By Rick Schmuecker, Doane (Neb.) Sports Information Director
CRETE, Neb. - The NAIA Football Game of the Week lived up to the billing and then some on Saturday afternoon as No. 13 Northwestern College (Iowa) traveled to Crete, Nebraska, to take on 20th-ranked Doane College (Neb.). The day was loaded with events for the Tigers’ home opener and when the final seconds ticked off the clock, Doane came away with a 34-27 victory.
The two teams combined for 801 yards of total offense, with Doane finishing the game with 408. The Tigers ran 81 plays to the Red Raiders 78 plays and both teams averaged 5.0 yards per play.
Kenneth Boggs led the Doane ground game with two touchdowns and 99 yards rushing on 21 carries. Northwestern received 97 yards on the ground from Theo Bartman.
Davis Bloemendaal recorded three touchdown passes on 254 yards passing for the Red Raiders while Doane’s Phil Hamburger threw for 201 yards and one touchdown and added 67 yards rushing.
“We had a good game plan going in and the players believe they have the possibility of being a good team,” said Doane Head Coach Matt Franzen. “This was a big game for us if we hope to make the playoffs although we will take it one game at a time. After the loss last week, we were backed into a corner and needed to come out strong.”
The day opened with the debut of the Mighty Tiger Marching Band. They took to the field 20 minutes prior to the game and set the tone for the excitement that was going to take place.
Doane had the first drive of the day following a touchback on the opening kickoff. The Tigers converted three times on third down in the drive capped by a 14-yard run by Boggs for a touchdown. On the sixth play of the drive, Hamburger hit Nate Meier on 3rd-and-9 for a 44-yard pass.
Northwestern was held to a 3-and-out on their first two possessions before tying the game prior to the end of the first quarter. After being pinned at their one-yard line, the Red Raiders marched 99 yards on 17 plays to score a touchdown. Bloemendaal found Ben Green for an 11-yard score.
The Tigers answered back on their next possession, going 67 yards on four plays. Hamburger completed a 33-yard pass to Nolan Kawata and a 40-yard touchdown pass to Mitch Marvin.
On the first play of the Red Raiders’ next drive, Bloemendaal looked to go up top with a pass but it was under-thrown and intercepted by JerSean Walder. The Tigers needed seven plays to go 36 yards to score another touchdown to take a 21-7 lead with 9:27 remaining in the first half. The drive was capped by a one-yard plunge by Alex Dose.
Before halftime, Doane added one more score to take a 24-7 lead. With 59 seconds remaining, Jordan Pedersen knocked in a 37-yard field goal.
“The first half started with the defense setting the tone early on.” Franzen commented after the game. “They helped us dictate field position and were much better in tackling this week than we were in the first half last week.”
Spirits were high at the break for the Doane faithful and if possible, the enjoyment of the day went even higher at halftime. Doane College rededicated their field after legendary NAIA Hall of Fame Coach Al Papik. Papik was at the helm of the Tiger program in the late 60s when Doane fielded some of their greatest teams.
The third quarter opened with Northwestern taking possession first and quickly dampening the Tiger spirits. The Red Raiders marched 77 yards over 13 plays as Bloemendaal found Green for a 20-yard score to cut the Doane lead to 24-14.
Doane was held to a 3-and-out on their next possession and forced to punt. Josue Argueta came loose around the left edge and blocked the punt attempt of Brett Eyer and it was scooped up by Ben Loftis and returned 18 yards for a touchdown. The extra point was blocked, leaving Doane in front, 24-20.
“The blocked punt was a big momentum swing for (Northwestern),” Franzen said. “We seemed to be in slow motion on the play compared to other times in the game. They also opened the half with short passes and nickeled and dimed us.”
The Tigers were able to bounce back and drive 79 yards on 16 plays before capping the drive with a 20-yard field goal from Pedersen. Doane led by a touchdown but the stop kept the momentum on the Red Raider sideline.
Late in the third quarter, Northwestern drove to the Doane 39-yard line but was stopped as Bloemendaal threw his second interception. Sheldon Garcia picked off the pass and returned it to the Tiger 47-yard line.
Doane was able to pick up one yard on their next possession to start the fourth quarter. The Red Raiders were pinned deep inside their own end following a 40-yard punt by Eyer. Northwestern drove down to the Doane 9 for first-and-goal early in the fourth quarter.
Following a two-yard rush and two passes, the Red Raiders had fourth-and-goal at the Doane 3. Northwestern elected to go for the touchdown and the Tiger defense came away with a stop behind the line of scrimmage as Brandon Saratella and Garrett Borcher hit Bartman in the backfield.
Following a Doane punt, Northwestern took over near midfield and covered 52 yards on four plays to tie the game at 27-27. Bloemendaal found Brice Byker for an 18-yard score to tie the game with the extra point.
For every time Northwestern punched, the Tigers had a counter-punch. Following a penalty on the kickoff, Doane was pushed back and started their drive at the Tiger 16. On 3rd-and-13, Hamburger raced around the right edge and covered 14 yards for a first down and drew a personal foul to tack onto the end of the play.
On the next play, Hamburger ran for six yards but was injured. Phil Thramer came off the bench, having only seen some time on the special teams units earlier in the game and kept the Tiger machine rolling. He completed a third down pass to Kawata to extend the drive before Hamburger returned.
“Hamburger showed a lot of toughness today and took some hard hits,” Franzen remarked. “In the situation Thramer came in, he was outstanding and made a big play on third down. Hamburger returned and his run-pass option was a big difference in the game as it helped keep the field spread.”
Doane finished off the drive with a 13-yard run from Boggs to put the Tigers back in front, 34-27.
Sure enough, the Red Raiders were not going to go quietly as they took two plays to get to midfield with the clock ticking under three minutes left in the game. Bloemendaal hit Jacey Hoegh for a four-yard completion but on the tackle by Kam Lenhart, the ball came loose and was recovered by DJ Bamesberger for the Tigers.
Doane was able to run out the clock after converting a fourth down play with Boggs racing for 28 yards when he needed just one.
Defensively, Doane forced three turnovers while the Tiger offense did not commit one on the day. Jeremy Wallace led the Tiger defense with 10 total tackles, six solo. He had a sack and one pass break-up. Lenhart was in on nine tackles, including the forced fumble late in the game. Rob Keeney added eight total tackles. Doane had two sacks on the day with Alex
Thatch adding the other one just before halftime that took Northwestern out of field goal range.
Northwestern was led on the defensive side by Greg Hegstad’s 11 total tackles. Lawton De Jong and Isaiah Twitty had 10 total tackles apiece, five solo for both players. The Red Raiders recorded three sacks on the day.
Doane hits the road next week to take on Hastings College while the Red Raiders return home to face Dakota Wesleyan University.