Briar Cliff struck first in the final football game of the season for the Chargers, but ended the day with a 31-14 loss to #5 Northwestern Saturday in Orange City, Iowa.
The Red Raiders started with the football and drove into BC territory but failed on a fourth down try on an incomplete pass. The Chargers then orchestrated a 66-yard, 15-play drive capped off by a Noah Ylagan touchdown run from seven yards out.
Ylagan carried the ball 29 times in his final outing with the Blue and Gold and eclipsed the century mark for the fourth time this season and a program-best 13th time in his career. He finished with 119 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Northwestern’s next drive began in the first quarter and ended with a TD early in the second quarter when quarterback Tyson Kooima found Shane Solberg for a 13-yard reception. The two would connect for three more touchdowns on the day as Solberg finished with 11 catches for 145 yards and four TDs. Kooima was 24-of-29 passing for 336 yards and four TDs.
The Red Raiders took their first lead on a 22-yard field goal from Braxton Williams to make the score 10-7 with 4:36 until halftime. Northwestern would get the ball back again before half when the GPAC leader in interceptions Bryce Van Beek picked off his eighth pass of the season at midfield. The home team capitalized on the turnover on Solberg’s second touchdown reception of the day and the team’s went to the locker rooms with Northwestern leading 17-7.
Briar Cliff got the opening kickoff of the second half with hopes to narrow the gap, but the Red Raider defense broke up three consecutive pass attempts after a Charger first down and BC was forced to punt. Northwestern then made it four consecutive drives ending in points on a 16-yard connection between Kooima and Solberg to put the Red Raiders up 24-7.
Needing to respond, the Chargers drove into the red zone only to have Van Beek record his second interception of the day, this time in the end zone. Northwestern then moved the ball quickly into Briar Cliff territory, but the Charger defense its own red zone turnover when Brady Moser fumbled the ball and Logan Knutson picked it up and ran it back to the Northwestern 15-yard line.
The Cliff did not let another scoring opportunity vanish, as the team needed five plays but got the 15 yards needed for a touchdown. Brad Cagle moved the chains with a five-yard run on fourth down and Ylagan finished the job on the next play to make the BC deficit just 24-14.
Unfortunately, the Red Raider offense responded again and drove the ball 68 yards on 10 plays for the final score of the game with another Kooima to Solberg touchdown pass. Briar Cliff would have two more possessions on offense in the contest, both resulting in turnovers on downs.
Northwestern outgained the Cliff 425-231 yards with a 336-106 margin coming through the air. The Chargers outrushed Northwestern 125-89. Briar Cliff ended with 18 first downs in the game to Northwestern’s 23. Briar Cliff was 5-of-14 on third down and converted just one fourth down try on four attempts. Northwestern was unsuccessful on two fourth down tries and went 6-of-9 on third down.
Cagle finished 10-for-24 on passes for 106 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Rashad Brown was the leading receiver for the Blue and Gold with five catches for 71 yards. Jacob Kalogonis was the leading rusher for Northwestern with 75 yards on 17 carries.
Caleb Wilson led the Chargers on defense with nine tackles, including 2.0 tackles for loss. Tanner Machacek was the leading tackler for the Red Raiders with nine.
Briar Cliff ends the year at 6-5 overall and 4-5 in the GPAC. Northwestern finishes the regular season with a 9-1 record and an 8-1 mark in conference play. The Red Raiders will take their No. 5 ranking into the postseason and await the playoff matchups.