WINONA, Minn. – Senior quarterback Zach Masoli led the Augustana football team on an 8-play, 70-yard game-winning drive Saturday afternoon at Winona State. The Vikings escaped with a 26-25 victory to keep the playoff picture alive.
Augustana improves to 8-2 on the season, holding sole possession of second place in the south division and overall NSIC standings. Winona State, who entered as one of three teams tied with the Vikings for second place, falls to 7-3. Both squads were ranked in the latest Super Region Four Rankings, Augustana at No. 7 and Winona State at No. 9.
After Winona State took a 25-20 lead with 3:15 on the clock, Augustana took over at their own 30-yard line and very similar to last week, saw a fourth-down conversion keep the drive alive. Sitting at fourth-and-11, Masoli connected with Sean Engel for an exact mark of 11 yards, pushing across into WSU territory. Masoli then took matters into his own hands and rushed to the 30-yard line with time clicking down.
On the next play, and with the rush on, Masoli scrambled towards the Augustana sideline and threw the ball downfield to freshman Devon Jones around the 10-yard line, who then scampered into the end zone for the go-ahead score at 26-25 with 41 seconds remaining. The Vikings attempted to make it a three-point game but did not convert on the two-point conversion.
Winona, now in desperation mode, threw into tight coverage on its first play and was picked off by Eli Weber to seal the game.
The win was a come-from-behind win in many aspects as the Vikings fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter. The first points for Augie came with 5:13 remaining in the first quarter as Saddler connected with Drew Reinschmidt for his first touchdown of the season.
After the Warriors put three more points on the scoreboard, the Vikings reeled off 10-straight to take a 17-13 lead. Luis Guarita capped a 10-play, 73-yard drive with a 19-yard field goal, then just before halftime, Saddler connected with Jones for an 18-yard touchdown. Augustana entered halftime leading 17-16.
The first points of the second half came from a field goal from each team, with Guarita's 22-yard connection coming with 10:19 on the clock to give Augustana a 20-19 lead.
That set up Winona for its drive to capture the 25-20 lead before the Vikings took the lead back for good on the heroic drive.
The Vikings defense held Winona State to just six yards rushing. The Warriors entered the game averaging 159.9 yards per game. Overall, the Warriors totaled just 188 yards of offense.
Augustana countered with 550 yards of offense, 314 through the air and 236 on the ground. Saddler totaled 258 yards passing while Epperson had 112 yards rushing, his third 100-yard game of the season. Masoli, who stepped in at quarterback after an injury to Kyle Saddler in the third quarter, concluded with 62 yards rushing and 56 yards passing. Reinschmidt totaled five receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, Augustana had two interceptions, Weber's to seal the game and a pickoff by Luke Fritsch. Andrew Henrich tallied his first sack of the season with Logan Swanson totaling three tackles for loss along with a sack.
Although not official, the Vikings enter Saturday's regular-season finale against Southwest Minnesota State only needing a victory to qualify for the NCAA Division II Playoffs. The Senior Day kickoff inside Kirkeby-Over Stadium is slated for 1 p.m.