FAYETTE — Upper Iowa’s football team answered a lot of questions during Saturday night’s home opener against Concordia-St. Paul at Harms-Eischeid Stadium.
Those answers produced a spirited second-half comeback, but didn’t result in a victory as the visiting Bears escaped with a 28-23 win.
Upper Iowa’s bid to overcome an 18-point, second-half deficit ended when quarterback Jack Schuman targeted Alexander Stevens for an attempt at a fourth red zone touchdown reception with 3 minutes, 52 seconds remaining in the final stanza. Concordia-St. Paul corner Preston Piltoff broke up the fade route for what became a game-saving play.
Stevens finished with seven catches for 81 yards and three scores, but the game-winning reception proved just beyond his reach.
“I saw he was singled up and I just trust him to go up and get it,” Upper Iowa’s first-year starting quarterback Jake Schuman said. “Nine out of 10 times he’s going to get the ball and it just happened to be that one that we missed.
“He’s a go-to guy. I trust him. We’ve just got to finish.”
Schuman finished 27 of 44 passing for 239 yards and three touchdowns as the Peacocks (0-2) responded from their first shutout loss in nine years, a 52-0 opening week setback at Augustana (S.D.). Upper Iowa’s first drive of the game was a well-scripted 11-play, 75-yard march. The Peacock offense then covered 70 yards on 16 plays before kicking a field goal to end the first half.
In between, Concordia (2-0) took advantage of three consecutive three-and-outs and built a 21-7 lead. Explosive running back Shaq Johnson broke a 46-yard sweep on the Bears’ first scoring drive and added a 36-yard reception to highlight the second scoring series. Concordia later converted a fourth-and-one from its own 39 on the third touchdown drive.
Upper Iowa’s defense fought back in the second half.
Peacock linebacker Mitch Siech recorded the game’s first interception, and a balanced 10-play, 75-yard scoring march gave the hosts hope.
Samson Tufui later got the Upper Iowa defense off the field with a sack. Laith Smith also forced a fumble that Austin Buck recovered. That turnover gave Upper Iowa the ball down five late before the missed fourth down connection from 8 yards out.
“First half they didn’t show up,” Upper Iowa coach Tom Shea said. “Second half, they came in and did a great job for us.
“Jake Schuman had probably the worst ballgame he ever played a week ago and he got better this week.”
After taking a stride forward, Schuman said it will be important to figure out where his team needs to get better, flush it, and move on to Thursday’s game at Winona State.
“We improve the way we did, and continue to improve, we’re going to be a heck of a ballclub before it’s all done,” Shea said.
Concordia-S.P. 28, Upper Iowa 23
Concordia 14 7 7 0 — 28
Upper Iowa 7 3 7 6— 23
UI — Alexander Stevens 5 pass from Jake Schuman (Jonathan Argueta-Herrera kick), 9:56
Con — Ethan Falaniko 3 run (Danny Laudet kick), 7:58
Con — Shaq Johnson 4 run (Laudet kick), 1:48
Con — Darios Crawley-Reid 10 run (Laudet kick), 6:18
UI — Argueta-Herrera 30 FG, 0:16
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Con — Lajuan Preston 16 run (Laudet kick), 8:34
UI — Stevens 10 pass from Schuman (Argueta-Herrera kick), 2:41
UI — Stevens 13 pass from Schuman (run failed), 7:26
First downs 28 23
Rushes-yards 48-306 35-109
Passing yards 94 239
Comp-att-int. 8-16-1 27-44-0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 2-0
Penalties-yards 5-50 7-48
Punts-avg. 4-48 6-50
Time of possession 27:43 32:17
CONCORDIA — Hutton 9-68, Johnson 12-118, Crawley-Reid 7-45, Preston 12-72, Falaniko 1-4, Kirchoff 3-1.
UPPER IOWA — McDonald 24-89, Schuman 8-14, O’Neill 2-4, Deprey 1-2.
CONDORDIA — Hutton 8-16-1, 94 yards.
UPPER IOWA — Schuman 27-44-0, 239 yards.
CONCORDIA — Ciewis 3-35, Johnson 1-36, Crawley-Reid 1-15, Tanner 2-3, Ventura 1-5.
UPPER IOWA — Stevens 7-81, Tulloch 5-46, Simon 5-41, Emsweller 4-31, McDonald 1-(minus 2).