TOPEKA, Kan. — No. 15 Washburn won its school-record 10th win of the season winning its first playoff game in school history in a 52-49 win against No. 11 Abilene Christian in the opening round of the NCAA playoffs in Yager Stadium.
The Ichabods (10-2) scored on the opening drive of the game when Justin Cooper scored from 14-yards out to put Washburn on the board with 11:24 to play. However Abilene Christian (8-3) needed only 2:33 to tie the score when Daryl Richardson scored on a 12-yard run with 8:57 to play in the game.
Washburn regained the lead when Cooper scored his second touchdown of the day, this one on a 12-yard scamper putting Washburn up 14-7 following the kick by Jeremy Linn. As they did after the first Washburn score, the Wildcats knotted the score after using a 13-play, 80-yard drive in 6:14 off the clock capped by a Mitchell Gale run from 3-yards out on a fourth and one from the Ichabod three-yard line.
On the first play of the second quarter, Dane Simoneau connected with Matt Kobbeman on a 67-yard touchdown strike to put Washburn back in front 21-14 following the PAT as the drive was only two plays taking 42 seconds off the clock. After the ensuing kickoff, the Wildcats kept up with the quick scoring pace needing only 1:09 to tie the score back at 21 after Gale connected with Demarcus Thompson on a 73-yard touchdown pass.
Washburn took over on its next drive and moved the ball to the Wildcat 18, but the drive stalled and Linn connected on a 35-yard field goal to put the Ichabods back in front 24-21 with 9:04 to play in the opening half.
ACU took over but the Ichabod defense held them to a punt which was partially blocked but rolled to the ACU 41 and the Ichabods took over and went up 31-21 after Cooper scored from 9-yards out with 5:27 to go in the half on his third touchdown run of the afternoon.
After another three-and-out by the Wildcats, the Ichabod drove 50 yards in eight plays as Sean McPherson scored on a 4-yard run with 1:07 to play in the half increasing the Ichabod lead to 38-21.
To start the third quarter, ACU’s Gale was picked off by Marty Pfannenstiel with his fourth interception of the season. Cooper scored touchdown No. 4 on a 5-yard run with 9:54 to go stretching the Ichabod lead out to 45-21.
Then the Wildcats would score 21 unanswered points to pull them back within three at 42-45. During the run, Gale hit Taylor Gabriel on scores of 71- and 10-yards while hitting Richardson on a 34-yard pass to cut the Ichabod lead to three.
Washburn then wrapped up their scoring with 4:10 remaining in the game when Simoneau connected with Ronnell Garner on a 61-yard play on a third and 23 from the Washburn 39 yard line putting Washburn up 52-42.
On Abilene Christian’s next drive, Ichabod wide receiver turned defensive back DeJuan Beard picked off Gale at the Ichabod 8-yard line and returned it 43 yards to the ACU 49. The Ichabods would go three-and-out forced into a punt.
ACU’s Charcandrick West scored from 29 yards out to pull ACU within three at 52-49, but the onside kick was recovered by Pfannenstiel and the Ichabods ran out the clock with two snaps to secure their first playoff victory – NAIA or NCAA and their 10th win of the season.
Cooper finished with 107 yards rushing and the four scores while Simoneau was 23 of 39 for 424 yards and two touchdowns – his second one of the day to Garner was his 100th in his Washburn career. Kobbeman finished with 131 yards receving on six catches while Garner had 95 on four catches.
Richardson finished with 132 yards on the ground on 16 carries while adding a team-high 115 yards receiving on 10 catches racking up 247 all-purpose yards. Gale would throw for 506 yards completing 29 of 48 passes with four scores and three interceptions. Gabriel (119) and Cantu-Harkless (117) also reached the century mark in receiving yards.
Defensively, Jahmil Taylor and Pfannenstiel each had 12 tackles – Taylor had 10 solo stops to go along with 2.5 sacks for 10 yards as the Ichabods finished with seven sacks on the afternoon. Darien Williams had eight tackles, as did Thor Woerner to lead the Wildcats.
Offensively the teams combined for 1,236 yards in total offense with ACU tallying 688 yards. Washburn had 26 first downs while the Wildcats had 29.
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