Logan Schrader’s 22-yard touchdown pass to Logan Ruffridge gave Wartburg its second come-from-behind win in as many weeks.
The Knights gave up 24 points to Dubuque in the second quarter but hung on to win, 34-31.
“We were just able to fight longer and harder and that’s what we pride ourselves on,” linebacker Ryan Billings said.
Wartburg’s defense forced a three-and-out on the Spartan’s first drive of the game and the offense took advantage.
Schrader found Ruffridge for a 45-yard gain to Dubuque’s 25.
Two plays later, Reese Thompson scored from one yard out for the first points of the game.
The rest of the quarter was scoreless and featured turnovers by each team.
Dubuque finally found its offense in the second quarter as Wyatt Hanus completed a pass to Tyler Rutenbeck for 59 yards to set up his scoring toss to Sean Anderson from 13 yards to tie the game.
Trevor Runkle intercepted Schrader in Wartburg territory and Hanus completed his second touchdown pass of the day, this time to Rutenbeck, to put Dubuque up by seven.
The Knights answered in a big way on their very next possession as Reese Thompson handed the ball off to Ruffridge on the reverse. Ruffridge ran 33 yards down the sideline to tie the score at 14.
It took Dubuque less than a minute to regain the lead as Hanus’ 40-yard pass to Rutenbeck led to Dakota Runde’s six-yard touchdown.
The Spartans led 24-14 at halftime but Wartburg’s offense stepped up once again in the third quarter.
Schrader and company drove the ball 98 yards, capped off by his three-yard touchdown pass to Eric Loutsch to cut the lead to three.
The Spartans took the ball to midfield twice in the third quarter but Wartburg’s defense held.
Wartburg took over at their own 18-yard line near the end of the third quarter.
A key point in the game came when Schrader was in trouble in the pocket but managed to escape multiple tackles and run for 28 yards.
Later that possession, in the fourth quarter, Homecoming King Curt Hruska hauled in a 25-yard touchdown pass from Schrader to give Wartburg a 27-24 lead after the extra point was missed.
The Spartans answered on their next possession with a 16-play, 69-yard drive to go up 31-27 with 8:05 to play.
Wartburg’s drive stalled at the Dubuque 47 and the Knights chose to punt on 4th and 27 with 3:38 remaining.
The Knights had all three timeouts remaining and stopped Dubuque on its own four yard line with just over two minutes left.
Spencer Capitani returned the Spartan punt 18 yards to the Dubuque 22-yard line.
On the very next play, Ruffridge ran past the Dubuque secondary and Schrader found him in the endzone for a touchdown and a 34-31 lead.
The Spartans still had 1:16 on the clock to try to tie or win the game.
Dubuque moved the ball to Wartburg’s 20-yard line with three seconds left to set up a 37-yard field goal.
“I was just hoping he would miss, I actually went down on one knee so I was Tebowing,” Billings said.
Billings’ strategy worked as Sandoval’s kick went wide right and the Knights escaped with a Homecoming victory.
Schrader finished the game 19-of-28 for 338 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
Brandon Domeyer led the team in rushing with 74 yards on 15 carries.
Billings led the team in tackles with nine including a sack.
With the win, Wartburg improved to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the Iowa Conference. Dubuque, the defending Iowa Conference champions, dropped to 2-5 overall and 1-3 in the conference.
Wartburg travels to Cedar Rapids this week to take on the undefeated Coe Kohawks.
A loss eliminates the Knights from conference championship contention.
“Every win is a huge win from here on out, Billings said. “We have to win out.”
IOWA CONFERENCE FOOTBALL SCORES
Buena Vista 42, Loras 19
Central 31, Luther 14
Coe 47, Simpson 7
Wartburg 34, Dubuque 31
IOWA CONFERENCE FOOTBALL STANDINGS
Coe (4-0, 7-0)
Simpson (3-1, 5-2)
Wartburg (3-1, 5-2)
Buena Vista (2-2, 2-5)
Central (2-2, 3-4)
Dubuque (1-3, 2-5)
Loras (1-3, 2-5)
Luther (0-4, 0-7)