Luther College Chips

Norse erase 17 point deficit in homecoming stunner

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Justin Montgomery (‘18) evades a defender as he rushes the ball.

Justin Montgomery (‘18) evades a defender as he rushes the ball.

Photo courtesy of Photo Bureau

Photo courtesy of Photo Bureau

Justin Montgomery (‘18) evades a defender as he rushes the ball.

Ben Selcke, Sports Editor

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The Luther football team won their Homecoming game against Nebraska Wesleyan University in overtime on Saturday, Oct. 7. Luther won 41-38 to remain undefeated in conference play.

Nebraska Wesleyan University scored the first point of the game with a touchdown seven and a half minutes into the first quarter. Luther answered a minute and a half later to even out the score 7-7, but Nebraska Wesleyan finished the quarter ahead, 14-7.

In the second quarter, Luther scored two additional times and Nebraska scored once to tie the score at 21-21.

Despite Nebraska Wesleyan’s winless record, Luther’s Head Coach Aaron Hafner anticipated a difficult game from the beginning.

“We knew coming in they were going to be a good football team,” Hafner said. “[The game] went back and forth. They would make a big play, we would make a big play. It was just a really hard fought first half.”

Sean Trewin (‘18) echoed Hafner and added that team morale was high.

“Heading into halftime we still had no doubt that this was going to be a hard game,” Trewin said. “We still thought we could pull it off.”

Approaching thunderstorms halted the game two and a half minutes before halftime. The game delay lasted an hour and a half until the storm passed. The extra time from the first half rolled over into the second half, and the delay was treated as halftime.

Hafner explained his concerns during the long delay.

“Whatever they needed to do to go back out and play, we let them do,” Hafner said. “My biggest concern was that the kids would start getting sore, but I think our kids came out with good intensity and played very hard after [the delay].”

According to Trewin, the rain delay served as a rest for the players, giving them recovery time.

“In halftime, we get our feet underneath us,” Trewin said. “So [this time] we had even more time to recover to keep going. We came out [of the half] with a lot of energy, which was beneficial for us.”

Photo courtesy of Photo Bureau
Chris Schramm (‘20) rushes the ball into Nebraska Wesleyan. territory.

After the rain delay, Nebraska Wesleyan scored in the final minutes of the second quarter to bring the official score of the first half to 28-21.

In the third quarter, Nebraska extended their lead by 10 points.

According to Hafner, the third quarter was difficult for the Norse because of mistakes made by Luther players and the wet conditions on the field.

“I think the wet ball caused us a couple of fumbles,” Hafner said. “We threw an interception that they took back and scored a touchdown on that. I give credit to [Nebraska Wesleyan] for capitalizing on our mistakes, but a lot the issues going on in the game were self-induced.”

According to Hafner, even though the team was down 17 points heading into the fourth quarter, the players maintained their morale.

“There was a great deal of resilience from our team,” Hafner siad. “There are a lot of teams down 17 in the fourth quarter that aren’t going to fight hard. I didn’t see anything on the sideline to indicate that we weren’t going to fight hard to the end, and it paid off for us.”

According to Hafner, Nick Slaven’s (‘18) kick return in the beginning of the fourth quarter positioned the team well. The Norse controlled the last quarter, scoring 20 unanswered points to win the game.

As a result of his performance in the game, Cory Wirth (‘18) was named IIAC Special Teams Player of the Week. Wirth kicked a 25-yard field goal to win the game in overtime.

Mitchell Van Epps (‘18) credited the team’s experience for turning the game around in the fourth quarter.

“The thing about this team is we’re senior-driven,” Van Epps said. “We’ve been in those situations before where we haven’t seen the outcome that we wanted, so we know how it feels to play from behind. Defensively, you take it one snap at a time and just try to get off the field so the offense is able to score points.”

The rain may have affected the number of fumbles, still the recently installed turf field received praise for how it handled the weather by making the game safer.

“I have been a part of rain games on dirt fields and they’re sloppy and muddy,” Trewin said. “I know that when we’re on the [new] turf and we’re making cuts and tackling, we’re still able to perform. It’s beneficial when we’re trying to keep our feet under us.”

Luther is now ranked second in the conference behind Wartburg College.

Luther’s next football game is away against Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, on Saturday, Oct. 14. Simpson is currently at two wins and two losses in the conference, and this game will be their Homecoming game.

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