SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Morningside will always believe there should have been one second remaining.
If the Mustangs are honest with themselves, they also know they could have prevented it from coming down to that last tick of the clock.
Wisconsin-Whitewater made fewer mistakes and regained the lead with 38 seconds left on Jordan Ratliffe’s 6-yard run. The Warhawks then survived Morningside’s frantic final drive for a 33-30 victory Thursday at Olsen Stadium in a matchup of teams ranked No. 1 in the nation in their respective divisions.
UW-Whitewater (3-0), winner of six of the last eight NCAA Division III national championships, ran its win streak to 35 games in a driving rainstorm, the longest in any level of college football. Morningside, No. 1 in the latest NAIA poll, dropped to 3-1.
“We knew coming in here it was just going to be a heck of a game, and it was,” UW-Whitewater coach Kevin Bullis said. “Man, whoever paid for admission got a helluva deal.”
Morningside took its first lead of the game at 27-26 with 6:45 left in the fourth quarter on Tyler Kavan’s 17-yard run. The big play in the 89-yard drive was Ryan Kasdorf’s 57-yard pass to Connor Niles.
The Mustangs tacked on Jared Amundson’s 36-yard field goal to stretch it to 30-26 with 4:19 remaining.
UW-Whitewater showed why it has gone 15-0 in five of the last six seasons, marching 75 yards to take a 33-30 lead on Ratliffe’s 6-yard burst around the right side with 38 seconds left.
Morningside had all three of its timeouts left. Kasdorf hit Jason Vander Kooi for 21 yards, but after Matt Seitz’s pass breakup, the Mustangs faced a third-and-14 at their 40 with eight seconds remaining. Kasdorf found Michael Whitehead along the left sideline, and he appeared to go out of bounds before hitting the ground.
The clock expired and the Warhawks pranced onto the field. The officials huddled for a discussion before ruling the game over.
“I thought there was two seconds,” Morningside coach Steve Ryan said. “When I was signaling for a timeout and he was down, I thought there was two seconds. That doesn’t mean you score. You’ve still got to run a play from 30 yards out.”
Had a second been added to the clock, Amundson would have had to make a field goal in the 43-yard range to send the game to overtime.
“What am I going to do?” Ryan said of the official. “He makes the best decision he could make.”
Mishandled snaps and high snaps plagued Morningside in the game. It also was flagged for 10 penalties to the Warhawks’ two. UW-Whitewater also scored on a 54-yard fluke play in the second quarter. Logan Rozeboom made a quick break on the ball for Morningside, but the ball caromed off him directly into the arms of a streaking Tony Gumina.
“The things that hurt us today was the snapping and the penalties,” Ryan said. “And that second touchdown was kind of a freak play. But I’ll go back to the positives. We were down two scores twice (16-7 and 26-14) and both times fought right back. That I’m proud of.”
Both programs are accustomed to administering frequent beatings in their leagues. They agreed they’ll take plenty from the contest.
“It was a fun day,” Ryan said. “I hope it was fun for you guys to watch the game. Obviously, I’m frustrated with the (end). Up to that last minute and a half, it was a fun day.”
Wisconsin-Whitewater (3-0) .................... 7 9 10 7—33
Morningside (3-1) ................................... 0 14 7 9—30
WW: Chris Nelson 5 run (Ben Franzen kick)
WW: FG Ben Franzen 22
M: Briar Evans 13 pass from Ryan Kasdorf (Brett Cochran-Bray kick)
WW: Tony Gumina 54 pass from Nelson (kick blocked)
M: Ryan Kasdorf 2 run (Jared Amundson kick)
WW: FG Lake Bachar 44
WW: Jordan Ratliffe 3 run (Franzen kick)
M: Tyler Kavan 46 run (Amundson kick)
M: Kavan 17 run (pass failed)
M: FG Amundson 36
WW: Ratliffe 6 run (Franzen kick)
Rushing: WW, Jordan Ratliffe 30-193, Nick Patterson 8-23, Jarrod Ware 1-2, Chris Nelson 4-(minus 13). M, Tyler Kavan 21-123, Weslee Dvorak 7-27, Ryan Kasdorf 14-14, Connor Niles 1-2, team 2-(minus 25).
Passing: WW, Chris Nelson 14-24-0 218. M, Ryan Kasdorf 17-23-0 261.
Receiving: WW, Joe Worth 6-63, Tony Gumina 3-63, Adam Korpela 2-47, Marcus Hudson 2-31, Brent Campbell 1-14. M, Connor Niles 9-137, Jason Vander Kooi 2-36, Michael Whitehead 1-34, Briar Evans 3-33, Tyler Kavan 1-11, Weslee Dvorak 1-10.
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