Buena Vista led by as many as 23 points in the second half of Saturday's Homecoming game against Loras College, including a 40-23 margin entering the fourth, but the Duhawks scored 21 unanswered fourth quarter points to come back and stun the Beavers, 44-40.
Senior quarterback Cole Miller threw the final of his four touchdown passes on the day, hooking up with sophomore Eric Pacheco up the near sideline for a 67-yard touchdown pass in the closing minutes of the third quarter which put the Beavers in front by the 17-point margin entering the final frame and appearing to be in complete control.
The Duhawks, however, had other thoughts and came roaring back in the final frame. They started with a touchdown in the opening minute to cap a nine-play, 75-yard drive, and then after the Beavers were stopped on third and fourth down from the Loras one midway through the frame, turned around and marched 99 yards in seven plays to make it a 40-37 contest with 4:38 still to play.
BVU was forced to go three-and-out, and the Duhawks again took advantage, getting the ball back at their own 35 with 2:42 left. From there, they went 65 yards in seven plays, capped by a three-yard scramble for a touchdown on third-and-goal with 48 seconds remaining.
Out of timeouts, the Beavers hoped to march down the field after getting to start at their 25 following a fair catch on the ensuing kick-off, but Miller was intercepted on the first play of the drive.
"Today was a heartbreaking loss," said head coach Grant Mollring. "We played good, solid football for three quarters, and then struggled to finish the game. We can go back and look at several plays as turning points, but not scoring from the one-yard line in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference in the game."
Miller did have his best game during conference play so far this season, completing 26-of-46 pass attempts for 284 yards and the four touchdowns. His third TD of the contest moved him past BVU Hall of Famer, Rollie Wiebers and into second-place on the program's all-time career list. He now has 51 and is 10 shy of matching Bobby Brown's all-time mark of 61 set from 2011-14.
Pacheco had another monster game, hauling in a career-high 10 catches for 225 yards and one touchdown. He now has a pair of 200+ receiving games this season and his eight touchdowns on the year are just two away from fourth all-time. He's now just 177 yards away from becoming only the fifth player in program history to reach 1,000 for a year. He also had three kickoff returns for a total of 75 yards.
Werge, who was coming off a career-high 71 yards on the ground a week ago at Central, had nine carries for 50 yards on Saturday, including a pair of touchdown runs. The second of those came from five yards out near the midway point of the third quarter which made it a 33-10 contest. Miller also rushed 17 times where he gained 69 yards but finished with a net of only 39.
The two teams combined for over 1,000 yards of total offense. The Duhawks (3-2, 2-1 A-R-C) had a balanced attack of 280 yards through the air and 276 on the ground. Elijah Thomas led the way with 132 yards on the ground with Noah Sigwarth passing for 280.
Patrick Spicer gave BVU great field position on three different possessions, as he intercepted Sigwarth three times in the contest and totaled 63 yards in return yards. His three INT's ties a single-season school record which was last achieved by Chad Hinrichs in 2005. BVU was only able to convert one of those into points.
Reed Kruse led BVU with 11 tackles in the contest, while Michael Herwig was next with eight total stops, including seven solo and two for a loss. The Beavers finished with six tackles for a loss while Loras had 10.
"The mental side of our game needs improved, and that falls directly on myself and the coaching staff," Mollring adds. "I'm proud of the effort and toughness we showed, but the learning and maturation process continues. I feel bad for the fellas that I couldn't get them out of that game with a 'W'."
Buena Vista dips to 1-5 overall (0-4 A-R-C) and will now go back on the road next Saturday as it travels to Luther College for a 1:00 p.m. kick-off.