IW offense struggles on senior day

Tigers fall in final home game, wrap up season this weekend at Northwestern

GTNS photo by Andy Krutsinger

Stafford Lewis stiff-arms a Greenville defender during the Tigers’ senior night game on Saturday, Nov. 3.
GTNS photo by Andy Krutsinger Stafford Lewis stiff-arms a Greenville defender during the Tigers’ senior night game on Saturday, Nov. 3.

Iowa Wesleyan’s offense had troubles against a stingy Greenville defense and the brisk weather on Saturday afternoon. The Tigers dropped their senior day game 30-20.

It was tough sledding early on for the Tigers, who couldn’t get much going on the offensive side of the ball, and gave up the first 17 points to the visiting Panthers.

Greenville’s first drive of the game started at the Panther 45-yard line, and it turned into a score. Quarterback Dalton Mitchell hit Seth Logan for a two-yard touchdown pass, and the extra point made it 7-0 in favor of the Panthers.

The Tiger defense was able to hold off Greenville for the rest of the first quarter, but the visiting team still led, 7-0 after the opening period.

Greenville continued to dominate the field position game in the second quarter. The Panthers were able to start another drive from their own 45-yard line, and once again it turned into points. This time it was a 27-yard field goal,bringing the score to 10-0 with 5:12 remaining in the half.

A botched punt on the next Tiger drive put IW in a world of trouble. IW had the ball fourth-and-12 at their own 23, but the snap was mishandled and it turned into a fumble, which rolled back to the four-yard line. IW recovered, but Greenville took over on downs.

It only took two plays for the Panthers to score off the turnover. Mitchell ran the ball two-yards in himself with 2:59 left in the half. The PAT brought the score to 17-0.

Luckily, the IW defense was able to give the Tigers life right before the half. A fumble by Mitchell was recovered by Noah Ross at the Greenville 13 yard-line in the final minute.

The Tiger offense capitalized three plays later. On third-and-12 from the 15-yard line, DeMarcus Collins found Akenyon Bagley on a 15-yard touchdown passw with 23 showing on the clock. The PAT failed but it was a two-possession game, at 17-6, when the teams went into the locker rooms.

Greenville scored a dagger in the third quarter to steal back any momentum the Tigers buit at the end of the first half. It was Mitchell again, who scampered into the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown run with 10:06 remaining in the period. The PAT brought the lead to 24-6 in Greenville’s favor.

IW responded with a touchdown of their own. Collins hit Kyle Divelbiss for a three-yard touchdown pass with 7:44 on the clock. Bagley punched in the two-point conversion and the Tigers were within 10, at 24-14, where it would stay until the fourth quarter.

The Tigers forced a punt early in the fourth quarter, but then went three-and-out themselves. Greenville got the ball at their own 43-yard line, and turned it into a touchdown drive. Mitchell hit Eric Kranh on a six-yard touchdown pass. The PAT failed, however, and it the Greenville lead was still two possessions, 30-14, with 7:10 remaining.

The Tigers were able to respond with a score, when Collins hit Jacob Santos on a 17-yard touchdown pass with 3:26 left in the game. The two-point conversion attempt failed, however, and Greenville recovered the onside kick. IW wouldn’t get the ball back until the final minute.

Collins was injured on the two-point conversion attempt and didn’t re-enter the game. Backup quarterback Kerry Wilkerson came in and was injured as well, leaving it up to third-string quarterback Colby Carter. The Tigers eventually ran out of time.

After the game, Tiger head coach Michael Richtman talked about the offensive struggles.

“Especially early on, we didn’t do a good job at pass protection,” Richtman said. “We had some plays where we had receivers and they didn’t make plays. We struggled to make some plays. I don’t know if that was weather or lack of focus or what it is, but we can’t afford missteps like that.”

The game came on the heels of a news break on Friday that revealed Iowa Wesleyan’s financial troubles. Richtman said although it was a distraction, he told his team to just focus on what they can control.

“It’s not something you want players to be thinking about,” Richtman said. “Our challenge to them was that ... We know we’re going to play a football game today. We know that we’re here with our brothers and our football team, and we’re going to fight with our brothers on the football team.”

Collins finished the game 12-28 for 116 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Carter was 1-1 for 24 yards, and Stafford Lewis completed a 14-yard pass on a trick play.

Lewis was the leading rusher for IW, going for 56 yards. Collins scrambled for 18. Bagley led the team with seven catches for 81 yards and a touchdown, and Santos finished with two catches for 38 yards and a score. Divelbiss had the other touchdown catch and ended the game with 11 yards.

Luke Wells had 18 tackles on the day to lead the Tigers. Jaiya Garcia finished with 10 tackles, including a sack. Ross, Da’Va Stafford and Marco Ventura all had one fumble recovery.

IW fell to 1-8 overall on the year and 1-6 in conference play. They’ll end the season with a road game at the University of Northwestern on Saturday, Nov. 10.