In a game that featured over 1,000 yards of total offense, it ultimately came down to a mere two yards on a two-point conversion attempt from Buena Vista senior TJ Lint that gave the Beavers a dramatic 39-38 walk-off overtime win against Central College on Saturday afternoon in the Iowa Conference opener for both teams.
The Dutch got the ball first in the extra period and got a two-yard touchdown plunge and a PAT to give them a 38-31 lead. BVU then got its chance. Junior quarterback Cole Miller's first pass attempt was incomplete, but he then came back with an 11-yard completion to freshman Tariq Thomas before throwing a fade to Jordan Travis in the right corner of the endzone to get BVU within one. Head coach Grant Mollring wated no time calling a timeout, and after discussing it over with his offense, sent the group back out there where the Beavers ran a reverse to Lint coming toward the near side of the field before cutting it back up into the defense and lunging over the goal-line and sending the team and the Beaver faithful into a wild frenzy.
The victory was the first for BVU over Central for the first time since 2012 and just the third over the Dutch since the start of the 1980 season. It also gave the Beavers their first 2-0 start to a season since 2003.
"I'm extremely proud of the resiliency of our guys today," said head coach Grant Mollring. "They battled adversity in a lot of different instances today and they kept a level head and had a desire to answer."
BVU nearly ended the game in regulation in dramatic fashion as senior corner back Nick Amundson intercepted a pass attempt by Central quarterback Kohle Helle at the BVU 30-yard line. Amundson then raced up the far sideline as time expired before cutting back across the middle of the field. He, however, got tripped up just inside the Dutch 10-yard line with only one defender to beat, sending the game into overtime.
"With the way that regulation ended on the play by Ammo [Amundson], there was no doubt we were going to go for two if the opportunity presented itself," Mollring added. "We believe in our guys, and more importantly, they believe in each other. We were fortunate that we executed well enough to convert. A great effort by TJ Lint to find the zone."
Each quarterback threw a touchdown pass in the opening quarter, including a 67-yard strike from Miller to freshman Jeremiah Rice. The catch was the first career reception for Rice and the second touchdown pass of over 60 yards for Miller through the first two games.
The score remained tied at 7-7 until late in the second quarter when the Dutch went back in front at 10-7 following a 21-yard made field goal. The Beavers then matched down the field on their ensuing drive with Tyler Oberreuter hauling in a one-yard touchdown pass from Miller to give BVU its first lead of the game at 14-10 with 32 seconds left in the half.
Central, however, had just enough time left to pull within a point going into the locker room. After the kick-off, Helle took the snap and raced 50 yards down the field. Despite fumbling the ball, he did recover it at the Beaver 21 which set-up a 38-yard field goal as time expired and making it a 14-13 contest at the half.
Thomas gave BVU a 21-13 lead early in the second half with a short touchdown run before the Dutch came right back with a short plunge into the endzone, coupled with a two-point conversion, to tie things up at 21-21 with 5:17 left. The Beavers then regained the lead at 28-21 when Miller took it in himslef from a yard out as time expired in the third.
Helle counter-punched with a one-yard touchdown leap of his own three minutes into the fourth quarter to even things up at 28-28. Central made it 10 straight points and took a 31-28 lead with 2:46 left in regulation on a 20-yard field goal.
Miller and the passing game went back to work for BVU on the ensuing posession which began at its own 20. He began with consecutive completions for 11 yards to Ross Adamson before a 23-yard toss to Thomas got the ball into Dutch territory at their 34. After a Beaver timeout, Miller rolled out and drilled a laser to the far sideline to Eric Pacheco, who kept a foot inbounds for an 16-yard grab.
BVU got all the way down inside the five yard-line and was looking for the lead late in regulation, but the Dutch defense kept the Beavers out of the endzone and Chris Miller, who was making his collegiate debut in this contest, drilled a 20-yard field goal to tie things up with only 26 seconds left.
Much like the end of the first half, Central got a big run by Helle on the first play of the ensuing drive which put Central into BVU territory with less than 30 seconds left. That was right before he threw the interception to Amundson that sent the game to overtime.
Helle helped keep Central in the game with his legs, rushing for a game-high 227 yards on 26 attempts. Running back Nathan Fitzgerald scampered for 123 more as the Dutch chalked up 419 yards on the ground. Helle also threw for 136 yards and one score but was intercepted twice. Central put up 555 yards of total offense.
Meanwhile, Miller completed 26-of-42 attempts for BVU and finished with a career-high 358 yards, tying Mike Wilson for sixth-most in a single-game in school history. His three passing touchdowns now give him five on the year, compared to only one interception.
Lint was on the receving end of seven of those completions for 108 yards. He also had a pair of rushing attempts for 17 yards, but none bigger than the final two yards he gained on the two-point conversion.
Adamson had a game-high eight grabs for 78 yards while Thomas came out of the backfield to catch five passes for 47 yards.
Sam Norgaard had 11 tackles for the Dutch as did Zach Anderson for the Beavers, including a pair of forced fumbles. Gary Weaver and Tyler Prescott each had nine while Reed Kruse was next with six, to go along with a late interception that set up the go-ahead touchdown for BVU as time expired in the third.
"Once again the atmosphere today was electric," said Mollring. "We had a great student section again today and fantastic support from the community. What a thrill to win on Hall of Fame Day as two former football players were inducted today."
The Beavers will look for their first 3-0 start to a season since 1988 when they go on the road for the first time this season on Saturday, September 23 to take on Loras College (1-2, 0-1 IIAC) at 1:00pm