I know moral victories aren't worth a lot to most coaches... or any coaches, for that matter... but I really, really hope our guys walked away from Saturday's game knowing we're the better team. I know a few did, because I heard one player commenting on his way out of the Wellness Center that he was glad Morningside is the 'best team' in the conference, because they weren't that good.
It's not that the Mustangs weren't good. It's just, well, we were better. We absolutely dominated in the first half. Our defense was fantastic. They had 33 yards of offense at halftime. We had 194. The final stats were about as lopsided; they ended up with 201 to our 413. It was just two crazy plays that gave them the advantage. The first was a punt return that the Morningside guy fumbled, and another Morningside guy happened to be running right by to pick it up and score. Then came the interception. I watched it happen from the top of Joe Quintal. It was one of those plays that as soon as you saw the pass was over Bilyeu's head, you know exactly what was going to happen.
Sure enough, Bilyeu tipped the ball right into the hands of the same Morningside guy who picked up the fumble recovery, and he sprinted to the end zone. If you take those two plays away... we win. Then, you throw in the blocked field goal, a blocked punt, a last-second score, an onside kick ... it was a crazy game. I don't think I took an easy breath the entire game. Especially in the last minute. We score with 23 seconds left on a great pass to Clayton, then recover our own onside kick. I thought for a second we had the chance to win with a hook and ladder play, but Clayton dropped the pass.
What a game. What a great game between two rival schools for first in the league and to try and stay in the top 15 in the NAIA. I'm hoping we don't drop too much when the poll comes out.
This makes this week's game even bigger than it already was. We play Doane, which, along with us and Morningside, is tied for first at 5-1 overall and 4-1 in the GPAC. Looking at stats, we're pretty even with Doane in just about every category. Another perk for us -- they're near the bottom of the league in pass defense and, as you all know, our pass offense is pretty good. They are No. 2 in pass offense, and their quarterback, Anthony Dunn, is pretty prolific. He and Bane are 1-2 in basically every passing category. Should be interesting to see who comes out on top.
Here's hoping that close game showed us we can play with anyone in the league. Who ya rootin' for?!