SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Darren Niklason caught five passes for a career-high 171 yards and two touchdowns to lead Augustana to a 35-6 win over Upper Iowa on Saturday in Sioux Falls. The Vikings (3-4, 1-2 NSIC South) snapped a three-game losing streak and won its seventh straight game over Upper Iowa (4-3, 1-2 NSIC South).
Augustana came alive in the second half, scoring 28 of its 35 points in the second period. The Vikings put up 21 of those 28 in the fourth quarter alone.
The Vikings forced six turnovers in the game, picking up three fumble recoveries and three interceptions. The six turnovers mark the most since Augustana forced six against Winona State on Oct. 15, 2011.
Augustana finished the game with 299 yards of total offense, including a season-long 232 passing yards. The Vikings held Upper Iowa, who entered the game averaging 522.0 yards of total offense, to 281 total yards.
Trey Heid led Augustana on the ground with 43 rushing yards on 11 attempts, including a 25-yard run. Heid also threw for a season-high 232 yards and three touchdowns. Heid threw his longest touchdown pass of the season, a 52-yard strike to Niklason.
Niklason caught two long passes in the game, including a 39-yard reception and career-long 52-yard reception. Matt Gerry caught two passes for 43 yards and a career-long 36-yard catch.
Ben Skelly led the charge on the defensive side of the ball with a career-high 15 tackles, including six solo tackles. Thomas Vanasek added 10 tackles (seven solo) while Nate Kirby posted nine tackles and 2.0 tackles for loss and a sack.
Anthony Tucker had a big day for Augustana, grabbing his first career interception, finishing the game with two picks. Tucker added two tackles on the game. Justin Brown got himself into the turnover mix for Augustana, recovering a fumble and intercepting his third pass of the season.
The Viking defense came up big in the first half forcing two Upper Iowa fumbles in the first quarter. Gabe Dunn punted four times in the first half pinning Upper Iowa deep in its own territory all half.
The Peacocks best field position of the half came after the opening kickoff where they started at their own 32 yard line. Upper Iowa started at the 16 on its next possession and the nine-yard line on its next two.
The punt team once again came up big for the Vikings as Dunn sent another punt deep into Upper Iowa territory with 6:14 remaining in the first half. UIU returner Keaton Hosch attempted to block an Augustana defender and came in contact with the ball allowing Justin Greenway to recover the ball in the end zone giving the Vikings a 7-0 lead after the Ben Albrecht point-after attempt.
Upper Iowa threatened to score at the end of the first half but a bad snapped on third-down and goal from the Augustana two-yard line forced the Peacocks to attempt a 28-yard field goal. Gustavo Rocha sent the field goal attempt wide right with 59 seconds to play in the half.
Upper Iowa out-gained Augustana 176-68 in total offense in the first half. The Peacocks rushed for 89 yards, 74 from Smith and passed for 87. Derek Giesking caught five passes for 47 yards while Lucas Hefty caught four passes for 22 yards.
Augustana rushed for 20 yards on 16 attempts in the first half while passing for 48 yards. The big play came on a 39-yard reception by Darren Niklason.
The Vikings got off to a fast start in the second half when Heid found Niklason for a 49-yard completion to bring Augustana into Upper Iowa territory. On the play, the Peacocks were flagged for a facemask to bring the Vikings down to the UIU nine-yard line. The 49-yard pass and catch marked a season-long pass for Heid and career-long reception for Niklason.
Heid then found a wide open Jake Bartscher for his first career touchdown reception to give Augustana a 14-0 lead with 12:05 to play in the third quarter.
Two drives later Upper Iowa made it a 14-6 game when Jaeschke found Hosch on an 11-yard touchdown pass with 8:19 remaining in the third quarter.
Augustana's defense turned the tide right back in the Vikings' favor with two interceptions, one by Anthony Tucker with 3:02 left in the third quarter and another by Justin Brown on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Brown returned his interception 22 yards into Upper Iowa territory and three plays later Heid dove into the end zone for his fourth rushing touchdown of the season to give Augustana a 21-6 lead with 13:34 to play in the game.
The Vikings forced a three-and-out on the next Upper Iowa possession and the offense would go on a seven-play 66-yard drive to take a 28-6 lead with 7:22 left in the game. On the drive, Gerry caught a career-long 36-yard pass to bring the Vikings into the red zone. Heid then hit Niklason in the corner of the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown.
Niklason would not be done yet as on Augustana's next possession he caught a career-long 56-yard pass for a touchdown giving the Vikings a 35-6 lead.
Augustana will stay in Sioux Falls next week as they travel across town to take on the University of Sioux Falls at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 26.