Cody Eiler returned a punt 49-yards for the game-winning touchdown with just 0:27 seconds left in the game to give Nebraska Wesleyan a 27-20 last minute victory over #25 Dakota Wesleyan on Saturday afternoon (Oct. 9) at Abel Stadium in Lincoln.
NWU tied the game at 20-20 with 1:09 to play in the fourth quarter on a 25-yard field goal from Steven Anderson. A penalty on the kick return forced DWU to start the drive at their own six yard line with 0:55 to play. NWU stopped the Tigers on all three rushing plays, calling a timeout after each play to force the Tigers to punt.
DWU punter Nick Tolsma, who entered the game ranked second in the NAIA in punting, hit a low line drive punt right at Eiler who fielded the ball on the run at the 49 yard line. Eiler angled towards the corner and dove across the goal line for the win.
It was the second straight season that NWU has beaten the ranked Tigers at home as they remain unbeaten in Lincoln against DWU. It also marks the second time in the last five years that NWU has beaten Dakota Wesleyan on a punt return in the final minute, as the Prairie Wolves also won on a return in 2005.
NWU improves to 2-4, while DWU drops their second straight to fall to 3-2.
Dakota Wesleyan jumped ahead 7-0 in the first quarter on a 59-yard run by Josh Endres. The Prairie Wolves then tied the game in the second quarter as Steve Fricke found a wide open Mike Colgrove on a 36-yard halfback pass to make the score 7-7. DWU added a pair of Leif Evers field goals in the final two minutes before halftime making the score 13-7 at halftime.
In the second half, Anderson connected on a 21-yard field goal with 5:32 to play in the third quarter capping off a 76 yard drive and pulling the Prairie Wolves to 13-10.
After forcing DWU to punt, Eiler had a 21-yard punt return and DWU committed a 15-yard personal foul to give NWU the ball at the Tigers 29-yard line. On the second play, Nate Hauptman found Colgrove in the back of the end zone for a 25 yard TD reception giving Colgrove his second touchdown of the game. NWU now led 17-13 heading to the fourth quarter.
Dakota Wesleyan marched 64 yards on 15 plays to retake the lead when Endres found the end zone for the second time, this time from two yards out to put DWU up 20-17.
Several key plays led to Anderson's game-tying field goal late in the fourth quarter. On the first play of the drive, Steve Fricke fumbled a screen pass and DWU recovered. However, a roughing the passer penalty took away the fumble and gave the ball back to NWU. On 3rd & 9, Joe Manley made a terrific catch in traffic over the middle giving NWU a first and goal at the eight. They would settle for the field goal.
NWU finished with 308 yards of total offense, 117 rushing and 191 passing. DWU had 369 yards on offense with incredible balance getting 184 passing yards and 183 yards on the ground.
Hauptman finished 13-23 for 155 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Colgrove had four grabs for 91 yards and two touchdowns, while Joe Manley caught three passes for 40 yards. Steve Fricke led the ground game with 46 yards on nine carries, and threw the TD pass.
Brett Kaczor led the NWU defense with 14 total tackles, 0.5 TFLs, and a pass breakup. Eiler had 89 total punt return yards and also returned one kick for 25 yards.
Jon Bane was 18-31 for 184 yards for DWU, while Endres had 17 carries for 120 yards.
NWU will carry this momentum in their bye week before returning on Oct. 23 for a Homecoming game against Briar Cliff.