FOREST CITY, Iowa – ONU was a mere two seconds from its first conference win of the season, and its second straight. Instead, Waldorf College (Iowa) connected on a 22-yard pass for what would be the game winning touchdown capping off a 39-point fourth quarter for both teams. The Tigers eventually fell by a score of 43-42.
ONU showed tremendous resilience the entire game stopping Waldorf on four of seven after point attempts. The Tigers put together a great comeback after trailing by 12 points with just 2:10 to play. They were able to score two touchdowns, recover an onside kick, and return a blocked kick for a score to give themselves a chance for the win, but fell to a tough Waldorf attack.
An early field goal by junior kicker Andrew Muzljakovich (Vicksburg, Mich.) gave the Tigers a 3-0 lead. Waldorf responded with a 55-yard touchdown run for the 6-3 lead, but junior Ben Backstrom (Chicago, Ill.) blocked the PAT. ONU started its next drive from the Waldorf 44-yard line and took it in for the touchdown, capped by an eight-yard run by sophomore Michael Ho-Lewis (Boise, Idaho). The extra point was no good, leaving the score at 9-6.
Each team's next drive ended in a punt. In the second quarter, Waldorf found the big play. Brian Smith threw a 44-yard strike to James Lloyd for the touchdown and a 12-9 lead. The Tigers again blocked the PAT.
Another Muzljakovich field goal tied the score at 12 briefly until Waldorf went on a 75-yard drive on the ensuing possession, ending with a touchdown on a eight yard pass. The extra point was no good, leaving the score 18-12. The Tigers then drove and Muzljakovich nailed his third field goal of the game, making the score 18-15 at the half.
After The Warriors scored an early third quarter touchdown and missed the extra point, ONU faced a 24-15 deficit. The Tigers marched down the field for 75 yards and a touchdown, when sophomore quarterback Rico Prestia (Elk Grove Village, Ill.) ran it in himself from one yard out 1, cutting the lead to two.
Muzljakovich was 4-4 on field goal attempts on the day, and his early fourth quarter make from 27 yards gave Olivet a brief 25-24 lead. However, Waldorf scored quickly on a 71-yard touchdown pass to make it 30-25, failing to convert the 2-point conversion. After forcing a Tigers punt that the Warriors returned it all the way to Tigers’ 19, Waldorf scored again to extend the lead 37-25 with just over four minutes to play.
That is when it go exciting for the Tigers and they started an amazing comeback attempt. During the drive, sophomore running back David Payne (Chebanse, Ill.) caught a 30 yard pass and ran it in from one yard for a touchdown. Trailing 37-32 with just over two minutes left, the Tigers had no choice but to attempt the onside kick, which they recovered. Facing a 4th and 3 from the Warriors 24 yard line, Prestia hit freshman wideout Blake Anders (Mokena, Ill.) for a first down. Payne then ran it in for his second touchdown of the day and a brief 40-37 lead before the Warriors ended the comeback with the game-winning touchdown with just two seconds remaining when Smith hit Ballatori for a 22-yard strike on a first and 10.
In the losing effort, Olivet had multiple 100 yard rushers for the second time this season as Ho-Lewis finished with 179 yards and a touchdown, while Payne had 160 with two scores. On defense, junior linebacker David Prater (Harvey, Ill.) led ONU with two and half tackles for a loss for 11 yards, including one sack for eight yards.
The warriors were led by Bryan Smith who threw for 277 yards and five touchdowns, of which three went to receiver Marc Ballatori. Receiver James Lloyd caught five balls for 143 yards for two scores and Ballatori had 81 yards receiving. Bryan Smith ran for 45 yards on the ground and two scores.
During today's game Andrew Muzljakovich tied the school individual single-game record for field goals made and attempted with four. He also has already tied the school individual single-season record for field goals made and attempted in a season with 12 and 17, respectively.
The Tigers return to action next Saturday, October 20 at 12:00 p.m. in MSFA Midwest action against No. 15 St. Ambrose University (Iowa).
Box score: http://web.olivet.edu/sports/football/games/2012/onufb07.htm