MARSHALL - An emotional Tyler Peschong was choked up when discussing the final offensive play of Southwest Minnesota State's 38-37 victory against Upper Iowa Saturday at Mattke Field.
The play call itself was a gutsy one - a quarterback keeper on fourth-and-three from the Upper Iowa 7-yard line with 31 seconds remaining in regulation. Down six points to the Peacocks, the Mustangs had driven 68 yards down the field in 15 plays during a span of just over five minutes. They needed three yards to keep their hopes for a win alive in a game the team had dedicated to Ben Bundy, a former SMSU offensive lineman who died of a brain aneurysm during a team warmup in February of 2010. This would have been his senior season.
They needed three yards. They got seven.
Peschong, a 6-foot-5, 215 pound senior, took the snap, ran through a hole on the left side of the line and powered through a pair of Peacock defenders at the goal line to tie the score at 37 with 25 seconds left on the clock. Kicker Lance Schuveiller tacked on the extra point to give the Mustangs an exhilarating one-point win.
Bundy's name is still listed on the SMSU roster, and with Bundy's family in attendance for Saturday's game, Peschong said he felt that his former teammate was looking over the Mustangs on Saturday night.
"I believe with my whole heart that we had six linemen on the field with us that game," Peschong said, his voice wavering. "Bundy's with us and he's protecting us. I'm not just saying that, I mean it with my whole heart."
Photo by Matt Dahlseid
Southwest Minnesota State receiver Adam Olson drags an Upper Iowa defender along the SMSU sideline after making a catch during the first half of Saturday’s Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference game at Mattke Field at the Regional Event Center. Olson had a career-high five catches for 44 yards in the Mustangs’ win.
Peschong completed 27 of 43 passes for 252 yards and a touchdown, and rushed six times for 37 yards and a score. Senior running back Warren Matthews led the SMSU ground attack, carrying the ball 16 times for 108 of the team's 185 rushing yards and scoring two touchdowns.
Upper Iowa running back Ray Bradley rushed for 122 yards on 27 carries. His team had 226 yards rushing, while sophomore quarterback Cole Jaeschke was 16-for-27 passing for 231 yards with a touchdown. He was also picked off by Mustang defensive back Da'Ronte Smith on a Hail Mary attempt for the game's final play.
The win was SMSU's fifth straight over Upper Iowa, but the two teams have been in some tight, high-scoring ballgames in recent years.
"It's always a hard-fought battle against Upper Iowa, it just works out that way," SMSU head coach Cory Sauter said. "We've been fortunate enough to be on the winning end of those games and I just couldn't be prouder of how our guys battled.
"I tell you what, just emotionally, this game meant a lot to a lot of people. The whole Bundy family came and we appreciate having them here and experiencing that. It was just a special moment for everyone involved and you couldn't write a better script as far as how the game ended."
The Mustangs (3-5 overall, 2-2 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference South Division) were coming off of a near upset of No. 10 Minnesota State-Mankato the week before (a 34-31 double overtime loss) and looked flat to start Saturday's game. The Peacocks (2-6, 0-4 NSIC South) marched down the field with little resistance on their first two drives and carried a 12-0 lead into the second quarter. Upper Iowa missed an extra-point kick after its first touchdown, then failed to convert a two-point conversion after its second touchdown. The lost points proved costly in the end.
After a three-and-out on its first possession against one of the NSIC's worst defenses, the SMSU offense got going near at the end of the first quarter with a balanced mix of rushes and passes. Gannon Moore capped a nine-play, 68-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter to cut the Peacocks' lead to 12-7.
Upper Iowa scored a field goal on its third possession before SMSU cut the lead to 15-14 with a 17-yard touchdown run by Matthews. The play was set up by a 41-yard reception by Anthony Dean, who caught a jump ball simultaneously with an Upper Iowa defensive back, but was granted possession as both player wrestled to get control.
The SMSU defense finally got a stop on Upper Iowa's fourth possession, even after extending the Peacocks' drive with a roughing the kicker penalty on a punt, and the Mustang offense took over at its own 7-yard line. A 33-yard run by Matthews and a 17-yard catch by Britt Wickett helped the Mustangs march down the field, and Dean finished off the 12-play drive with a 7-yard touchdown grab to put SMSU up 21-15 with less than a minute left in the half.
