Washburn’s 60-point outing on Saturday against Nebraska-Kearney didn’t produce the type of eye-popping offensive numbers normally expected from such an outburst.
While the WU offense certainly contributed to the blowout, it was Washburn’s special teams that paved the way for the Bods to put up their biggest point total since 2011.
WU had a pick-six and scored two touchdowns on special teams while dominating the field-position battle all day, rolling to a 60-28 win over UNK at Yager Stadium.
“We know we have an explosive group,” Washburn coach Craig Schurig said. “To get it from the defense and special teams, that’s why the score was the way it was.
“This was probably one of the best special teams efforts I’ve seen.”
The unit staked Washburn to an early lead after Garret Barnett-Kruger blocked a punt and Jacob Anderson scooped it up for an 8-yard score two minutes into the game to help ignite a 39-0 first half for the Ichabods.
“It boosted everybody’s spirits,” WU senior linebacker Cedric Gonzalez said. “It’s always big when we can score on special teams. It’s a very important phase of the game.”
Washburn (3-1) used an 8-yard touchdown pass to Carey Woods and a Perry Schmiedeler 24-yard field goal to open up a 17-0 lead by the end of the first quarter. WU added touchdown runs from Mickeel Stewart (2 yards) and Ryan Peroo (4 yards) before D.J. Olmstead capped the half with a 66-yard interception return for a touchdown.
“It’s really big when you got a young team on the road and you jump on them the way we did,” Schurig said. “The offense started to click and, when we started to put points up, then you’re playing downhill. The first half was like that the whole time.”
Washburn, which was outgained by Kearney 373 to 313, hit a lull in the third quarter and Kearney scored a pair of touchdowns to cut the lead to 39-14.
The Ichabods then came up with their second special teams touchdown when Heath Tucker recovered a muffed punt in the end zone early in the fourth. WU later added an 18-yard touchdown pass to Austen Hubert and a 1-yard run by Matthew Harris that was set up Will Hamilton’s 43-yard return of an onside kick.
“We kind of went in a big lull and they got a couple big plays on us,” Schurig said. “Then all of the sudden, they’re the aggressor and we’re playing defensive. Then we got the muffed punt, and that changed it back again.”
WU quarterback Blake Peterson was 17 of 31 through the air for 219 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in his second straight start. Hamilton was the top receiver with six catches for 88 yards.
“First half, we were clicking, for sure,” Peterson said. “Their front seven is the No. 1 rush defense in the MIAA, so it’s tough to run the ball against them. We couldn’t really get it going on the ground all day. But in the first half, especially, we opened it up and were pretty efficient in the passing game.”
Washburn bottled up Kearney’s run game (86 yards rushing) and forced the Lopers to air it out. UNK quarterback Steve Worthing was 23 of 34 for 287 yards, with 209 after halftime.
Gonzalez made a career-high 16 tackles, starting in place of WU senior linebacker Austin Tillman, who was out with a shoulder injury.
“Our coaches put together a real good game plan and we just executed,” Gonzalez said. “We were able to play fast. We saw those plays in practice all week long.”
Schurig said Tillman’s status is uncertain for the rest of the season. A medical redshirt could be a possibility for the Topeka High product.
“It could be something that’s the season, or it could be something he tries to go with,” Schurig. “We’ll just kind of have to wait and see. Really, next week will be the tell-tale sign for it.”
WU receiver Jace Williams left the game in the first half after an apparent shoulder injury and did not return.
The Ichabods will play at Pittsburg State at 2 p.m. next Saturday.
Nebraska-Kearney 0 0 14 14 — 28
Washburn 17 22 0 21 — 60
WU — Anderson 8 blocked punt return (Schmiedeler kick), 12:59.
WU — Woods 8 pass from Peterson (Schmiedeler kick), 4:29. Drive: 6 plays-58 yards, 2:45 time of possession.
WU — Schmiedeler 24 field goal, 1:57. Drive: 6-41, 1:12.
WU — Stewart 2 run (Schmiedeler run), 1:57. Drive: 9-70, 3:25.
WU — Peroo 4 run (Schmiedeler kick), 5:47. Drive: 6-19, 2:22.
WU — Olmstead 66 interception return, 2:25.
UNK — Brown 1 run (Wentling kick), 5:14. Drive: 12-80, 5:05.
UNK — Young 38 pass from Worthing, 0:01. Drive: 3-50, 5:05.
WU — Tucker fumble recovery in end zone (Schmiedeler kick), 13:29.
UNK — Young 51 pass from Worthing (Wentling kick), 10:21. Drive: 6-74, 3:02.
WU — Hubert 18 pass from Peterson (Schmiedeler kick), 5:19. Drive: 10-70, 4:58.
UNK — Harns 8 pass from Worthing (Wentling kick), 1:26. Drive: 10-75, 3:53.
WU — Harris 1 run (Schmiedeler kick), 0:11. Drive: 3-2, 1:09.
Attendance — 6,232.
GAME IN FIGURES
First downs 18 20
Rushes-yards 36-86 36-94
Passing yards 373 313
Comp-Att-Int. 23-34-1 17-31-0
Punts-Avg. 8-31.6 4-39.8
Fumbles-lost 2-1 0-0
Penalties-yards 8-84 9-59
Time of possession 31:12 28:48
RUSHING — UNK: Russell 17-55, Worthing 10-19, Brown 4-11, Sealey 3-9, Marshall 1-(minus) 3, Daniels 1-(minus) 5. WU: Stewart 14-38, Williams 6-29, Peroo 5-16, Peterson 7-6, Hubert 1-3, Harris 3-2.
PASSING — UNK: Worthing 23-34-1 287 yards. WU: Peterson 17-31-0 219 yards.
RECEIVING — UNK: Holtmeier 5-47, Young 3-94, Harms 3-23, Russell 3-19, Marshall 2-42, D. Daniels 2-27, A. Daniels 2-16, Brown 1-8, Barley 1-6, Brauer 1-5. WU: Hamilton 6-88, Woods 4-38, Hubert 2-56, Williams 2-17, Stewart 1-15, Peroo 1-4, Letcher 1-1.
PUNTING — UNK: Buschkoetter 7-36.1. WU: Schmiedeler 4-39.8.
LEADING TACKLERS — UNK: Silvio 6 solo-3 assisted, James 5-2, Vaughn 3-4. WU: Gonzalez 6-10, McGreevy 8-4, Houston 4-2.
SACKS — UNK: Silvio 1, Ingraham 1, Wortham 1, Allieu 0.5, Cook 0.5. Washburn: Wright 1.
INTERCEPTIONS — WU: Olmstead.