COPPERAS COVE, Texas — Coming off back-to-back losses to finish the 2017 regular season at 6-5, Washburn’s football team gave little thought to playing in a bowl game.
Yet when Washburn received a surprise invitation to the Heart of Texas Bowl two days after its regular season ended with a 26-20 loss at Emporia State on Nov. 11, the Ichabods were only too glad to snap it up.
On Saturday, the Ichabods took advantage of the opportunity to extend their season, taking down Angelo State 41-25 in the Heart of Texas Bowl at Bulldawg Stadium.
“I think it was big because we wanted to finish the season on a positive note, really a happy note,” Washburn coach Craig Schurig said. “You see a lot of smiles on their faces, especially the seniors. We kind of felt like we let them down a little toward the end of the season.
“But tonight, we played really hard. We played aggressive.”
Washburn’s defense was especially aggressive early in the game. The Ichabods (7-5) not only kept Angelo State out of the end zone for most of the night while building a 38-10 lead early in the fourth quarter, they also generated two interception returns for touchdowns.
The first pick-six came in the second quarter, when Ichabod senior defensive back Peter Pfannenstiel snagged a pass from Angelo State quarterback Jake Faber and returned it 38 yards. It was the first of two interceptions for Pfannenstiel, the Silver Lake product who ended his WU career with an exclamation point.
“It just means everything to me,” Pfannenstiel said. “It was one more opportunity to go out on top.”
Following the game, the Heart of Texas Bowl named quarterback Blake Peterson the Ichabods’ Most Valuable Player. Peterson, who finished with 251 passing yards and another 41 yards rushing, gave the award to Pfannenstiel in a classy gesture.
Washburn’s second interception came in the third quarter, when defensive back Josh Wright returned his pick for a 48-yard score. Wright’s touchdown made it 28-10, and the Ichabods at that point clearly had the momentum.
The Ichabods tacked on 10 more points — including a 59-yard touchdown reception by James Brania-Hopp from Peterson and a field goal from Perry Schmiedeler.
The Rams got a couple of late touchdowns in the fourth period, sandwiched around another Schmiedeler field goal.
But Washburn made enough offensive plays to build and maintain a lead.
Though there were some fireworks with the interception returns, there were a couple of other big defensive plays in the second half that were instrumental in securing the victory.
One came when Washburn stopped the Rams on fourth-and-short and the score 21-10 in the third quarter.
Then, a few minutes later, senior defensive back D.J. Olmstead stripped the ball on a long run by Angelo State, resulting in a Washburn recovery.
Olmstead, a transfer from Idaho, pulled off a similar game-saving strip and fumble recovery on Week 3 at Lindenwood.
Saturday’s game marked Washburn’s second consecutive bowl game and the 13th postseason appearance in program history.
Angelo State, of the Lone Star Conference, finished the season 6-5.
Schurig, the winningest coach in Washburn program history, improved to 110-74 in his 16th season. He has led the Ichabods to three NCAA playoff appearances and four bowl games. ...
Saturday marked the first time Washburn and Angelo State played. ...
WU is scheduled to open its 2018 season on Sept. 1 with a trip to St. Charles, Mo., for the second year in a row to take on the Lindenwood Lions.
Angelo State (6-5)03715—25
WU — Peroo 4 run (Schmiedeler kick), 11:57.
ASU — Flanigan 30 field goal, 8:42.
WU — Pfannenstiel 38 interception return (Schmiedeler kick), 5:32.
WU — Peterson 10 run (Schmiedeler kick), 0:52.
ASU — Ayo 33 pass from Bibbs (Flanigan kick), 11:41.
WU — Wright 48 interception return (Schmiedeler kick), 4:10.
WU — Brania-Hopp 59 pass from Peterson (Schmiedeler kick), 0:56.
WU — Schmiedeler 25 field goal, 10:34.
ASU — Henson 11 pass from Faber (Flanigan kick), 6:12.
WU — Schmiedeler 41 kick, 4:14.
ASU — Nathan 2 run (Bibbs pass), 1:55.
GAME IN FIGURES
Time of possession34:2825:32
RUSHING — WU: Stewart 12-55, Peterson 10-41, Peroo 12-31, Williams 4-14, Brania-Hopp 3-12. ASU: Stevens 16-77, Tyrese 10-74, Faber 13-20, Gilberts 1-3.
PASSING — WU: Peterson 19-36-0, 251 yards. ASU: Faber 15-36-3, 202; Bibbs 1-1-0, 33.
RECEIVING — WU: Brania-Hopp 4-111, Hubert 3-44, Stewart 3-18, Meier 2-16, Letcher 2-12, Hamilton 2-11, Horner 1-15, Fisher 1-14, Peroo 1-10. ASU: Ayo 4-112, Bibb 4-32, Stevens 3-18, Henson 2-31, Chism 1-26, Thompson 1-8, Nathan 1-8.