Vikings grind through win against Concordia-St. Paul

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – A Jarod Epperson touchdown with under a minute remaining pushed the Augustana football team to a 21-20 victory over Concordia-St. Paul Saturday inside Kirkeby-Over Stadium.

Augustana, ranked seventh in the Super Region Four rankings, improves to 7-2 overall while the Golden Bears fall to 5-4. The Vikings remain undefeated inside K-O Stadium in 2019 with a 5-0 mark.

"That's a quality win against a team that has beat a lot of people," head coach Jerry Olszewski said. "It is a win and one to be proud of.

"Our kids play hard and they believe they are going to win. That's the compliment I gave them before the game and I'm glad it turned out that way."

Down 20-14, the Vikings took over on their 27-yard line with 5:20 remaining in the game. They traveled 73 yards over 12 plays on the game-winning drive, converting on a fourth-and-1 inside their own 10-yard line to keep the drive alive with just over a minute remaining.

However, the most impressive play of the drive was a 26-yard reception by Sean Engel to set the Vikings up at the CSP 18-yard line. Quarterback Kyle Saddler sent the pass to Engel, who had a full extension for the reception while falling on his side to make the catch.

Augustana then used seven plays, including the fourth-down conversion, to score the game-tying touchdown before Luis Guarita connected on the point-after attempt to take the 21-20 lead. Epperson, the reigning NSIC Offensive Player of the Week, veered to his right and ran untouched in the end zone for a two-yard score.

The game was then sealed when the Golden Bear quarterback made a last-ditch effort on a Hail Mary but was intercepted by Luke Fritsch, his second pick-off of the game.

Augustana took an early 7-0 lead and expanded it to 14-3 before seeing Concordia-St. Paul not only make a comeback but take a lead in the third quarter on 17-straight points.

The initial touchdown came on a one-yard Rudolh Sinflorant rush while Epperson put the Vikings up 14-3 on a 13-yard run. Epperson took the handoff, started right before completely changing directions and scored in the left corner of the end zone.

Concordia-St. Paul pulled within four points before intermission on an eight-yard receiving touchdown from Marcus Gustaveson. The Golden Bears took their first lead of the game at 17-14 on a 27-yard run by Darios Reid-Crawley. The lead pushed to 20-14 on a 35-yard field goal make from Danny Laudet.

The field goal came with 14:45 remaining in the game. Neither team could then push their offense to put points on the scoreboard until the final drive from Augustana.

Nickel Meyers had his top game of the season with eight receptions for 103 yards while Engel totaled 87 yards on four catches. Saddler ended the day with 274 yards passing on 22-of-36 pass completions. Epperson finished the day with 51 yards rushing and 18 yards receiving.

The Augustana defense tallied eight tackles for loss, totaling 16 yards, led by T.J. Liggett with 2.5 tackles for loss. He also totaled a game-high 10 tackles, nine of which were solo. Fritsch had two interceptions including one with 19 yards of return yardage. The Vikings entered the contest in the nation's lead with 24 turnovers gained and added two more to the total.

Augustana plays its final road game of the regular season on Saturday at Winona State. The Warriors were tabbed No. 9 in the initial Super Region Four rankings and topped Southwest Minnesota State 41-13 in their Week Nine contest. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.