In a chess match of a football game, dominated by two running backs, it was a kicker who made the final move.
With the score tied at 6-6 with six seconds left in the game against Southwest Missouri State, senior placekicker Matt Lange trotted onto the Smith Stadium turf for his third attempt.
“Coming down to the end of the game, I knew it was going to come down to a kick, so I was preparing myself on the sideline,” Lange said. “I was thinking to my self, ‘This is my chance.'”
The kick split the uprights and sailed into the night before the Western sideline became pandemonium.
Coach David Elson knew his team (4-2, 1-1 Gateway Conference) was fortunate to escape with a 9-6 victory in which the offense did not score a touchdown for the second time in three weeks.
“We are guaranteed 11 games and hopefully you will get four more after that,” Elson said. “You figure in there, that there will be some tough football games.”
Lange said he was redeemed after missing two field goals in last week’s 33-28 loss at Western Illinois. His confidence was shaken, he said, but after making a 37-yard attempt in the first quarter, he was ready to go.
“I was proud of him bouncing back,” Elson said. “He kicked the game winning field goal after missing a few last week. We are going to stick with him and I’m glad we did.”
For the second time in as many weeks, running back Lerron Moore ran for a career-high. The sophomore collected 192 yards on 32 carries, topping last week’s high of 136 at Western Illinois.
“We definitely did not play how we wanted to, but a win is a win,” Moore said. “It was all a mental thing, we came out pretty flat at first. Then coach got on us.”
Coming into the game, the Western run defense was ranked ninth nationally, allowing only 91.2 yards per contest. But the Bear offensive line opened gapping holes that Cody Pratt burst through on his way to a 141-yard game. The Bears finished with 172 total rushing yards.
“They have a great running team and we knew that,” Elson said. “They ran the ball more effectively that we wanted them to.”
Elson credited his defense for keeping the Bears out of the end zone after a second quarter Pratt touchdown gave SMS (3-3, 0-2) a 6-3 lead.
“Six points is great for our defense,” Elson said. “The defense did a great job coming up with plays in the second half and especially in the fourth quarter.”
Reach Michael Casagrande at [email protected]