Central College pounded on the door for three quarters before finally breaking through in the fourth and outmuscled Augustana College (Ill.) 17-10 for its first win of the football season Saturday.
But two fourth-quarter touchdowns and a powerful running attack led by Ross Doehrmann's (senior, Williamsburg) 91 yards on 19 carries gave Central the juice it needed for the victory.
The Dutch (1-1) dominated possession but were still clinging to a 3-0 lead after three quarters, getting only a 27-yard Kevin Sheldon (sophomore, West Des Moines, Valley HS) field goal with 9:08 left in the first quarter. Central held the ball for 28:38 of the game's first 45 minutes and the team's first three possessions ended inside the Augustana 20-yard line, yet the team came away with just three points. But the Dutch defense made sure the lead held up, stifling the run-oriented Vikings' attack and limiting them to 62 yards total offense through three periods.
After an afternoon of frustration in the season-opening 47-28 loss at Wis.-Oshkosh the previous week, coach Jeff McMartin said Central's early scoring struggles could have snowballed.
"You go into halftime as a coach and think, 'Man, you cannot miss these opportunities and expect to be where you want to be,'" he said. "But I thought our guys battled back in the second half and kept their focus. Coming off last week, that really could have bothered them, but it didn't. They kept living in the moment and playing hard, so I felt good about that."
Back-up quarterback Aaron Eiseler (sophomore, Mesa, Ariz., Red Mountain HS) got the breakthrough score, pulling off a well-executed fake and scrambling for a 4-yard score to cap a 42-yard drive on the first play of the fourth quarter. Augustana quickly answered with a 32-yard Brady Rogers field goal with 12:53 remaining.
But then Dutch quarterback Jack Flaherty (senior, Burlington) hit Blaine Forsythe (sophomore, Pella) for a 49-yard TD strike and it was 17-3 with 11:05 left.
Augustana (0-2) made things interesting with a 58-yard touchdown pass at the 5:01 mark but was stymied the rest of the way.
Central outgained the Vikings 317 yards to 196. Linebacker Mike Young (junior, Country Club Hills, Ill., Hillcrest HS) topped the Dutch tackle charts for the first time with six, including two sacks and three tackles for loss. Junior Danny Samson (Baxter, CMB HS) had five tackles with 1.5 sacks, freshman defensive lineman Dustin Smith (Marion, Linn-Mar HS) had five tackles with one sack and junior linebacker Luke Geneser (Granger, Woodward-Granger HS) had five stops.
"I thought our defensive coaches had a really good game plan and I thought our guys went out and executed it," McMartin said. "We needed them to."
Flaherty completed 11 of 18 passes for 138 yards with one TD and one interception. Ben Lechtenberg (senior, Manchester, West Delaware HS) had four receptions for 41 yards and running back Josh Osborn (sophomore, Burlington) had 15 carries for 55 yards as the Dutch gained 179 yards on the ground.
Central was aggressive in trying to get on the scoreboard and was 4-of-5 fourth-down conversions.
"We talked a lot about just cutting it loose," McMartin said. "Don't worry about what's going to happen, just play your game and cut it loose. I thought our guys did a good job of that and (the coaches) needed to send that message to them as well. If we're going to talk about it, then we need to do it in a game."
Central has an early bye week before another long trip for its final non-conference contest, a Sept. 22 game at Albion College (Mich.). The Britons (2-0) stunned No. 10 Wheaton College (Ill.) Saturday as fifth-year senior quarterback Spencer Krauss threw a 21-yard TD pass with 1:30 remaining for a 21-19 home-field win.
But McMartin isn't thinking about Central's next opponent.
"We've got to get a little healthier," he said. "We've had a couple dings so we'll use (the bye week) to rest up. But what we're really going to use it for is to get better and continue to find out who we are so we can play Central football. We might have to take some things out of the game plan and we might have to tweak a few things so that we can continue to have success, but it's going to be time well-spent, I can guarantee you that."