Morningside quarterback Joel Nixon threw four touchdown passes including three for over 30 yards as the fourth-ranked Mustangs downed Nebraska Wesleyan, 35-10, under the lights on Saturday (Sept. 15) in front of 1,147 fans at Abel Stadium.
NWU (1-2, 0-2 GPAC) held right with the top ranked Mustangs and looked poised to pull the upset just like the year before. The Prairie Wolves cut the lead to four points with under one minute left before halftime, but a Mustang score before half and 14 unanswered in the third quarter was too much to overcome.
The Prairie Wolves put up 224 total yards in the first half, but sputtered in the second half as the Mustangs (3-0, 2-0) held NWU out of the end zone in the second half.
Morningside struck early in the game as Nixon hit Colby Henderson on a fly pattern for an 82-yard TD pass on the Mustangs fourth offensive play. Big plays would be a theme for Morningside on the day as Nixon finished with 374 yards passing.
After a goal line stand for the Prairie Wolves defense inside the 5-yard line a costly turnover hurt NWU. A bad snap from center was fumbled in the end zone and recovered by Marcus Smith for a Mustang touchdown to go up 14-0.
Nebraska Wesleyan then mounted their longest drive of the contest and got down to the 15-yard line after three straight completions by Hauptman including a 42-yard strike to Brian Pieper. Back-to-back penalties set back, NWU but Hauptman connected with Jordan Delbaugh for 18-yards to set up a 35-yard field goal by Aaron Lorraine to make the score 14-3.
On the very first play of the Morningside drive, Cody Eiler intercepted a Nixon pass giving NWU the ball at their own 41 yard line. Hauptman and Pieper connected again this time on a crossing pattern that Pieper took to the house for a 59-yard score to pull NWU within four points and get the hometown fans on their feet with 0:40 before half.
Unfortunately a personal foul on the kickoff gave the Mustangs the ball at the 50 yard line. Nixon hit Henderson for a 41-yard game inside the 10-yard line. He then found Joel McCabe from 9-yards out with 0:03 left to deflate the NWU momentum.
Late in the third quarter, Nixon found Kyle Schuck from 45-yards out as he broke tackles across the middle to give the Mustangs an 18-point lead. A quick three and out by NWU put Morningside back in business inside NWU territory. This time Schuck made an acrobatic one-handed catch over his shoulder for a 35-yard score.
NWU was held to just 11 total yards in the third quarter. They mounted a couple late scoring drives in the fourth quarter but both ended without points. A bad snap on a field goal attempt stalled one drive then an interception in the end zone in the closing seconds sealed the game.
Morningside finished with 436 yards of total offense, with 374 through the air. Nixon was 17-31 for 374 with tour touchdowns. Three different Morningside receivers had over 100 yards on the night led by McCabe with seven catches for 127 yards.
For NWU, they attempted 57 total passes in the game. Hauptman was 15-40 for 245 yards with a touchdown and interception. Tyler Francis played one series in the second quarter and the entire fourth quarter finishing 9-17 for 96 yards with an interception.
Neither team had any type of ground attack as NWU mustered just 27 yards on 29 carries while Morningside had 62 yards on 30 carries.
Brett Kaczor led the NWU defense with 11 total tackles, a pass breakup and a tackle-for-loss. Jared Goforth had 11 tackles for Morningside.
NWU will have to regroup for next Saturday’s rivalry game at nationally-ranked Doane College in Crete.