With a strong-armed quarterback and deep threats at receiver, the potential for a big passing day has been building for the Washburn offense.
After making strides through the air the past few weeks under sophomore Blake Peterson, WU’s aerial assault took shape in a 49-21 win over Missouri Southern on Saturday at Yager Stadium.
Peterson threw for a career-high 287 yards and three touchdowns on 15-of-25 passing as the Ichabods moved to 5-1.
“We’ve been working on getting the chemistry going with the receivers and we’ve been improving each week,” Peterson said. “Today, it definitely opened up. Our O-line was awesome and our running backs ran the ball well, which helps open up the pass game. It was really an all-around effort today.”
WU put up a season-high 570 yards of offense (308 passing, 262 rushing) and broke away from the Lions midway through the third quarter after scoring two touchdowns in 17-second span. Peterson side-stepped a defender and hit James Brania-Hopp in stride for a 75-yard TD, and safety D.J. Olmstead picked off his second pass of the day and returned it for a 20-yard score to put Washburn up 42-21 with 6:11 left in the third.
“We felt like we would have some vertical routes,” WU coach Craig Schurig said. “They played a little deeper than we thought so I was real happy with the way Blake checked down to the intermediate routes. He was really accurate with the ball today. Some of the incompletions were drops, but then the guys came back.
“J.J. Brania had a couple drops, but he didn’t get his head down. In the second half, he made a really nice scramble move and caught a long touchdown, which was great. The passing game was really good today.”
Peterson, who also connected with Jake Horner and J.J. Letcher for touchdowns, wasn’t sacked on the day and still hasn’t thrown an interception as an Ichabod in six appearances and four starts.
“I had all the time back there,” Peterson said. “I don’t remember getting hit one time in the pocket all day.”
Zach Willis led WU on the ground for the second straight game, rushing for 106 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries.
“With his acceleration, once he gets in the open, you’ll just see him buzz by guys,” Schurig said of Willis. “Some times he bounces it to the outside and he’s able to outrun everybody. He’s playing very well and I think he’s really confident right now.”
Washburn’s defense forced a three and out to open the game and the Ichabod offense started with a 10-play, 68-yard drive capped off by a diving 13-yard catch in the end zone by Jake Horner.
Olmstead then recorded the first of his two picks to set the Bods up at the Southern 45. The Ichabods took advantage with a 1-yard TD from Willis.
Southern got on the board with a 3-yard run by Brayden Scott but Washburn answered with a 13-play, 75-yard drive and 1-yard plunge by Mickeel Stewart. The Lions scored with 1:07 left in the half on a 17-yard pass to Deuzae Johnson to cut WU’s lead to 21-14 at the break.
Washburn started the second half with an 11-play, 75-yard drive and a 14-yard touchdown from Willis, but Southern later stuffed WU on a fourth-and-1 at the Bods’ 35 and took advantage of the short field with a 24-yard TD pass from Scott to Shemar Coleman. However, WU ended the game with 21 points unanswered to knock the Lions to 0-6.
Olmstead’s pick-six was his MIAA-leading fifth interception of the year.
“Coach (LaRon) Moore (WU secondary coach), I’ve got to give him a ton of credit. He’s helped me develop as a player since I’ve been here,” Olmstead said. “He’s a great coach. He’s been on me about having great eyes, and that’s all that was (on the pick six). I just took my regular drop, saw the ball thrown and it was a play to be made.”
Scott went 13 of 25 through the air for 169 yards with three interceptions and two touchdowns in his first start of the season for the Lions. Southern finished with 279 yards of offense.
“This was a team that really had nothing to lose, so it’s kind of hard to prepare for a team like that. They just do a bunch of different stuff,” Olmstead said. “I think we got off to a slow start, but we had some three-and-outs and some defensive turnovers, and that’s always good to see. I think we did well, overall.”
Missouri Southern 0 14 7 0 — 21
Washburn 14 7 21 7 — 49
WU — Horner 13 pass from Peterson (Schmiedeler kick), 9:11. Drive: 10 plays-68 yards, 4:44 time of possession.
WU — Willis 1 run (Schmiedeler kick), 6:06. Drive: 6-45, 2:01.
MS — Scott 3 run (Renken kick), 11:08. Drive: 11-81, 5:32.
WU — Stewart 1 run (Schmiedeler kick), 6:06. Drive: 13-75, 5:02.
MS — Johnson 17 pass from Scott (Renken kick), 1:07. Drive: 6-68, 1:51.
WU — Willis 14 run (Schmiedeler kick), 8:44. Drive: 11-75, 4:40.
MS — Coleman 24 pass from Scott (Renken kick), 6:40. Drive: 2-35, 0:25.
WU — Brania-Hopp 75 pass from Peterson (Schmiedeler kick). Drive: 1-75, 0:12.
WU — Olmstead 20 interception return (Schmiedeler kick), 6:11.
WU — Letcher 8 pass from Peterson (Schmiedeler kick), 6:19. Drive: 9-92, 2:45.
Attendance — 5,318.
GAME IN FIGURES
First downs 110 308
Rushes-yards 110 262
Passing yards 169 308
Comp-Att-Int 13-25-3 16-26-0
Punts-avg. 7-34.9 4-45.5
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-0
Penalties-yards 2-23 4-32
Time of possession 25:53 34:07
RUSHING — MS: Vandeven 3-60, Coleman 3-38, Bennett 2-27, Johnson 2-23, Davis 1-17, Stevens 1-4. WU: Willis 16-106, Williams 10-86, Stewart 16-35, Peterson 11-35, Hubert 1-5, Harris 2-(minus) 2, Peroo 1-(minus) 3.
PASSING — MS: Scott 13-25-3 169 yards. WU: Peterson 15-25-0 287 yards, Bolster 1-1-0 21 yards.
RECEIVING — MS: Vandeven 3-60, Coleman 3-38, Bennett 2-27, Johnson 2-23, Davis 1-17, Stevens 1-4, Hadley 1-0. WU: Brania-Hopp 2-108, Peroo 1-49, Hamilton 3-46, Horner 3-42, Hubert 1-21, Stewart 1-14, Harris 2-12, Letcher 2-10, Woods 1-6.
PUNTING — MS: Kornish 7-34.9. WU: Schmiedeler 4-45.5.
LEADING TACKLERS — MS: Rees 5 solo, 8 assisted, McKenzie 2-8, Robbins 5-5. WU: McGreevy 2-4, Tucker 1-5, Ballentine 3-2, Mikoleit 1-4, Jones 2-3.
INTERCEPTIONS — WU: Olmstead 2, Houston.
SACKS — WU: Jones 1.5, McGreevy 1, Chester 0.5.