Three fourth quarter turnovers led to Wartburg pulling away for its first Iowa Conference victory Saturday against Buena Vista.
The Knights improved to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the conference with a 42-21 victory over the Beavers (0-5, 0-2) in Storm Lake.
“I thought it would be a tough game, I really did,” head coach Rick Willis said. “If you look at the teams BV’s played, all the teams they’ve played are good teams and that’s why their record can be deceiving.”
Freshman quarterback J.J. Hanus made his first collegiate start at quarterback for the Knights due to Logan Schrader’s separated shoulder keeping him sidelined.
Hanus led the Knights 70 yards on their first possession, capped off by a 13-yard touchdown pass to Donald Miller.
“I was a little nervous at first,” Hanus said, “but once I got out there and got that score I got a lot more just used to the game tempo and everything.”
Buena Vista answered at the end of the quarter as John Hill bounced to the outside and outran the defense down the sideline for a 70-yard touchdown to tie the score at seven.
Entering the game, Wartburg’s defense was leading Division III in rushing yards per game but the Beavers put up 181 yards on the ground Saturday.
“We have a chance to be a really good defense but if we give up those chunk plays every game that makes it hard,” Willis said. “I think it’s just a matter of being more consistent.”
Reese Thompson’s 15-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter put the Knights up 14-7 and the game was never tied again.
Both teams scored touchdowns before Hanus led the team 71 yards just before halftime and scored on a five-yard run to make the score 27-14 at the break.
After a 41-point first half, the third quarter produced no points as both teams struggled to move the ball.
Buena Vista was not done yet though as Bobby Brown found Adam Cave in the endzone for a three-yard score and suddenly the lead was just six points again.
Wartburg came right back as Hanus found Logan Ruffridge open down the sideline for a 30-yard score to put the Knights up for good.
The Beaver’s next two possessions resulted in interceptions by Riley Anderson and Mark Lueschow in Wartburg territory.
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“That was big,” Anderson said of the Knight’s fourth quarter. “Every time they came out it seemed like we were getting a turnover.”
Hanus was 19-of-25 for 195 yards and two touchdowns in his first career start.
“I thought J.J. did a tremendous job starting his first ball game,” Willis said. “We certainly couldn’t have asked for anything more from him.”
Willis said he is unsure of when Schrader will be able to play again though it may be this week. He said Schrader will remain the quarterback but it’s important for Hanus to continue to get experience.
The Knights host Luther (0-5, 0-2) this Saturday in a game Willis said will challenge Wartburg’s offense due to the Norse’s unique defensive schemes.
The game kicks off at 1 p.m. and can be seen live on Wartburg Television and www.wartburgcircuit.org.
IOWA CONFERENCE FOOTBALL SCORES: OCT. 6
Coe 69, Loras 7
Dubuque 29, Luther 0
Simpson 21, Central 18
Wartburg 42, Buena Vista 21
IOWA CONFERENCE FOOTBALL STANDINGS
Coe (2-0, 5-0)
Simpson (2-0, 4-1)
Wartburg (1-1, 3-2)
Central (1-1, 2-3)
Dubuque (1-1, 2-3)
Loras (1-1, 2-3)
Buena Vista (0-2, 0-5)
Luther (0-2, 0-5)