The Augustana football team had a chance at snapping a couple of ignominious marks on Saturday in their season-ender at Lindberg Stadium.
The Carthage Red Men, though, had different ideas on a day the Vikings recognized 14 seniors who did their best to help lay the groundwork for the program's turnaround. Going to their bag of tricks in the frozen finale and baffling Augie with a flurry of well-timed blitzes, the Red Men humbled the Vikings with a 38-9 setback.
Augie had the opportunity to post its first .500 season in the four years of the Steve Bell coaching era and end a three-game losing streak to the Red Men. Instead, the Vikings added to their frustrations of an 0-5 2018 home slate. The loss left them with a 4-6, 3-6 CCIW record and continued a losing streak in home day games that stretches back to the start of Bell's tenure in 2015.
The Vikings didn't have answers on either side of the ball. The defense gave up 420 yards to the Red Men (4-6, 4-5 CCIW) and trailed from start to finish. Augie's offense was swarmed under by Carthage's pressure that recorded five QB sacks among seven negative-yardage plays and had only 116 yards offense in 40 plays through three quarters when it trailed 38-2. Augie finished with just 238 yards in 62 snaps (the second-lowest offensive output of the season) and also turned the ball over four times — three of those on interceptions.
“We struggled in the interior against them, which we knew was going to be an issue,” said Bell. “Then they dialed up some man blitzes. Schematically we had them picked up, but a man gets beat here and a man gets beat there. They have some older DBs who have played a lot of snaps for them and they trust can play man coverage.”
That made it nearly impossible for quarterback Zach Fuller and the Vikings to get anything going offensively until the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach.
“They brought a lot of heat and brought more than we could block,” said Fuller, who completed only seven of 18 passes for just 114 yards and was picked twice. “They pressured the outside on our wide receivers so it was tough to get open. When they were (open), it was tight windows.”
The most offensive success the Vikings had came from senior running back Ryan Pitra. The former Geneseo prep standout rushed 24 times for 122 yards and added 30 receiving yards on three late receptions on screen plays to beat blitzes.
“We struggled at times, and it was tough,” said Pitra, who pushed his season all-purpose yardage to 1,145 yards which included 931 yards rushing.
The Red Men had more than enough offense despite starting sophomore QB Billy Dury missing the game after getting injured in last week's thumping at the hands of Wheaton. Fellow sophomore Colton Klein stepped in and completed 16 of 25 passes for 191 yards, and senior RB Lafayette McGary added 147 yards on 31 carries and three rushing TDs.
Carthage also added insult by converting a fake punt for a big first down and completing a wide receiver reverse pass for a touchdown.
Augie's lone offensive score was a 7-yard strike from Fuller to sophomore Max Uranich with 11:24 left in the game. Augie's first points came in the first quarter when junior Bobby Jarosz blocked a punt in the end zone that Carthage fell on for a safety.
Augie's ensuing drive was a fourth straight three-and-out to start the game and was answered by a Carthage touchdown that started a string of 31 straight Red Men points.