MT. PLEASANT — The stars didn’t align for the Iowa Wesleyan football team in their final game on Saturday. The Tigers weren’t able to put up that elusive “W”, falling 42-6 to the University of Northwestern.
The Tigers almost immediately found themselves in a two-score hole in the first quarter. After allowing Northwestern to drive the field and score on a 73-yard touchdown drive to start the game, the Tigers botched a snap on their second offensive possession, giving it right back to the Eagles at the IW 24. Northestern scored five plays later and it was 14-0 early.
The IW defense played well for the rest of the first quarter, and nearly had a clutch interception on the final drive of the period. Jeremiah Silone made an athletic play to pick off Northwestern quarterback Ryan Flanigan on third and four from the IW 34, but the officials threw a flag on IW for encroachment, and the Eagles not only held on to the ball, but kept the drive going with a first down.
“Unfortunately we’ve had a lot of practice at that this season,” said head coach Michael Richtman about his team’s early blunders. “We’ve had a lot of those things go against us, particularly in the first quarter.”
It started to get ugly in the second quarter. Northwestern capitalized on the penalty by scoring early in the third quarter, and then tacked on two more touchdowns to bring the lead to 35-0 at the half.
Defense dominated the third quarter. IW was able to hold on to the ball for the majority of the second period, including a long drive that started at their own five-yard line. The Tigers drove 53 yards downfield to set up a third-and-two from the Eagles’ 42-yard line, but the rush got to quarterback Jeremiah Ollison two plays in a row, and the Tigers went backwards on both plays to give the ball back.
The IW defense took the ball back temporarily with an interception early in the fourth quarter. Josef McCulloch picked off a pass from Damon Clapper at the IW 30 and brought it all the way back to the Northwestern 35. Unfortunately for the home crowd, Clapper chased him down and stripped him, and an Eagle fell on the ball to keep the Northwestern offense on the field.
With 9:15 remaining in the game, Northwestern’s Payton Bowdry ran in his third score of the afternoon. The PAT made it 42-0 Northwestern, the Eagles’ largest lead of the game.
IW did find their offense on their next offensive drive. The Tigers drove 64 yards to the end zone, a drive that ended on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Ollison to Ben Thomas. The two-point conversion attempt failed, but the Northwestern lead was cut to 42-6, where it would stand.
Ollison finished the game 16-31 for 154 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also ran for a net total of 14 yards. Shomari Wilson was his biggest target, catching seven passes for 62 yards.
Thomas ended the night with two catches for 40 yards and a touchdown. Rashawn McGlown had two catches for 14 yards. Damian Tanelus caught two passes for 13 yards, and Ryan Hampton had one reception.
Akenyon Bagley rushed for a team-high 23 yards in the loss.
The defense was led by Silone, who had six tackles on the day. Raul Arteaga finished the game with five tackles. McCulloch had the team’s only takeaway.
IW finished the year 0-10 overall and 0-8 in conference play. Saturday’s game was the last game under Coach Richtman, who is stepping down from the head coaching position. After the game, Richtman reflected on his time at IW.
“I think probably the most important thing is I’ve had a chance to work with a lot of really great kids from all over the country,” Richtman says. “That has been the best thing about my job is to get to work with all of them. I’m just so appreciative for everything they’ve given us, especially the seniors here today. It wasn’t the way you want to send a group of seniors out, but they gave us a lot.”
Richtman says he’ll take a couple of weeks to decompress after the season before deciding where to go from here.
“I think I’ll be coaching football at some point someday, but we’ll see.”
As for the IW football program, a search committee has been put together to find the next head coach.