DE PERE, Wis. - A late touchdown by Illinois College and the
following extra points was just enough to allow the visiting
Blueboys to eke past St. Norbert College 26-25 in a Midwest
Conference game at Kolstad Field at Schneider Stadium.
Mitch Niekamp's 20-yard touchdown pass to Brett Eschman on a fourth-and-6 play with 1 minute 48 seconds remaining and Travis Downey's extra point capped off the late rally.
Both teams are now 3-3 overall and 3-2 in the MWC. Thanks to Monmouth College's 51-45 triple-overtime win over Ripon College, seven teams ended the day within one game of first place in the MWC with four weeks left to play.
St. Norbert appeared it would pull the game out with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns. Logan Krueger's 22-yard touchdown pass from Rob Berger with 5:35 left tied the game at 19-19. The score capped off a 14-play 80-yard drive that saw St. Norbert convert two fourth downs, including a fake punt at its own 29-yard line.
Three plays from scrimmage later, St. Norbert took the lead on a wild series of events. Austin Arts intercepted a Niekamp pass at the St. Norbert 40. Just as Arts was approaching the goal line, hustling Illinois College running back Cecil Brimmage poked the ball away into the end zone. But an alert Kyle Ripley fell on the loose ball for a 25-19 lead. Roger Nault's extra point try failed, allowing the Blueboys an opportunity to win.
Niekmap completed his first four passes on the drive, and following an inside run Illinois College had a first down at the St. Norbert 24. Niekamp misfired on two of his next three passes, but found Eschmann on the far right sideline in the end zone on a bang-bang play near the boundary for the winning score.
Both teams slogged their way through the first half until Illinois College capitalized late. Taking over at its own 23 with 1:07 left, Niekamp promptly moved the Blueboys into St. Norbert territory. Niekamp found Brock Thompson splitting a seam for a 31-yard touchdown pass just 9 seconds before halftime and a 12-6 lead.
Illinois College took a 19-6 lead early in the third quarter on Eric Fisher's 70-yard interception return. St. Norbert needed just four plays to counter on a 14-yard touchdown run by John Weninger, but a bobbled snap kept the score at 19-12. Neither team scored again until the wild final minutes of the game.
St. Norbert held a slight 387-374 edge in total offense and had 237 rushing yards. The Green Knights were done in with five turnovers, and a potential sixth - which would have been an Illinois College touchdown - was nullified by an inadvertent whistle. St. Norbert also had 10 penalties for 86 yards, as opposed to just two for 15 yards for Illinois College.
Weninger rushed 25 times for 119 yards, while Berger completed 14 of 34 passes for 150 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. Krueger and Joe Green each had four receptions.
Niekamp completed 25 of 38 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns with one interception for Illinois College. Brimmage rushed 29 times for 130 yards, and Thompson had nine catches for 102 yards.