INDIANOLA, Iowa – Big plays and a bend-but-don't-break defense spelled victory for the Simpson football team on Saturday afternoon.
Walker Holland made three catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns, the defense tightened when it needed to most and Simpson beat Wisconsin-River Falls 22-6 in its home opener.
"Today was a good, solid victory," head coach Jim Glogowski said. "It's good to be 2-0."
Holland caught touchdown passes of 38 and 43 yards from Dylan Berkey for the Storm (2-0), who generated 415 yards of total offense in the win.
As well as the offense played, though, the play of the game came on the defensive side of the ball.
Simpson held a slim 10-6 lead with its back against its own goal line in the fourth quarter when the momentum switched. On 1st-and-goal from the 2, defensive tackle Alex Severn jarred the ball from Kywon Cartwright and corner Reid Ryan alertly covered it up in the end zone.
Simpson took advantage of the turnover, mounting an 11-play, 80-yard drive that ended in a 38-yard touchdown strike from Berkey to Holland. Berkey rolled to his right and hit Holland in stride down the far sideline for a 16-6 Simpson lead with 7:56 left in the game.
"Sometimes those things are caused by us and sometimes they are caused by the other team, but you still have to jump on the ball and recover it," Glogowski said.
In all, UW-River Falls saw three drives stall inside the Simpson 25. It was a stark contrast to the 2013 contest, when River Falls scored 34 points and quarterback Ryan Kusilek compiled 479 yards of total offense.
This year, he managed just 154.
"We limited the big plays, where last year those were back-breakers for us," Glogowski said.
Berkey finished 19 of 34 for 278 yards with two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Nate Connealy caught five passes for 70 yards before leaving the game early with an injury and the trio of Jordan Beem, Ethan Calvert and Tyler Kenny accounted for 127 yards on the ground.
Calvert added a 9-yard touchdown run with two minutes left in the game as Simpson closed the game in the trenches with 70 rushing yards in the fourth quarter.
"We have some toughness," Glogowski said. "We can be a physical football team and run the football when we want to."
UW-River Falls controlled the game early on, going on a 16-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that chewed up nearly seven minutes to open the game.
Kusilek went 5-for-6 on the methodical drive, but completed just 9 of 21 passes the rest of the way. Backup Sawyer Moon came on in relief in the second half.
Jordan Christianson had eight catches for 103 yards and Jake Ryan had seven for 93 yards to lead the Falcons (0-2), who lost their 14th straight game dating back to 2012.
Simpson stays at home next weekend when 2013 NCAA Tournament participant Illinois Wesleyan visits Buxton Stadium.