Washburn won’t classify Thursday’s loss to No. 1-ranked Northwest Missouri State as a moral victory, but the Ichabods didn’t walk away from the toe-to-toe bout without building confidence.
“We came into this game expecting to win. We really thought we could win and we showed that,” WU quarterback Blake Peterson said after a 20-14 loss to the back-to-back defending national champs. “Nobody’s happy right now, but it does give us confidence that we can play with anybody in the conference and in the nation. If we can play with the No. 1 team in the nation, we can play with anybody. I think it gives us confidence moving forward that we have a really good team.”
WU (1-1) gave Northwest its closest game since September 2015, and the Ichabod defense turned in one of their better performances in recent years, holding the Bearcats to their lowest point total since October 2014.
It was a far cry from Washburn’s previous five Northwest matchups, in which the Bods were outscored 229-61.
“That team (Washburn) is a good football team,” Northwest quarterback Zach Martin told David Boyce for bearcatsports.com. “They are physical. It is good for us to play in a long football game. Everyone has to play for the whole distance. We will have experience playing in this type of game when it comes to crunch time.”
WU’s defense surrendered only a field goal in the first half before giving up two touchdown drives in the second half to the Bearcats, who finished with 378 yards of total offense (238 passing, 140 rushing).
Linebacker Austin Tillman and safety Peter Pfannenstiel each had 14 tackles for Washburn, while Trey Parker and Jalen Durhman helped pave the way for a strong showing from WU’s D-line.
“I am really proud of our defense. In tough situations, they really bowed up,” WU coach Craig Schurig said.
Despite missing three starters on the defensive line, Northwest’s vaunted defense held WU to 43 yards in the first half and 217 total.
Logan Twehous and Peterson combined for just 81 yards through the air, but each led a touchdown drive in the second half to keep WU withing striking distance. Jace Williams hauled in a 6-yard TD pass from Twehous in the third quarter and a 13-yard score from Peterson to bring WU within six with 4:32 left.
The Bods were denied a chance for a two-minute drill after a roughing-the-kicker penalty allowed Northwest to run out most of the clock in its 32nd straight win.
“(At halftime) we weren’t down on ourselves, (but) we knew we had to pick it up,” Peterson said. “Our defense, with how well they played in the first half, they gave our offense confidence that all we have to do is score a few points and the defense is going to hold them. We had two good drives in the second half, so we picked it up a little bit, it just wasn’t quite enough. The first half hurt us, offensively. If we would have been able to put together just one drive and one score, it would have been big.”
Washburn will face Lindenwood at 6 p.m. Saturday in St. Charles, Mo. Lindenwood gave Jed Stugart his first win as Lions head coach with a 49-10 win over Northeastern State on Thursday.