Football, Sports

Football locks up automatic playoff bid

Video: Nathan Ford and Tyler French

College football pundits across the nation love to talk about trap games — the idea that an upset could happen because the favorite is looking ahead to a big game or is vulnerable after a big win.

Would No. 5 Wartburg’s game Saturday at last-place Simpson, where a win in front of a small crowd of 1,524 would give it an automatic playoff bid, qualify?

Maybe not, but it had that sort of feeling as the Storm smothered the Knights’ offense in a first quarter that ended 7-7.

“I was a little concerned about that (players staying focused) this week,” Wartburg head coach Rick Willis said. “All the talk is starting to happen and so forth.”

The outcome was never really in doubt after the opening quarter, though, as Wartburg (9-0, 6-0) rolled to a 41-10 victory to lock up the Iowa Conference’s automatic playoff bid and at least a share of the league title.

The Knights, who outgained the Storm (3-6, 0-6) 543-246, can clinch the IIAC outright with a win next week vs. Loras (3-6, 2-4).

“In a lot of ways, looking back on it, it was good for us to feel that way a little bit,” Willis said. “It’s probably the first time we’ve kind of had that feeling for quite a while. It’s good for us to experience that and learn how to respond to those things.”

Quarterback Logan Schrader tied a school record for the second time this season with five touchdowns. He completed 24-of-35 attempts for 376 yards and no picks.

Simpson carried the IIAC’s top ranked rush defense into the game, and the Knights had 167 yards on the ground. But the passing game was wide open against a unit ranked dead last in the conference.

“They were a little tough to figure out running the ball,” Schrader said. “They did some stuff to kind of shut down our run schemes, but we were able to throw the ball effectively and then we just got it going.”

Wartburg jumped on the board early with a seven-play, 78-yard drive capped by Schrader’s 32-yard toss to Taylor Jacobsmeier less than three minutes into the game.

An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after that play and kickoff out of bounds gave the Storm great field position at Wartburg’s 45. They capitalized with Jordan Beem’s 15-yard run.

The Knights were forced to punt on three consecutive drives, but took the lead for good on Schrader’s 39-yard pass to Mitch Rahm with 8:20 left in the first half.

Simpson looked to tie the game when it got to the Wartburg 14, but a 15-yard clipping penalty eventually wound up in a 4th-and-22. Gunner Tranel, who led the team with 11 tackles, sacked Dylan Berkey to give the ball back to the offense.

Schrader then completed four straight passes before running the ball in from 10 yards out to give the Knights a two-score advantage before halftime.

“We’re just confident in ourselves,” Schrader said of an offense that is constantly motivating each other on the sidelines with talk of how many points they can score in the time remaining. “We know if we go out and execute that it’s going to be tough to stop us.”

Tight ends Rahm and Jake Holsteen were wide open all day, catching a combined six passes for 142 yards and two scores.

Holsteen put the finishing touches on the win with a 19-yard catch that he tipped to himself in the endzone on the first drive of the fourth quarter.

Was the made-for-TV catch intentional? “It wasn’t on purpose,” Holsteen said with a begrudging laugh. “I kind of got lucky, I guess.”

The rest of those catches were the furthest thing from luck.

“Schematically we just kind of screwed over their defense,” Schrader said. “They had one guy to cover both of them, so someone was going to be wide open.”

Taylor Jacobsmeier was open quite often on the sideline, too, leading the passing attack with six catches for 89 yards and a touchdown.

Robbie Anstoetter added an acrobatic four-yard TD catch in the corner of the endzone, while Donald Miller danced his way across the field for a 27-yard touchdown on the next drive, the last of the third quarter.

Wartburg is the first team to repeat as IIAC champions since Central in 2007.

“It feels good to do that,” Willis said. “Now we’ve got to try to go and make sure we can win the thing outright and finish an undefeated season, which is pretty special as well.”

Wartburg (9-0, 6-0) 7 14 13 7 — 41
Simpson (3-6, 0-6) 7 0 0 3 — 10

W — Jacobsmeier 32 pass from Schrader (Bohlke kick) (12:13 1st, 7-0)
S — Beem 15 run (Jensen kick) (9:34 1st, 7-7)
W — Rahm 39 pass from Schrader (Bohlke kick) (8:20 2nd, 14-7)
W — Schrader 10 run (Bohlke kick) (1:24 2nd, 21-7)
W — Anstoetter 4 pass from Schrader (Bohlke kick failed) (2:46 3rd, 27-7)
W — Miller 27 pass from Schrader (Bohlke kick) (0:16 3rd, 34-7)
W — Holsteen 19 pass from Schrader (Bohlke kick) (11:44 4th, 41-7)
S — FG Jensen 20 (6:58 4th, 41-10)

Individual Leaders

Rushing — Wartburg: Domeyer 19-73, Schrader 8-39-1; Simpson: Beem 20-105-1, Tovey 6-37

Passing — Wartburg: Schrader 24-35-376-5, Hiller 0-2; Simpson: Frye 2-4-38, Tovey 3-8-12

Receiving — Wartburg: Jacobsmeier 6-89-1, Rahm 3-78-1; Simpson: Quam 3-39, Holland 4-15

Tackles — Wartburg: Tranel 11 (2 TFL), Garlock 10; Simpson: Abernathy 11 (1.5 TFL), Schrodt 9

Attendance — 1,524

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