The Augustana football team had everything going for it in the first 16-plus minutes of Saturday's home-opening CCIW battle at Lindberg Stadium.
The Vikings had just converted a Carthage fumble into a 31-yard Luke Bleyer touchdown strike to Ethan Jennings for a two-score lead.
After that, though, the Vikings struggled and ended up with their fourth-straight loss. The 55-14 setback to the Red Men dropped Augie to 0-2 in CCIW play.
“The wheels fell off,” Augie coach Steve Bell said.
Actually, the Red Men (3-1, 1-1) had a lot to do with loosening those lugnuts first.
After getting it taken to them early, the Red Men showed the defense that had allowed just 12.3 points and 204 yards per game coming in. Augie finished with 206 yards offense in 63 snaps.
After Bleyer struck for his second touchdown –- the first a 10-yarder to Tom Dolis –- with 13:46 left in the second quarter for a 14-0 Augie lead, things fell apart on both sides of the ball for the Vikings.
Carthage scored on three of four offensive possessions – Jamel Davis with three short TD runs – and added a pick-6 to take a 27-14 halftime lead.
"That kills you," Bell said of the four straight Carthage scores to end the half. “That puts the defense in a real tough spot."
The Viking offense that churned out 111 yards in that first 16-plus minutes finished the half with minus-3 yards of offense on their final four offensive possessions.
That made it tough on Bleyer, who was pressured heavily and finished with only six completions in 16 passes for 84 yards and was rushed into four interceptions – two of them returned for scores.
"Once they sensed a little bleeding, they started bringing a lot of pressure," Bell said. "Their d-line is really tough. What happens is you end up in all one-on-one matchups and those guys are good enough to win those."
Things weren't much better in the third quarter for Augie.
A bad snap on a 28-yard Carthage field goal attempt ended the Red Men's first third-quarter possession, but a quick three-and-out led to a 5-play, 66-yard scoring drive capped by a 22-yard TD toss.
On Augie's next possession, the Red Men added another pick-six.
Former Rock Island standout Alek Jacobs took most of the QB snaps in the second half as the Vikings tried to get something going without much pass protection.
The freshman finished as Augie's leading rusher with 77 yards in 11 carries and had a long of 19. He had his only pass attempt picked off.
Looking forward, Bell hopes his club can put things back together for Saturday's 1 p.m. game at Elmhurst.
“Our kids will respond in the right way," Bell said. "Our leadership will hopefully show out.”