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Overtime gamble pays off, Storm shock Wartburg 37-36

Tanner Krueger
Tanner Krueger

WAVERLY, Iowa -- Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles made the play famous in Super Bowl LII. On Saturday, it belonged to Tanner Krueger and Austin Hronich.

Opting to go for two and the win rather than force a second overtime, Simpson offensive coordinator James Hoffman dailed up a play now famously referred to as the "Philly Speical." Hronich -- a wide receiver -- found Krueger -- the quarterback -- in the endzone for the game-winning two-point conversion and the Simpson football team shocked defending conference champion Wartburg 37-36 at Walston Hoover Stadium.

The play began with Krueger taking the shotgun snap. He handed to running back Cam Bunting, who flipped it to Hronich in the opposite direction. Rolling to his right, Hronich threw a dart to Kreuger, who had to get a foot in-bounds while being shoved in the back. 

With the win, Simpson improves to 3-1 overall and 2-0 in the American Rivers Conference, the program's first 2-0 start to conference play since 2012. The Knights fall to 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the league, suffering their first conference loss since 2016.

A pair of Waverly-Shell Rock graduates paced Simpson's offense as Krueger went 21-for-51 for 307 yards and four TDs and Joe McNally caught six passes for 137 yards and two scores. Michael Connor led the defense with 12 tackles, a sack and an interception.

How it Happened

Simpson led 21-14 in the second quarter before Wartburg stole the momentum, scoring 15 unanswered points over the next quarter-and-a-half. But special teams loomed large as the Knights missed an extra point and had one blocked, the latter of which was returned 98 yards by safety Ryan Lehr for a crucial three-point swing in the fourth quarter. Lehr's return turned what could have been a 30-21 Wartburg lead into a 29-23 game.

Despite Leh's big return, it looked as though Wartburg sealed the game when JoJo McNair returned a punt 53 yards for a TD. But a holding penalty nullified the score and the Simpson defense made three more stops to keep the game within reach.

Despite gaining just 99 yards and producing zero points in the first five drives in the second half, the Storm offense got a spark with 2:32 left in the fourth quarter. Krueger hit McNally for 36 yards and Bunting for 39 to put the ball inside the Wartburg 10. The drive ended when Krueger hit defensive end Jack Bootsmiller in traffic from 3 yards out, tying the game with 16 seconds left in regulation. The point after failed, prompting the overtime period.

Wartburg scored on its first possession of overtime for a 36-29 lead. After three straight incompletions, Simpson faced fourth-and-10 when Krueger found Bunting in the middle of the field. Bunting weaved through traffic to find the endzone, setting up the dramatic two-point try.

Key Stat

Simpson forced four Wartburg turnovers on the day, including three fumbles. Wartburg hadn't lost a fumble in the previous four games and had just two turnovers all season. One of the fumbles came off a muffed punt in the first quarter that Simpson turned into seven points. A third quarter fumble by Connor Bailey put an end to a promising Wartburg drive.

Notes
  • Though he was held to 22 yards on the ground, Cam Bunting enjoyed a career day receiving with three catches for 68 yards and a TD. He did manage a rushing TD in the first quarter, giving him nine straight games with a TD on the ground.
  • Austin Hronich had one career passing attempt before Saturday -- an interception in week two at Chicago.
  • The Storm snapped a five-game losing streak against Wartburg. The previous two wins -- in 2011 and 2012 -- were also by one point. Both of those wins came off blocked PATs, and the 2012 win came in overtime at Wartburg.
  • Simpson won despite rushing for just 24 yards as a team.
  • Ryan Lehr tied for the team lead with 12 tackles, Brendan Holmes had 10 and Galen Gist had eight and 1.5 sacks.
Up Next

Simpson hosts Coe for the annual Homecoming game on Saturday, Oct. 6. The Kohawks (3-2, 2-1) beat Nebraska Wesleyan 40-28 on Saturday.

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