What is thought to be one of the most routine plays in sports has led to two Wartburg losses to Simpson in the last two years.
Logan Schrader’s five-yard touchdown pass to Donald Miller brought the Knights to within one point with 37 seconds left. All that was left was the extra point.
For the second time in the game though, Frank Loconti’s kick was blocked.
“Everyone was a little weary to kick it or not,” defensive back Garrett McGrane said. “We went with the decision to kick and it just didn’t fall in place.”
When asked if he thought the Knights should have tried the two point conversion, McGrane said it was up to the coach.
“That’s Coach [Rick] Willis’ decision so we really don’t know. I guess we could have tried it but who knows,” McGrane said.
Last year, the Knights answered a Storm touchdown in overtime but the extra point was blocked, clinching the Simpson victory.
This year, Wartburg still had three timeouts remaining and got the ball back with 15 seconds to play.
As time expired, Schrader found Cywettnie Brown down the sideline who pitched to Logan Ruffridge.
Ruffridge burst into open space but was tackled around the 20-yard line.
Wartburg led 13-0 at one time in the first half, but the Storm gradually battled back to take the lead.
The first quarter was largely a stalemate before Reese Thompson’s two-yard run put the first points on the board.
Once again, the extra point was blocked and the Knights led 6-0.
“We played well in the first quarter. We came out and scored that touchdown. We played the beginning hard and the end hard, just not the middle,” assistant coach Dan Stiefel said.
Cywettnie Brown scored the first touchdown of his career as Schrader found him open in the right corner just in front of the endzone.
The 30-yard touchdown completed a 67-yard drive seven minutes into the second quarter and put Wartburg up 13-0.
Less than one minute later, Storm quarterback Taylor Nelson tossed a screen pass to Brad Vogel who took it 76 yards to the endzone.
This time it was Wartburg that blocked Simpson’s extra point and the score remained 13-6 Knights at halftime.
Simpson drove the ball to the Wartburg five yard line but Ryan Billings made a diving interception in the endzone on fourth down to end the scoring threat.
The interception was Billings’ second of the game, with his first coming in the second quarter, eventually leading to a field goal attempt that was blocked.
On the very next Storm possession in the fourth, they faced another fourth down. But this time, Nelson found Taylor Rogers in the endzone for a 21-yard touchdown that tied the game at 13.
Wartburg was forced to punt on their next drive and with 1:42 remaining, Nelson found Rogers streaking down the sideline for 43 yards and Simpson led for the first time.
It was up to Schrader and the Knight offense to tie the game and force overtime for a second straight year.
Schrader led an 83-yard scoring drive, going 5-for-6 through the air, eventually finding Miller in the endzone to bring Wartburg within one point.
Stiefel was in a similar situation against Simpson last year, leading the team to an overtime touchdown before losing on a blocked extra point.
“It’s a lot of pressure,” Stiefel said. “There’s no other feeling then losing by one point like that. No worse feeling losing by one point and I felt it last year.”
The Knights were all too familiar with what happened next though as they dropped their first conference game.
Simpson improved to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the IIAC while Wartburg is now 2-2 and 0-1.
Schrader went 18-for-25 for 295 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Wartburg’s defense, one of the top units in the country, held the Storm to negative-14 yards rushing.
McGrane said he is still optimistic about the season, pointing out that it’s only the first conference game and that the Knights need to get back to working on the basics.
“The conference is still up in the air and there’s a lot of good teams. We just gotta work on our mistakes and come back stronger,” McGrane said.
The Knights travel to Storm Lake this Saturday to take on the Beavers of Buena Vista (0-4, 0-1) at 1 p.m.
WEEK FOUR IOWA CONFERENCE FOOTBALL SCORES
Central 31, Dubuque 24
Coe 51, Buena Vista 0
Loras 28, Luther 25
Simpson 20, Wartburg 19
IOWA CONFERENCE FOOTBALL STANDINGS
Coe (1-0, 4-0)
Simpson (1-0, 3-1)
Central (1-0, 2-2)
Loras (1-0, 2-2)
Wartburg (0-1, 2-2)
Dubuque (0-1, 1-3)
Buena Vista (0-1, 0-4)
Luther (0-1, 0-4)