The Lincoln Blue Tigers’ defense kept them in Saturday’s game against the Washburn Ichabods, but the offense took to long to get anything going.
The Blue Tigers were blanked through the first three quarters and trailed 24-0, and the deficit was too much to overcome as Washburn picked up a 24-10 victory at Dwight T. Reed Stadium.
“I’m not much on silver linings, but our guys played their butts off, played their hearts out,” Lincoln coach Jermaine Gales said.
The Ichabod offense was rolling in the first.
Washburn drove 57 yards in eight plays on its opening series and got on the board after a 25-yard field goal from Trenton Brehm.
The Ichabods then punched in their first touchdown on their next drive after a 5-yard punt left them with a short field at the Lincoln 45-yard line.
Seven plays later, freshman quarterback Sam Van Dyne found tight end Connor Searcy in the flat for a 7-yard score.
And on Washburn’s next series, Taylon Peters ripped off a 60-yard TD run to give the Ichabods a 17-0 lead late in the first.
“They were able to run the ball and they were very effective on third down,” Gales said. “It didn’t matter where they started on the field, they were always getting to the red zone and getting into the box. We’ve got to work on correcting that part and keep it moving from there.”
The Blue Tigers put together a pair of first downs on running plays on their final possession of the opening quarter and were set up first-and-1o at their own 45 to start the second.
But lightning entered the area and the game was delayed for 72 minutes.
“We kind of had an idea it was headed our direction,” Gales said. “They told us the lightning was coming and we were likely going to get a delay.
“We were actually trying to hurry it up a little bit, we felt like we were going to score on that drive. We were running the ball well and that’s what we wanted to do.”
Lincoln had a golden opportunity to get on the scoreboard following the delay after a muffed punt was recovered by the Blue Tigers to give them the ball at the Washburn 21.
But Lincoln went 17 yards backwards and was forced into another punt as each side was held scoreless in the second quarter, keeping the Ichabods’ lead at 17-0 at intermission.
“It is always a momentum killer, you have to take advantage of your opportunities,” Gales said. “Anytime we get takeaways or an opportunity for a sudden change, we have to take advantage and we didn’t do that.
“We went backwards and didn’t even get a field-goal attempt. That’s awful.”
The Blue Tigers entered the locker room with just 71 total yards of offense.
Washburn put together a productive drive to open the second half, moving 60 yards in nine plays before Brehm’s 41-yard field goal missed wide right.
Lincoln’s offense wasn’t able to take advantage of the mistake and punted for the seventh time in as many possessions.
The Ichabods found the end zone this time. Van Dyne found Tylan Crochett in between two Blue Tigers for a 48-yard touchdown on a deep post to extend the lead to 24-0 with 2:44 left in the third.
“Anytime you can stop them from scoring, you have to answer in a way that’s going to keep the momentum going your way,” Gales said. “Then they score. We were still in it, but we have to take advantage of those opportunities.”
The Blue Tigers got their offense going in the fourth, though.
After a turnover on downs gave Lincoln the ball at its own 46, Xzavier Vaughn found Aderias Ealy on the first play of the drive down the home sideline for a 54-yard score.
“They have a special kind of connection,” Gales said. “I admire those two young men because they work really hard.”
But the Blue Tigers did not elect to go for the 2-point conversion to try and cut it to a two-score game. Mo Alwaely hit the extra-point attempt to cut the deficit to 24-7 with 11:36 left.
“I felt like we would get more possessions,” Gales said. “We tried to onside kick to get the ball back but didn’t get it. I’m not a big go-for-2 guy too early. I want to save that for the right time and didn’t feel like it was the right time.”
Lincoln forced another turnover on downs to follow to take over at its own 28.
Vaughn found Ealy again on the first play of the drive, lobbing a 42-yard pass down the middle of the field. Ealy was able to high point the ball for a huge gain, setting up an Alwaely 30-yard field goal to create the final margin.
“We are going to miss (Ealy) when he’s gone,” Gales said. “He’s a special athlete.”
Washburn was able to secure the ensuing onside-kick attempt and ran out the clock to secure the victory.
Vaughn finished 12-for-17 passing for 140 yards, with 118 of the yards going to Ealy on five catches.
Washburn (1-2) rushed for 298 yards in the contest, led by Peters’ 121 on 11 carries.
Lincoln (0-3) will continue its search for Gales’ first victory as the Blue Tigers’ coach next Saturday at No. 15 Northwest Missouri.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. in Maryville.