ELLENSBURG, WA- A cross country flight and two hour drive to the stadium didn’t seem to phase the Texas A&M University-Kingsville Javelina Football team as they came away from Ellensburg, Washington with a 21-14 victory over the Central Washington University Wildcats (CWU).
It was the fifth straight year the Javelinas have won their season opener and the third straight year they have defeated Central Washington to start the season. It was also Coach David Calloway’s first ever win as a head coach.
The game had its fair share of ups and downs as both teams struggled to find the endzone at the start of the first quarter. It wasn’t until the end of the quarter that things started to heat up. It was a third down play for the Javelina offense with 1:22 left in the first quarter when Redshirt Freshman Alex Rios found himself under pressure from the Wildcat pass rush and forced a throw to All American receiver Robert Armstrong who tipped the ball which landed right in the hands of Wildcat Linebacker Ridge Nelson. He proceeded to take the ball 51 yards to the endzone to give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead. But it wasn’t long until the Javelina offense would strike back. Less than a minute of play from the interception, running back Anthony Washington took a handoff around the left side and ran 60 yards for a touchdown as the Javelinas tied it at 7-7 with 45 seconds left in the first quarter.
The second quarter would start off big for the Javelina defense. Wildcats quarterback Justin Lane would fall victim to the defense as defensive lineman Robert Williams dropped back in coverage and proceeded to intercept the pass.
It wasn’t too long after the interception that the Javelina offense struck. It was a Rios 15-yard fade route to Armstrong in the endzone that made the score 14-7 with 14:14 left in the second quarter.
Later on in the second quarter, the Wildcats found themselves driving for a game tying touchdown. Trevor Pesek, strong safety, would sack the Wildcats quarterback Lane forcing a 3rd and goal from the 25-yard line. The ensuing play would see cornerback Ronnie Ford called for a pass interference penalty which resulted in a 1st and goal from the six yard line. The next play the Wildcats would find the endzone off a six yard Jordan Todd run up the middle making the score 14-14 with 6:27 left in the second quarter.
Calloway knows that the team needs to improve on penalties in order to be successful throughout the season.
“Well obviously penalties was a problem. I think we had fifteen and we definitely got to work to fix that. Some of those penalties were unforced penalties, personal fouls, offsides and false starts; things that you can control from a mental standpoint,” Calloway said. “We have a lot of coaches first time coaching together. You don’t want those things to happen but you expect those things to happen. Our guys battled hard and they fought and that’s the main thing.”
The second half of the game didn’t see as much from both offensives which prompted Calloway to pull Rios and insert senior Dean Brantley to lead the offense in the fourth quarter.
It was the special teams that made the difference in this ballgame. With 6:48 left in the game the Javelinas brought out place kicker Matt Stoll for a 35-yard field goal attempt to try and put the Javelinas up by three.
The play unfolded with Stoll receiving a direct snap from the center. Stoll looked to pass but the defense had it covered. That’s when Stoll took matters into his own hands and ran the ball in around the left side of the line for a 17-yard touchdown run to put the Javelinas up 21-14.
“The designed play was to actually throw the ball to Tight End Derek Tesch. I saw he was locked up on a defender and I saw the guys crashing and I just pulled it down and ran it in,” Stoll said. “I was actually expecting us to kick a field goal and go up by three. As we were running on the field, coach told us to run the fake. It was one of those things where I had to change my mindset from kicking a game winning field goal to throwing a game winning pass which led to a run.”
With the Javelinas up 21-14 with under a minute left, it was up to the defense to make the final stand. The Wildcats started the drive on their own 20-yard line and drove all the way down the field to the 17-yard line. A pass interference penalty put the Wildcats on the 2-yard line with 10 seconds left in the game.
It was first and goal when the center for the Wildcats and quarterback Justin Lane had a fumbled snap exchange. The Javelina defense would pounce on the ball and seal the game with eight seconds remaining.
Despite the turnovers and the first game nerves, Calloway is proud of the way his team fought and stuck together when times got tough.
“The biggest thing was our guys stayed together because it got hot, it got tight, and we had some adversity. It was tough trip coming out here. Making a flight and driving down here it was a tough trip just off a week of camp,” Calloway said. “I think we built a good enough foundation in spring and in camp. Don’t worry about the scoreboard and dig in. At the end of the day, it’s about having more points than they got.”
The Javelinas will be back in action next weekend as they head to Arlington, Texas to take part in the Lone Star Conference festival. Kickoff is scheduled for Sept. 14 at noon central time.