Football loses key to the city: Win streak snaps as USF Cougars upset Vikings

Augustana University football lost to crosstown rival University of Sioux Falls (USF) 28-26 in the annual “Key to the City” game last Saturday at Bob Young Field. 

With 2:53 left in the game and the score at 24-21, Augustana on top, USF quarterback Adam Mullen found wide receiver Dominic Pegley open 26 yards down the middle of the field for what would be the eventual game-winning touchdown. 

After an interception on the ensuing drive and a strategic safety by the Cougars, the clock ran out while trying to return the kickoff. A mob of Cougars ran onto the field, grabbed the key, waved goodbye to the Viking fans and celebrated their upset. 

“It was a tough loss and cuts deep,” coach Jerry Olszewski said. “The men know we had multiple opportunities to seal the win and didn’t finish as well as we needed to in order to do so.  We move forward with the same process we do every week. The team has 48 hours tomove on from the previous game regardless of outcome or performance. We are always honest with each other about what we did well and where we need to be better.”

The Vikings came in ranked 14th in NCAA Division II, undefeated, leading the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) in points scored and fewest points allowed. They hadn’t allowed a sack the entire season and were holding teams under 20 yards rushing per game. 

The Cougars scored on the game’s opening drive, with quarterback Mullen connecting with tight end Hunter Schneider down the left side for a 17-yard touchdown pass. The Vikings answered on a 25-yard run by junior running back Jarod Epperson to end the first quarter 7-7.

After a defensive stop, the Vikings then gave the ball back to the Cougars in prime field position courtesy of a fumble at the AU 11-yard-line. USF scored via a 6-yard touchdown pass from Mullen to running back Jacqueze Lockett.

“The film is our resume and is the best way to address our play,” Olszewski said. “It is not like we played poorly. We missed on some situational football opportunities that can determine the outcome especially in the fourth quarter.”

The Vikings pulled the score even again, courtesy of another Epperson touchdown run, this one for 42 yards. With 86 seconds left in the half, the Cougars charged down the field and punched in a 2-yard Lockett run to take a 21-14 lead into the half.

The Viking defense came out hot in the second half and allowed the offense to tie it at 21 on a 1-yard run by quarterback Kyle Saddler, then take their first lead at 24-21 on a 41-yard field goal by kicker Ben Limburg.

The ensuing drive is when Mullen led the Cougars on their game-winning path. The Vikings outgained USF 373-256. They outrushed the Cougars 161-5, but USF’s steady play won them the game.

“We have a special group of guys and truly love working with one another every day,” Olszewski said. “Our best football is still to be played, and I can’t wait to get back after it.” 

 The Vikings will return to Kirkeby-Over Stadium Oct. 9 as they will take on the Peacocks of Upper Iowa at 1 p.m. for homecoming. Viking Days festivities will take place prior to the game. 

 “We have a 1-0 statement that matches well with our belief that we play to our standard, not the opponent,” Olszewski said. “When we are accountable to each other in this way, the outcome will be what we desire every time. [I am] proud of the way our men wore that loss but even more proud of their focus on the big picture learning that comes from it.” 

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