The two teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter before UIU retook the lead at 29-28 early in the fourth on a 1-yard touchdown run by Mike Moser following a 51-yard pass from Jaeschke to Shay Gutman.
SMSU's next drive appeared to stall at the UIU 32 yard-line, but Sauter decided to give Schuveiller a shot at a 49-yard field goal on fourth-and-12. Schuveiller, whose previous long was 42 yards, nailed the kick with room to spare.
"We had a slight wind behind us, nothing big, but we felt we had a shot at it and gave him a chance and he nailed it," Sauter said. "It's big now when you look back at it. That was one of the biggest plays of the game."
A 44-yard kick return by UIU's Keaton Hosch gave the Peacocks great field position on the next possession, and they took advantage with a seven-play, 56-yard scoring drive. Jaeschke finished off the drive with an 8-yard run, then completed a pass to Derek Giesking for the two-point conversion to go up 37-31 with 5:37 remaining.
SMSU used up most of that time in their final 16-play drive the consisted of a mix of short runs and short passes to five different players. When he completed the drive with his leap into the end zone, Peschong said he had lived out a quarterback's dream.
"That last drive was special," Peschong said. "It's something I'll never forget, something none of these players will ever forget on both sides of the ball, redshirt players, whatever, they'll never forget this night. It was a very special night for a lot of people."
UIU12 3 7 15-37
SMSU0 21 7 10-38
UIU-Ray Bradley 2 run (Gabe Summerhays kick fail), 11:55
UIU-Keaton Hosch 13 pass from Cole Jaeschke (Jaeschke pass fail), 2;58
SMSU-Gannon Moore 8 run (Lance Schuveiller kick), 14:50
UIU-Summerhays 32 field goal, 12:44
SMSU-Warren Matthews 17 run (Schuveiller kick), 10:21
SMSU-Anthony Dean 7 pass from Tyler Peschong (Schuveiller kick), 0:53
UIU-Jaeschke 1 run (Summerhays kick), 11:19
SMSU-Matthews 2 run (Schuveiller kick), 4:56
UIU-Mike Moser 1 run (Summerhays kick), 13:28
SMSU-Schuveiller 49 field goal, 8:44
UIU-Jaeschke 8 run (Derek Giesking pass from Jaeschke), 5:37
SMSU-Tyler Peschong 7 run (Schuveiller kick), 0:25
First Downs: UIU 26; SMSU 27. Rushing Yards: UIU 226; SMSU 185. Passing Yards: UIU 231; SMSU 252. Total Offense: UIU 457; SMSU 437. Turnovers: UIU 1; SMSU 0. Penalties (Number-Yards): UIU 8-63; SMSU 6-55. Third-Down Conversions: UIU 10 of 16; SMSU 7 of 12. Fourth-Down Conversions: UIU 1 of 1; SMSU 1 of 1.
Rushing: UIU-Ray Bradley 27-122, Mike Moser 13-52, Cole Jaeschke 7-47, Keaton Hosch 1-5; SMSU-Warren Matthews 16-108, Gannon Moore 10-40, Tyler Peschong 6-37.
Passing (comp-att-yards-int): UIU-Jaeschke 16-27-231-1; SMSU-Peschong 27-43-252-0. Receiving: UIU-Shay Gutman 5-91, Derek Giesking 5-58, Hosch 4-68, Bradley 1-11, Evan Dornink 1-3; SMSU- Moore 6-58, Adam Olson 5-44, Britt Wickett 5-40, Cody Condon 5-35, Anthony Dean 3-51, Matthews 2-20, Jordan Cross 1-4. Tackles: UIU-Sooner Skinner 14, Keaton Martin 9, Jeff Arends 9, Ethan Douglas 9; SMSU-Tate Bunkers 9, Dashawn Miller 9, AJ Page 9, Blake Pennock 7, Mark Schollmeyer 6. Interceptions: UIU-None; SMSU-Da'Ronte Smith.