Sophomore Eric Pacheco returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown before hauling in a 63-yard touchdown pass minutes later to give Buena Vista a 20-14 lead, but it was Concordia responding with a pair of touchdowns, including the game-winner with 53 seconds left, as the Bulldogs handed the Beavers their first loss of the year, 27-20.
Pacheco accounted for all three of the Beaver touchdowns on the day. He and senior quarterback Cole Miller hooked up with 55 ticks left in the first quarter on an 80-yard touchdown pass that gave BVU a 7-0 lead. The Bulldogs responded with a six-yard touchdown pass less than two minutes into the second half, but missed the extra-point to keep BVU in front 7-6.
Concordia grabbed its first lead of the contest with 10 seconds left in the first half as Ryan Durdon found the endzone from six yards out and then plunged through for the two-point conversion to give the Bulldogs a 14-7 lead at the half.
The defenses stood strong at the start of the second half, and then it was the special teams coming up big for the Beavers, as Pacheco returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown with just over 5:00 left in the quarter. It was Pacheco's second career punt return for a score as he returned his first career attempt in the season opener a year ago for a score. Jackson Smith's PAT attempt was missed and the Bulldogs remained in front, 14-13.
Smith kicked the ensuing kick-off out-of-bounds, but the Beaver defense came up big, forcing a three-and-out, and setting up the offense in good field position. BVU took over at its own 37-yard line. After a rush for no gain on the first play of the series, Miller dropped back and found Pacheco again, this time for a 63-yard touchdown strike. The point after attempt was good, and the Beavers were back in front, 20-14, with 2:15 left in the third.
The Beavers then seemed poised to add to that lead just moments later. On the Bulldogs' ensuing possession, Cory Kitt intercepted Concordia quarterback Jake Kemp on 3rd-and-15 and returned it 17 yards down to the Bulldog 13-yard line. The offense, however, stalled with a pair of incomplete passes sandwiched between a rush for no gain, and Smith's 31-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter came up short.
Concordia took advantage of the miss, marching back down the field in 13 plays to punch it in from a yard out with 8:37 left in regulation. The point after attempt never got off after a bad snap, and the game stood tied at 20-20.
The Beavers drove out to midfield on their next drive, but Miller came up four yards shy of a first down on a 3rd-and-8 play, and Caleb Hall was forced to punt the ball back to the Bulldogs with just over 5:00 left.
Durdon, who led the Bulldogs with 250 yards rushing in the contest, got a big 48-yard scamper to help set up his second touchdown run of the game with 53 seconds left which put the home team in front, 27-20. BVU had one final chance, getting back into Concordia territory with under 30 seconds left, but Miller was hit from behind and fumbled which was recovered by Concordia with nine seconds left.
Miller finished the day completing 15-of-27 passes for 283 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Pacheco, who leads the American Rivers Conference in receptions, yards and touchdowns, hauled in five catches for 197 yards and two scores and has now posted five touchdown grabs in the first two games.
"I'm very proud of our effort and fortitude today," said head coach Grant Mollring. "Our guys battled a lot of adversity with injuries and rallied together to almost pull out a road win. We were hindered by our red zone offense as we failed to come away with points three different times we were down there. Our defense played hard and showed signs of major improvement. We still have things that we need to shore up, but bright spots were our defensive line play, solid tackling by our inside linebackers, and excellent play by our corners. We believe in the motto of "Doesn't Matter, Get Better" and that will be the goal next week. We weren't quite good enough today, but will get back at it tomorrow to prepare for Wartburg."
BVU was held to just 21 yards rushing with Concordia edging the Beavers in total offense 310-304.
Buena Vista is now 1-1 on the year and will get set to travel to Wartburg next Saturday for the conference opener in a 1:00pm kick-off.