Things were looking rather bleak for Loras after the first quarter.
Then the defense stepped up.
The offense soon followed.
The Duhawks (1-2, 1-0 American Rivers Conference) trailed Buena Vista by 17 points after the opening quarter Saturday at the Rock Bowl, but outscored the Beavers by 38 points the rest of the way for a 55-34 victory.
“We knew (Buena Vista) was going to score some points,” Loras coach Steve Helminiak said. “We just had to weather the storm a little bit. Our defense did some adjusting and after that, I thought we did a good job of shutting them down.”
The turning point in the game came on the first play of the second quarter when Duhawks’ senior safety Dustin Harris blocked a punt and set his offense up at the Buena Vista 6-yard line.
One play later, Loras quarterback Noah Sigwarth found Elijah Thomas for a 6-yard score and put the Duhawks on the board.
“We got a ton of momentum from Harris’ punt block,” Sigwarth said. “That was really the turning point in the game.”
The Loras defense forced the Beavers to punt on three of the next four possessions, as they trailed by only a score of 24-21 at halftime.
Sigwarth connected with Dwayne Emilus on a 47-yard pass to cut the lead to 17-14 at 7:37 of the second quarter. After Buena Vista added a touchdown, Sigwarth orchestrated a three-play drive with just 37 seconds left in the half to get them within three. A 67-yard connection with Da’Mani Brown set up a 3-yard scoring pass to Michael Crawford.
“We talk a lot about the standard of our offense,” Sigwarth said. “We are starting to meet that standard that is expected of us as a unit.”
The Beavers (1-2, 0-1 A-R-C) utilized a blocked punt to set up a field goal early in the third to take a 27-21 lead.
It was really the last time the visitors had any momentum.
The Duhawks countered with a 27-0 knockout punch of a scoring run to put the game away. Once again, it was the defense fueling the offense.
Dubuque Wahlert grad Zach Kemp recovered a Beavers fumble deep in their own territory to set up fellow Wahlert alum Sigwarth on a 2-yard scoring run. The score gave the Duhawks their first lead, 28-27.
A three-and-out on Buena Vista’s next drive led to another quick Loras score. Sigwart found Shullsburg, Wis., native Hunter Matye on a 44-yard pass and connected with Marty McGovern on the next play for 37 yards into the end zone to make it 35-27 at 4:30 of the third.
“It was just complementary, disciplined football all around today,” Sigwarth said. “The defensive guys are always picking us up and we do the same for them.”
Sigwarth tossed a 15-yard TD pass to Hareson Willis, another 7-yard pass to Crawford and added a 4-yard rushing score late in the game to put a cap on the Duhawk scoring barrage.
The Dubuque native finished the game 20-for-35 for 377 yards through the air, five passing touchdowns and two rushing.
Cassville, Wis., native Ty Bausch didn’t get into the end zone, but his 110 yards rushing were crucial in setting up numerous Duhawk scoring drives.
After allowing 288 first-half yards, the Loras defense surrendered just 55 total in a dominating second half.
“We really got after their quarterback,” Helminiak said. “We put 11 bodies on that guy and made him pay every time he got the football.”