Unlike last year, the Wartburg football team was not handed turnovers, field position and plenty of points that led to numerous school records in their season-opening game against MacMurray. This year, they had to work harder for the points.
Wartburg needed a spark near the end of the first half and they got it when Logan Schrader found Will Ebert streaking down the middle of the field toward the endzone for a 23-yard touchdown that put the Knights up 21-0 at the break.
“That last score before the half I think was big,” Willis said. “There’s a big difference between going in three scores up and two scores up just in terms of the way everybody feels about the game.”
The Knights marched back onto the field and scored 24 points in the third quarter to put MacMurray away for good in a 58-7 victory in front of 1,200 people at Freesen Field in Jacksonville, Ill.
“I think the key was just kind of getting the first game jitters out of the way and everyone coming together, working as a team and getting it all figured out at halftime,” sophomore running back Brandon Domeyer said.
By no means did the Knights struggle moving the ball early in the game. It just took a little longer for the scoreboard to light up and seven first-half penalties had a lot to do with that.
Domeyer carried the ball 17 yards into the endzone with under a minute left in the first quarter to give Wartburg its first lead.
“Last year the points came fast and easy,” Willis said, referring to a 28-0 Wartburg lead after one quarter. “That really didn’t happen, we more had to earn our points in the first half. We made a few mistakes, had a penalty here and there, a false start but overall I thought we were playing hard and really playing pretty well.”
Taylor Jacobsmeier started the second quarter at QB and on fourth down and one, he scampered around the MacMurray defense 39 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
“It was awesome,” the senior said of his first career touchdown after he was sidelined last year with an ACL injury. “I can’t really describe it. It’s just great to get back out there.”
He later added a 10-yard touchdown run to cap a three-play drive to open the second half and tossed a four-yard TD pass to Mitch Rahm, finishing 2-of-3 passing for 62 yards and a TD and carrying four times for 58 yards and two TDs.
“We just want to keep using his strengths and abilities,” Willis said. “The things he did today out there, you can see what he’s capable of. He’s an explosive player that can make a big play from anywhere on the field at any time.”
Schrader, who filled in as the starter for Jacobsmeier last year, started Saturday and was 13-of-19 (.684) for 187 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
The starting job appears to be Schrader’s, but there will always be a role for an athlete like Jacobsmeier.
“Hopefully I’ll continue to be a big part of the offense,” Jacobsmeier said.
The Knights defense picked up where they left off in 2012 when they were third in the nation in rush defense, holding MacMurray, who was without starting running back Patrick Hall due to a minor injury, to 33 rushing yards.
MacMurray had minor success through the air, picking up 188 yards on mostly screens and slants.
“They came out with some new stuff,” said senior linebacker Ryan Billings, who returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown for the Knights second score of the third. “They’re a college football team, you can’t sleep on anybody. Defensively we made some changes and we were able to get some stops and that’s all we gotta do.”
JJ Hanus and Jake Haberman added touchdown runs in relief and MacMurray scored on quarterback Coy Dorothy’s three yard run with 36 seconds left.
Wartburg outgained MacMurray 540-221, nothing like last year’s 527 to negative-5 advantage, but a significant advantage nonetheless.
An inexperienced Wartburg offensive line helped contribute 283 yards rushing — four players rushed for more than 50 yards — and did not give up a sack. Starting running back Brandon Domeyer said he saw improvement from the group throughout the game.
“I think you could tell maybe at the beginning of the game there was a little bit of, you could tell that they were new, but I think they got the hang of it as the game went on,” Domeyer said.
The Knights climb quite a few notches up the competition ladder next week when they travel to St. Paul, Minn. to take on No. 8 Bethel, who shut them out 21-0 in Waverly last year.
“They’re [the offensive line] just gonna keep getting better and better and they’re gonna have to for us to be the type of offense and the type of team that we want to be but I think today’s a great starting point for them,” Willis said.
Wartburg 7 14 24 13 — 58
MacMurray 0 0 0 7 — 7
W- Domeyer 17 run (Bohlke kick) (0:41 1st)
W- Jacobsmeier 39 run (Bohlke kick) (12:33 2nd)
W- Ebert 23 pass from Schrader (Bohlke kick) (0:19 2nd)
W- Jacobsmeier 10 run (Bohlke kick) (13:47 3rd)
W- Billings 25 interception return (Bohlke kick) (12:53 3rd)
W- Rahm 4 pass from Jacobsmeier (Bohlke kick) (9:22 3rd)
W- FG Bohlke 37 (3:57 3rd)
W- Hanus 9 run (Lizalek kick failed) (13:12 4th)
W- Haberman 29 run (Lizalek kick) (3:36 4th)
MM- Dorothy 3 run (Hosta kick) (0:36 4th)
Passing — Wartburg: Schrader 13-19-187-1, Jacobsmeier 2-3-62-1; MacMurray: Horvath 19-32-119, Dorothy 5-6-69
Rushing — Wartburg: Haberman 10-64-1, Jacobsmeier 4-58-2; MacMurray: Lockhart 8-19, Rethorn 3-18
Receiving — Wartburg: Miller 4-87, Schmitt 1-35; MacMurray: Cherry 4-46, Byrd 2-33