STORY BY AUSTIN CANNON
Points were scarce Saturday night at Drake Stadium, but Conley Wilkins’ two-yard touchdown run in overtime gave the Drake football team its first win of 2014, beating Truman State, 13-7.
The two sides entered overtime tied 7-7 after four quarters of missed opportunities and stifling defense.
Truman had the first crack in OT, starting at the Drake 25-yard line. Two carries from running back Garrett White moved the ball to the 20, but quarterback Devonte Black threw an incomplete pass on third down. TSU kicker Roger Howard came in to attempt the 37-yard field goal but made a mess of it, missing under the crossbar and to the left.
The Drake offense then took the ball at the TSU 25, only needing a score to win. Two carries from Wilkins moved the ball to the 20. On third and five, quarterback Andy Rice faked a handoff and then found tight end Eric Saubert at the four-yard line.
“I’ve got to give it to the offensive line on that,” Saubert said. “They sold that fake really well, had me wide open, and (I’m) so happy about the outcome.”
A Truman State penalty moved the ball to the two, where Wilkins, the reigning Pioneer Football League Offensive Player of the Week, leapt over the goal line, evening Drake’s record at 1-1.
“Doing it for the team, you know,” Wilkins said. “I wanted to show them I could get into the end zone whenever they call on me.”
Overtime was almost unnecessary, as Drake was a few feet away from winning it in regulation.
After struggling to move the ball for nearly the entire game, the Drake offense was finally able to cross into Truman State territory late in the fourth quarter. A Saubert reception got the ball to the TSU 24 with 1:17 to go. After a holding penalty, two carries by Wilkins, who finished with 88 yards rushing, and one by T.J. James moved the ball to the 21.
Drake called a timeout with one second remaining to set up the field goal to win it. Placekicker Ben Tesson came in to take the 37-yarder. His kick had the distance, but he pushed it wide right.
Even with the game still in the balance, head coach Rick Fox was confident in his team going into overtime after his offense finally experienced some success.
“I felt a lot better because of that drive before,” he said. “We had a good feel now, of how to attack them, and so we felt pretty good.”
Truman State also had chances of its own, none bigger than one in the third quarter. Black floated a deep pass down the right sideline that Joel Schenck caught and raced into the end zone. However, the apparent score was called back when TSU was called for a personal foul.
The scoring chances were few and far between as both defenses refused to yield.
Drake did allow 118 yards rushing, but only permitted a measly 172 yards through the air. On the other side, TSU put the clamps on the Drake offense, only allowing 317 total yards.
In all, it added up to over 45 minutes of scoreless football — neither team scored in the final three quarters.
Unlike last week, Drake came out with a sense of urgency. Rice was a perfect five-for-five on the opening drive, leading the offense 67 yards down the field in 5:21. He hit Saubert from 11 yards out to give Drake the early 7-0 lead.
Truman State tied it up late in the first quarter when it benefited from excellent field position, beginning the drive at the Drake 45-yard line. Six plays later, Black’s one-yard dive and resulting extra point knotted the game at 7-7. Those were the last points until overtime.
The victory marked the first career win for Fox.
“It’s fun, but I tell you what, what I’m most proud about is how our guys kept fighting,” Fox said.
Drake travels to Western Illinois to play the Leathernecks on Saturday at 3 p.m., where it will try to build off this hard-fought win.
“It was an important win for us because it gets us on the right track,” Wilkins said, “We’re heading the right direction now.”