INDIANOLA, Iowa – It felt like 2011 all over again.
For the second year in a row, Wartburg got out to a big lead. For the second year in a row, Simpson came back. For the second year in a row, the outcome of the game came down to an extra point.
And for the second year in a row, Simpson scored a dramatic, one-point win over Wartburg.
Simpson erased a 13-point, first-half deficit, the passing game made big plays down the stretch and Ben Borland blocked a potential game-tying extra point with 37 seconds left as Simpson stunned Wartburg 20-19 on Saturday afternoon.
"In our program, we always talk about how the game will come back to you," head coach Jim Glogowski said. "Today it came back to us. We were down 13-0 and it would have been easy to get down on ourselves. But we are a veteran team, and right now we feel like there is nothing we can't overcome."
After Simpson pulled ahead 20-13 on Taylor Rogers' second touchdown catch of the fourth quarter, freshman quarterback Logan Schrader marched Wartburg 83 yards in just over a minute to make the score 20-19 in the final seconds.
"I had flashbacks from last year," senior tight end Alex McCarty said, referencing Simpson's 38-37 overtime win in Waverly when a blocked extra point ended the game. "Our defensive line is known for that [blocking kicks], so I knew it was something we could get done if it came down to it."
As freshman Frank Laconti – who already had an extra point and a field goal blocked – lined up for the extra point, Glogowski called a timeout to ice the young placekicker.
The move paid off. The defensive line got a good push, allowing Borland to get his right hand on the ball and deflect it harmlessly onto the ground.
"It feels great," said senior linebacker Mark Cronin, who blocked a 32-yard field goal in the second half. "We were able to come back on them last year and beat them in overtime, and this year was so similar … it's just a great feeling to get two in a row on them."
Prior to last year's win, Simpson had gone 13 years in a row without beating Wartburg, which won six conference titles during the stretch from 1997 to 2010.
Taylor Nelson threw for 439 yards and three touchdowns on 29 of 51 passing for the Storm (3-1, 1-0 Iowa Conference). The junior threw three interceptions but went 13-for-24 with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
He also converted six times on third and fourth down during the final frame.
"He'll fight is tail off," Glogowski said of his junior quarterback. "He made some poor reads and forced some ball he shouldn't have but he also made some big time plays. He's a smart football player and knows when he makes a mistake and how to correct it."
Brad Vogel caught seven passes for 202 yards and gave Simpson the spark it needed early in the game.
After spotting Wartburg 13 points by the mid-way point of the second quarter, Vogel flipped the momentum when he caught a slant from Nelson and raced 76 yards to paydirt.
"Brad stepped up when we needed a play desperately," said McCarty, who caught two passes for 12 yards. "We weren't moving the ball at all and he got a couple of blocks, took off and made a play."
In the fourth quarter it was all Rogers, who caught six passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns in the final 15 minutes. He made nine catches for 136 yards on the day.
His first touchdown came on 4th-and-10 from the Wartburg 21, when he jumped over a Wartburg defender in the endzone to tie the game 13-13.
The defense came up big on the next drive, as TJ Alger intercepted a Logan Schrader pass to give Simpson the ball back with 2:51 on the clock.
The Storm faced 3rd-and-10 twice on the decisive drive, but converted by way of completions to Rogers and Ryan Olson.
Nelson went to Rogers one more time on first down from the 43, throwing a fade route on the home sidlelines which Rogers plucked out of the air and ran into the endzone for the go-ahead score.
Schrader completed 18 of 25 passes for 295 yards, and two touchdowns and Reese Thompson ran 14 times for 92 yards and a score for the Knights (2-2, 0-1).
Wartburg got one more chance to win it with 15 seconds left, but Logan Ruffridge was tripped up at the Simpson 16 after a 36-yard hook-and-ladder play to end the game.
The kicking game provided excitement on both sides throughout the game. For Wartburg, Laconti had two extra points and a field goal blocked while punter Grant Zimmerman had a punt deflected. For Simpson, Logan Klein had an extra point and a 37-yard field goal attempt blocked.
Simpson travels to Pella next Saturday to face Central in a 1 p.m. kickoff. The Dutch (2-2, 1-0) beat league-favorite Dubuque 31-24 on Saturday.