Wildcats thrilled about advancing to Elite EightPosted: Updated:
OMAHA, Neb. - It would have been amazing enough just to beat the third-ranked Mavs on their home field, but to overcome a 10-point defecit in the final three minutes was even better.
"It was pretty amazing," saod Coach Beau Baldwin. "Anytime you are able to win a ball game where you felt it slipping away, when they went up by ten, any time you're able to do that, let alone against a team like this is huge."
Central Washington improves to 10-2 on the season while Nebraska-Omaha completes its season at 10-1. The Wildcats now own a 12-9-1 all-time playoff record.
Nebraska-Omaha got on the scoreboard early with a 10-yard run by Nate Wurth that put the Mavericks up 7-0 at 7:15 to go in the first quarter.
On Central Washington's next possession, senior running back Johnny Lopez (Federal Way/Kennedy HS) fumbled at his own 32-yard line and UNO's Jacob Skow recovered. The Wildcat defense held its ground as the Mavericks were forced to a kick a field goal -- a 47-yard try by Greg Zuerlein that sailed wide left.
Junior quarterback Mike Reilly (Kalispell, Mont./Flathead HS) then converted on two consecutive pass plays -- a 28-yard completion to sophomore Johnny Spevak (Edgewood/Puyallup HS) and a 15-yard strike to junior Jared Bronson (Kent/Thomas Jefferson HS) -- that set up a 39-yard field goal attempt by sophomore Garrett Rolsma (University Place/Curtis HS) which was eventually blocked.
Central Washington's defense forced another three-and-out which led to a 24-yard pass from Reilly to senior Chris Rohrbach (Edmonds/Meadowdale HS) early in the second quarter.
Two punts by both teams and an interception by Wildcat junior Brandon Kennedy (Spokane/Gonzaga Prep HS) carried a 7-7 tie into the halftime break.
Nebraska-Omaha took a 14-7 lead at 3:19 in the third quarter on a 3-yard quarterback keeper by Zach Miller.
Each team traded possessions several times before a Maverick field goal late in the fourth quarter put Nebraska-Omaha up 17-7.
Sophomore Brandon Stout (Tacoma/Bellarmine Prep HS) then took the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for the Wildcat score with 2:49 left in the contest to come within three points at 17-14. Stout's kickoff return was the longest in school history.
Sophomore Jerome Williams (Seattle/Ballard HS) intercepted a Miller pass on the next possession allowing the go-ahead Wildcat touchdown with 1:36 seconds left -- an 18-yard strike from Reilly to Spevak. Another Williams interception with 40 seconds remaining in the game sealed the upset victory for the Wildcats.
Central Washington outgained Nebraska-Omaha (267-257) while most of the Wildcats' yards came through the air. Reilly finished the game on 19-of-28 and 224 yards passing with the two aforementioned touchdowns. Spevak had eight catches for 95 yards.
UNO's Zach Miller went 11-for-22 with 108 yards and three interceptions. The Mavericks ran for 149 yards on the ground with the help of Wurth who gained 89 yards on 17 carries.
Central Washington, which earned its second playoff victory in as many weeks, will take on #1 Grand Valley State (11-0) next Saturday (Dec. 1) in Allendale, Mich. Kickoff has yet to be determined.
NOTES: Reilly went over 3,000-yards passing on the season for the first time in his career...Spevak eclipsed the 1,000-yards receiving mark this season...Stout's kickoff return for a touchdown was CWU's first since 2002...It is the sixth time in school history that Central has earned 10 victories in one season.