ROCK ISLAND — On the opening drive of Saturday's CCIW clash against league-leading Illinois Wesleyan, the Augustana Vikings and freshman quarterback Alek Jacobs churned out a 15-play, 65-yard scoring drive to take an early lead.
However, 12th-ranked IWU answered and, from that point on, held the upper hand en route to a 28-10 victory over the Vikings at Lindberg Stadium.
“It's huge, that first drive of the game, to get a score on the board, especially against a good team,” said Jacobs after his first collegiate start. “You're hoping momentum goes your way, but it didn't and they responded. I guess we didn't.”
The Vikings showed plenty of spunk the entire game – if not enough offense – to make the 5-1, 3-1 Titans work hard for the road victory that followed a huge road upset of No. 4 Wheaton last Saturday.
“We banged heads with a really, really good football team for a long time,” said Augie coach Steve Bell after his club dropped to 1-5, 1-3 CCIW. “The issue was, we got down by two scores in the second quarter, which is a tough scenario to be in because they're not going to give you a whole lot.”
After Jacobs led that first scoring drive with six carries for 38 yards, the Vikings could add only 97 yards offense the rest of the game, finishing with 162 total yards in 63 snaps.
“We knew once we shut down the quarterback-read game, we were going to be fine because they didn't have the best passing game,” IWU linebacker Brinton Wilkey.
That was the case. Augie finished with 84 rushing yards in 39 attempts with Jacobs carrying 22 times for 74 yards. Jacobs was 10-of-21 passing for another 77 yards and junior Luke Bleyer took five snaps in the fourth quarter, completing one pass for a yard.
“I thought that was a really good team we played,” said Jacobs. “They're No. 12 in the country for a reason and I thought we held our own out there. We really gave a good effort.”
Two of IWU's next three scores came on short-field chances. A bad snap on a punt attempt after Augie's second drive gave the Titans the ball at the Viking 37. The guests needed only three plays and a Morgan Alexander 18-yard TD run to take the lead with 11:43 left in the second.
Before halftime, IWU rattled off a 13-play, 80-yard drive capped by Alexander's 2-yard TD catch from Brandon Bauer with :31.7 left for a 21-7 halftime margin.
“We didn't make plays at critical moments,” said Bell. “We did some, but we left a bunch out there.”
Bell called Augie's defense Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde-like. The 28 points allowed was the second lowest of the season. IWU totaled 320 yards offense, but only had nine second-half first downs and 134 yards offense in the final 30 minutes. Augie forced the Titans into punts on their first five second-half possessions. IWU then scored on a short field after a bad punt into the wind and had the ball at the end of the game.
“We were pretty dominant defensively in the third and almost all the way through the fourth,” said Bell. “That's something we feel we can build on. … If we could get that third and fourth quarter bottled up, it would be beautiful.”