By Cochise Lucas (Whetstone Staff Writer)
In stunning fashion, the #7 Wesley College Wolverines erased a 20-point halftime deficit to defeat No. 5-ranked Linfield Wildcats 49-34 in the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs.
The Wolverines rallied behind quarterback Shane McSweeny, who threw four touchdown passes and ran for two more. Wesley managed to score 42 points in the second half to the Wildcats’ 7.
The Wildcats managed to jump to an early 13-0 lead on two short field goals and a 6-yard scoring run by running back Josh Hill. Wesley countered on its next drive, scoring a touchdown after only two plays. First, McSweeny hit Jeremiah Howe for a 38-yard completion, and on the next play ran the ball in the end zone himself.
On the next drive, Linfield ran a perfectly executed offense. Quarterback Mickey Inns completed 4 of 4 on the drive and put the Wildcats up 20 -7 with only a few minutes left in the half.
After a quick turnover on downs by the Wolverines, the Wildcats were able to score again in less than a minute before half. Inns connected with his tight-end Lucas Jepson on a 33-yard completion to make the score 27-7 at half.
The Wolverines went in to the locker room shocked and somber.
In the second half, the Wolverines and the Wildcats switched roles completely. On the opening kickoff, Wesley’s Miles little forced a Wildcats fumble putting the Wolverines in excellent field position. McSweeny found freshman Steve Koudossou for a 15-yard touchdown pass.
The momentum of the game completely changed. Wesley’s defense two drives later forced Inns to throw an interception on the Wolverines 1-yard line. Wesley’s Leon Jones caught the interception and used two great blocks to return the ball 99-yards for a touchdown. In the span of 5 minutes, Wesley turned the game around trailing only by 7, 27-20.
After a quick 4-play and punt by Linfield, McSweeny found Koudossou behind the Linfield secondary for a 28-yard score at 1:49 of the third quarter. With the extra point, Wesley erased the 20-point half time deficit and now led by 1.
Wesley scored on its next three possessions in the fourth quarter. McSweeny continued to play at a high level, hitting his tight end Sean McAndews for two touchdowns. The first, a three-yard jump-ball pass capped a 4-play, 51-yard drive and the second, an 8-yard jump-ball in the corner of the end zone capped a 5-play drive.
Late in to the fourth quarter, Wesley led the game 49-27. Linfield was able to score once more before the end of the game.
Wesley recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the final 1:47 of the game.
McSweeny’s performance against the Wildcats followed another fine performance against Hobart, when he won player of the week honors by throwing for 336 yards and five touchdowns. Wesley’s defense also played a big role in the victory, stopping the Statesmen three times inside the five-yard line.
The Wolverines move on to the Regional Finals next week where they will meet a familiar and respected foe in Mary-Hardin Baylor, in Belton, Tex.