Central Missouri’s football team keeps finding new ways to win close games this season.
But last Saturday’s wild finish in Kearney may be unequaled.
“It was the craziest game I’ve ever been in,” Central Missouri receiver and Millard West graduate Shae Wyatt said.
Trailing 40-30 with less than five minutes left, Central Missouri rallied to tie it before UNK drove to the Mules’ 13-yard line in the waning seconds. The Lopers tried a 30-yard field goal, but it was blocked and returned to the Mules’ 37 with 12 seconds left.
On the next play, quarterback Brook Bolles rolled away from the pass rush and “I just heaved it as far as I could,” the Lincoln North Star graduate said.
The Hail Mary pass was caught down the left sideline by a sprinting Cameron Saunders and he ran into the end zone to give the Mules an improbable 47-40 win.
Central Missouri, ranked 10th in NCAA Division II, improved to 9-0 on the season, with five of the wins by one score or less. The Mules can get to 10 wins Saturday when they host 1-8 Lincoln.
Central Missouri has only three seasons with at least 10 wins in its 123-year history. The school record is 11, set in 2010.
“We just have a lot of fight. At the end of the day, we’ll find a way to win,” Bolles said. “I’ve never been part of a team like this.”
Bolles, one of 10 Mules from the Omaha and Lincoln areas, didn’t expect to be playing this year. As a redshirt junior in 2017, he led Division II in total offense with 4,322 yards. But in last year’s season opener, Bolles tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow and was given a medical redshirt.
“I believe everything happens for a reason,” Bolles said. “Because of that, I was able to be part of this team.”
Bolles is doing his part this year. He’s third in Division II in passing yards (2,933) and first in passing touchdowns (32). And he’s elevating a team that finished 5-6 a year ago. This year the Mules lead Division II in scoring (48.8) and total offense (559.7).
“With him we play at a faster pace,” said Wyatt, a redshirt sophomore who leads the team in receptions (41) and receiving yards (972). “He understands the offense. It’s fun to play at this pace.”
Both Bolles and Wyatt had huge days against UNK. Bolles was 23 of 41 for 464 yards and five TDs, while Wyatt had eight catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns. For Wyatt, sixth in Division II in receiving yards, it was the fourth game this season that he’s topped 140 yards.
Bolles and Wyatt also ignited last Saturday’s comeback. When it was 40-30, the Mules faced a fourth-and-7 at midfield. Bolles hit Wyatt with a first-down pass and he raced away from the defense for a 50-yard touchdown.
Bolles is glad he’s been able to play a full season with the 6-foot, 190-pound Wyatt. The receiver had 42 catches for 769 yards as a freshman, but Bolles said Wyatt has made a big leap this season.
“He thinks like a quarterback. He’s so special,” Bolles said. “I played with a receiver, Jaylen Zachery, who has a lot of the career records here. I think Shae will break all of those. He’s a rare talent with his IQ, his hands. And he’s tremendously faster than last year.”
With a win Saturday, the Mules could secure a share of the MIAA title for the first time since 2003. They finish the regular season next Saturday against 8-1 Northwest Missouri.
Nebraska Wesleyan (3-5) at Luther (0-8), noon: Looking to snap a five-game skid, Wesleyan could get its offense going against a Luther team allowing 51.9 points and 530 yards a game. Wesleyan’s Jonathan Curti has thrown for 2,472 yards and 26 TDs.
South Dakota Mines (2-7) at Chadron State (5-4), noon MST: During its four-game winning streak, Chadron has scored at least 40 points each game. Elijah Myles has run for 514 yards the past three weeks and is second in the RMAC in rushing. Dalton Holst has thrown for 2,514 yards and 26 TDs.
Doane (4-6) at Midland (5-4), 1 p.m.: This is Doane’s season finale as it tries to snap a three-game skid. During Midland’s four-game winning streak, QB Noah Oswald has accounted for 20 TDs, while Maximus Wold has topped 100 yards rushing each of the last three weeks.
Concordia (3-6) at Morningside (8-0), 1: With a showdown with No. 5 Northwestern looming next week, Morningside looks to stay sharp. The Mustangs lead the NAIA in scoring (59.6 ppg) and total offense (602.3 ypg). This is Concordia’s season finale.
Hastings (2-6) at Northwestern (8-0), 1: With 7,922 yards, junior Tyson Kooima became Northwestern’s career passing leader last week. The Red Raider defense is allowing 9.4 points a game. Hastings has lost six in a row.
UNK (5-4) at Missouri Western (7-2), 1: The Lopers’ tough schedule continues against a Western team on a six-game winning streak. UNK’s last four opponents have a combined record of 31-5. Western averages 40.9 points a game; UNK leads the MIAA in rushing (315.4 a game).
Upper Iowa (2-7) at Wayne State (3-6), 1: The 31st Egg Bowl features two offenses averaging less than 20 points a game — Wayne is at 18.8, Upper Iowa is 19.1. Wayne’s Ethan Knudson has made 36 career field goals and needs one more to become the school’s leader in that category.
Peru State (1-8) at Grand View (9-0), 1: Peru snapped an 11-game losing streak when it won at William Penn last week, when Dillon Ruelas threw for 212 yards. Now Peru faces the NAIA’s No. 4 team, which is allowing 10.2 points a game.
Briar Cliff (5-4) at Dordt (6-3), 1: Dordt looks to maintain sole possession of third place in the GPAC. Dordt has won three straight, winning by a combined 166-28. Briar Cliff has held seven opponents to 17 points or less.
Northwest Missouri (8-1) at Fort Hays State (7-2), 2: Huge final two weeks for the Bearcats. Hays has won seven straight, then Northwest closes the season against 9-0 Central Missouri. Today’s game features the top two defensive teams in the MIAA.