A veteran Augustana football team was able to make the correct adjustments on the fly during Saturday's season opener and reaped the rewards.
A halftime offensive switch allowed the Vikings to figure out a better attack point against visiting Coe and resulted in a dominant second-half performance. The hosts scored on four of their five second-half possessions en route to blowing open the game for a 41-3 victory at Lindberg Stadium.
That win put to rest a couple of ignominious streaks for the program. It was the first home victory since the 2017 season and the first home win in an afternoon game since the 2014 season.
“I don't care if it's at home or in the parking lot,” said fifth-year Augie coach Steve Bell, whose club matched its most points scored in a game in the last three years. “It's always good to get a win.”
While the offense was finding its way, the Augie defense was stout from start to finish. Coe's only points came off an interception that allowed the guests to start at the Augie 33. However, that drive stalled at the 11, and the KoHawks had to settle for Tristan Connell's 28-yard field goal with 8:37 left in the first quarter to take a 3-0 lead.
Coe, operating without expected starting senior QB Quentin White, managed just one other drive inside Augie territory — that ending in a woeful miss on a 46-yard field goal attempt late in the second quarter. Coe coach Tyler Staker didn't comment on his presumed starting QB not being dressed for the game.
“They were just better than us,” he said of the Vikings, who led just 13-3 at halftime.
Augie's defense held the KoHawks to 193 yards in 64 snaps. On top of that, Coe had just 29 offensive yards in the second half when senior Luke Phelan had his first career two-interception game and John Kappel had another. Leading tackler Luke Sawicki (11 stops, five solos) also made an athletic interception in the first half.
“That felt great,” said Phelan of the strong defensive effort. “This defense has been hungry for a long time. … We have a lot of dudes back from last year and we came out fired up to play ball like we know how to play. I know every single person on that defense knows how to do their job and we performed it well today.”
And it got better as the game wore on, too.
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“I thought the defense played outstanding,” said Bell. “The key was we were really good stopping the run and we took the ball away. Anytime you can get lost possessions on their end, it gives us the ball and gives us more chances to score.”
Which the offense did as it rolled to 449 yards in 65 plays and converted all four interceptions into touchdowns.
Bell said the impressive offensive production was made possible by the “smarts” his team possesses in applying those changes on the fly.
“In the locker room at halftime, we made one dramatic adjustment in the run game,” said Bell, noting the KoHawks showed more of a four-man offensive front as opposed to the three-man front Augie was expecting. “The guys capitalized on that and we started gashing them in the run game.”
Led by Bobby Jarosz (21 carries, 113 yards) and later Antonio Cannon (10 carries, 41 yards), Augie controlled the clock with 184 yards rushing in 40 tries.
That attack was balanced nicely by quarterback Zach Fuller and the passing game. The fifth-year senior signal-caller showed tremendous poise in the pocket behind that veteran line as he completed 16 of 24 passes for 238 yards and four touchdowns. He found Tom Dollis for two of those scoring strikes — the second a gorgeous grab in the end zone between defenders for a 35-yarder. Max Uranich (28 yards) and Ethan Jennings (18 yards) also caught TD tosses.
Fuller even turned a scramble into a 7-yard TD jaunt in the third quarter.
Travor Spicer capped the scoring with a 2-yard plunge with 1:42 left to close out an 11-play, 76-yard drive that rolled seven minutes and five seconds off the clock and made for a happy home celebration for the Vikings.
“I know we hadn't had a home win since I was a sophomore,” said Phelan. “This is a great feeling to have and really boosts us into the season.”