Washburn made Northwest Missouri State work harder than almost any other team the Bearcats have faced during their 32-game unbeaten streak.
But the Ichabods missed out on a chance to make the Bearcats sweat even more in the waning moments of Thursday night’s home-opening 20-14 loss in Yager Stadium.
Trailing by six, Washburn’s defense stopped Northwest short of a first down and the Bearcats sent out the punter on a fourth-and-2 at the Ichabods’ 40 with a little under three minutes remaining.
However, Washburn brought pressure and DaVonta Staples was flagged for running into the punter, giving Northwest a first down.
“I didn’t see it. I saw the ball roll in the end zone and I was like, ‘Yes, that’s awesome. We get to start at the 20,’ ” WU coach Craig Schurig said. “We kind of had our two-minute plan, we had plenty of time. Then someone said, ‘There’s a flag.’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s OK, we’re good.’ But then I saw it was roughing, and that really made it tough.”
Washburn used its last two timeouts and got another stop but had just 18 seconds left at its own 14 when the Ichabods got it back and were unable to move the ball.
“I didn’t see (the penalty) so I don’t know if it was (the correct call) or not, but that’s tough,” said WU quarterback Blake Peterson, who threw a 13-yard touchdown to Jace Williams to bring WU within a score with 4:32 left. “We would have had a chance to drive down the field for the win. It was just a tough situation.”
It was the first time since Sept. 26, 2015 that the two-time defending champion Bearcats have been played within single digits.
“I was proud of how hard our guys played,” Schurig said. “I told them that if we can bring that kind of intensity and play with that kind of effort throughout the season, we’ll have a good season.”
After a defense-dominated first half, Northwest led 5-0 at the break, but the No. 1-ranked Bearcats opened the second half with a nine-play, 78-yard scoring drive capped by a 14-yard pass to Shawn Bane to go up 12-0.
Washburn answered with a 71-yard TD drive after Logan Twehous found Jace Williams for a 6-yard score, and the Ichabods kept the momentum after Northwest fumbled on the kickoff, setting WU up at the Northwest 21.
The Bods got nothing out of the turnover, however. WU went for it on fourth-and-1 at the 12 and the Bearcats stuffed a running play.
“The way the score was, it was like a field goal could help us down the road but we needed something bigger than that. That’s why we went for it,” Schurig said. “They stuffed it, and good teams will do that. We went with our strength and they went with their strength and they won that battle.
“Looking back, a field goal would have gave us a little bit of momentum, but the way the score was, it was like, ‘Man, we got to get seven out of this thing.’ ”
Northwest grabbed a 20-7 lead early in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard plunge from Cameron Wilcox. The Ichabods later made it interesting after Peterson led an 83-yard drive and Williams hauled in his second touchdown of the game with a defender draped all over him.
Early on, Washburn came up with a goal-line stand when Trey Parker wrapped up Cameron Wilcox at the 1, thwarting a 40-play, 80-yard drive on Northwest’s first possession.
However, the drive did help Northwest get some points on the board after WU running back Mickeel Stewart was tackled in the end zone for a safety on the next play after the stand. The only other points of the first half came on a a 29-yard field goal from Brett Garner on a drive that was kept alive by a Washburn facemask on a third-and-20 play.
Washburn (1-1) had a chance to get on the board late in the first half, but Perry Schmiedeler’s 47-yard field goal attempt came up short.
Northwest limited WU to just 43 yards of offense and three first downs in the first half, while putting up 132 yards of offense.
Austin Tillman and Peter Pfannenstiel each had 14 tackles for Washburn while Derrick McGreevy had 11 stops.
Twehous, who started the game at QB, was 6 of 12 through the air for 33 yards with a touchdown and an interception while Peterson was 5 of 12 for 48 yards with a TD.
Northwest Missouri 20, Washburn 14
NW Missouri State 2 3 7 8 — 20
Washburn 0 0 7 7 — 14
NW — Safety (Birkman, Richard tackle), 5:57.
NW — Garner 29 field goal, 5:36. Drive: 12 plays, 34 yards, 6:32.
NW — Bane 14 pass from Martin (Garner kick), 10:38. Drive: 9-78, 4:22.
WU — Williams 6 pass from Twehous, 8:57 (Schmiedeler kick). Drive 5-71, 1:46.
NW — Wilcox 1 run (Willams pass from Martin), 12:06. Drive: 10-87, 4:28.
WU — Williams 13 pass from Peterson (Schmiedeler kick), 4:32. Drive: 9-83, 3:56.
Attendance — 6,435.
GAME IN FIGURES
First downs 22 11
Rushes-yards 40-140 27-136
Passing yards 238 81
Comp-Att-Int. 30-41-0 11-24-1
Punts-Avg. 5-45.4 5-40.8
Fumbles-lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties-yards 2-10 12-68
Time of possession 37:36 22:24
RUSHING — NW: Wilcox 20-69, Grove 15-65, Martin 5-6. WU: Stewart 8-61, Willis 7-32, Peterson 5-24, Whitten 4-18, Twehous 3-1.
PASSING — NW: Martin 30-40-0 238 yards, Team 0-1-0. WU: Twehous 6-12-1 33 yards, Peterson 5-12-0 48 yards.
RECEIVING — NW: Williams 8-63, Grove 6-60, Bane 5-52, Wilcox 3-32, Wilson 3-4, Bryant 2-15, Sykes 1-5, Bishop 1-4.
PUNTING — NW: Thorman 5-45.4. WU: Schmiedeler 5-40.8.
LEADING TACKLERS — NW: Richards 5 solo, 4 assisted, Althoff 5-2, Brinkman 0-6. WU: Tillman 6-8, Pfannenstiel 5-9, McGreevy 4-7.
SACKS — NW: Rickey 1.0. WU: Breckenridge 1.0, Chester 1.0.
INTERCEPTION — NW: Richey.