead of the long bus ride back home continued as Augie took the ensuing kick and marched 75 yards in 10 plays with Pitra (28 carries, 150 yards) capping the drive with a 10-yard burst off the left side to give Augie a 32-31 lead after Stytz's PAT.
However, after Dakim Davis's 43-yard kickoff return, Ferreira — 24-of-38 passing for 297 yards and another 46 rushing yards on 15 attempts — methodically marched his club to the winning field goal.
“We had it. It was there for the taking,” said a frustrated Bell. “All the junk that went on before and we still had a chance to win it. Now we've got a 13-hour bus ride to think about this one.”