Comeback falls short, Storm lose shootout at Nebraska Wesleyan

Sam Sasso
Sam Sasso

LINCOLN, Neb. — The Simpson football team nearly erased a 21-point, fourth-quarter deficit but couldn't complete the comeback in a 45-38 loss to Nebraska Wesleyan to close the 2017 season on Saturday.

Drew Jensen's 25-yard field goal with 5:12 remaining pulled Simpson within 45-38, but Nebraska Wesleyan managed to run the clock out aided by three defensive penalties that resulted in first downs.

Shaka Taylor ran for 230 yards and caught nine passes for 134 yards to the lead the Prairie Wolves (2-7, 2-5 Iowa Conference), who won their second game in a row after starting the season 0-7. Jonathan Curti threw for 379 yards and five touchdowns as Nebraska Wesleyan set a school record with 608 yards of total offense.

Sam Sasso threw for 354 yards and Cam Bunting ran for 119—including an 86-yarder on the team's first play from scrimmage—for the Storm (5-5, 4-4), who stayed in the game despite committing 10 penalties for 111 yards. Jackson Redmond caught nine passes for 133 yards and Austin Hronich made three grabs for 108 yards and two touchdowns.

Key Moments
Curti TD pass gives NWU two-score lead: After Nebraska Wesleyan forced the first punt of the game with 4:40 left in the first half, Curti led a big 10-play, 82-yard drive that culminated in a 27-yard touchdown pass to Bradley Pelkey with 26 seconds left in the half. The score gave the Prairie Wolves a 28-14 lead in what had been a back-and-forth affair. The scoring strike came on 3rd-and-26 following an intentional grounding penalty and a 10-yard sack by Ryan Sarver.

Two Holmes picks spark comeback: Brendan Holmes sparked Simpson's comeback with two interceptions, both of which turned into touchdowns. His first came off a Nebraska Wesleyan double pass, which turned into an 8-yard strike from Sasso to Sam Bartlett on the first play of the fourth quarter to pull Simpson within 42-28. His second came on the next drive when he snagged Curti's overthrow near midfield. Sasso found Hronich from 37 yards out on the next play and the comeback was in full swing.

Prairie Wolves run clock out: Jackson Hinze and Jensen traded field goals as Simpson kicked off to Nebraska Wesleyan trailing 45-38 with 5:12 on the clock. An offsides penalty gave NWU its first, first down of the drive. Curti was sacked on third-and-10, but a 15-yard facemask penalty resulted in a first down and moved the ball to the Simpson 47. Taylor ran for 2 yards on second-and-seven from the 44, but a personal found penalty on Simpson resulted in another first down and allowed Nebraska Wesleyan to enter victory formation.

Notes & Numbers
• Nebraska Wesleyan has won four straight games in the series with Simpson's last win coming in 1969.
Bunting's 86-yard TD run on Simpson's first offensive play is the second-longest run from scrimmage in school history. Ken Roundtree holds the record with a 90-yarder against St. Ambrose in 1980.
• Bunting became the 11th player in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, closing the year with 1,049. He ran for 100-plus yards in six of the final seven games.
Drew Jensen went a perfect 5-for-5 on PAT attempts, eclipsing 100 for his career, one of just four players in school history to do so. He also made a 25-yard FG Saturday, making him 7-for-11 on the year and 31-for-39 throughout his career. His 79-percent FG percentage is a school record, passing James Gale (66.7 percent from 2008-11).
Sasso finishes with 2,574 passing yards on the season, the fifth-highest total in school history.
Redmond finished the season with 74 catches for 981 yards, both total of which are the most since Brad Vogel in 2012. His 151 career receptions are fifth all-time, and he became the sixth player in school history to surpass 2,000 career receiving yards (2,046).
• Simpson's 19 takeaways are the most since 2005. It's 14 interceptions are also the most since 2005.
• Holmes' two interceptions give him six on the year, passing Ryan Lehr for the team lead. The duo combined for 11 picks on the season.