WAVERLY — Wartburg College had a handful of big plays, and a handful of opportunistic plays Saturday.
Both played a huge part as the Knights topped Monmouth College, 38-9, in a non-conference game at Walston-Hoover Stadium.
The Knights (2-0) did what it took to avenge a 24-18 loss the Scots last season.
A JoJo McNair 54-yard touchdown catch and a 25-yard Sam Joerger interception return for a score sparked a 21-point second quarter that allowed Wartburg to seize control of the game and lead 24-7 at halftime.
Then Mason Carter and Connor Bailey added touchdown runs of 9 and 4, respectively, in the fourth quarter to allow the Knights to soak away the win.
“We had some guys step up and make plays in big situations,” Wartburg head coach Rick Willis said. “We showed some more explosiveness, took care of the football and forced them to drive the length of the field, didn’t give up big plays.
“I think it was a combination of those things.”
Monmouth, picked to finish first in the Midwest Conference South Division, got 154 rushing from Devin Lawrence, but the Scots (0-2) for the second consecutive game committed more than 11 penalties.
Monmouth was flagged for 149 yards in penalties on 13 infractions.
Knight quarterbacks Noah Dodd and Jace Moore combined to go 14 of 20 for 232 yards, with Moore hooking up with McNair for the big touchdown.
Wartburg out-gained Monmouth, 343-292, and won the turnover battle, 2-0.
The Knights scored first, getting a 28-yard field goal from Kain Eagle midway through the first quarter. McNair’s touchdown catch made it 10-0, before the Scots answered with a 42-yard strike from Brennan White to Jake Uryasz with 12:34 left in the second.
But Joerger’s pick-six grabbed the momentum back for Wartburg, and a 37-yard pass from Moore to McNair set up a Bennett Goesch 1-yard touchdown run with 1:59 left to half.
McNair finished with five catches for 98 yards.
The game was delayed 59 minutes when lightning was detected in the area just as the halftime horn sounded.
Wartburg opens American Rivers Conference play next Saturday at Luther (0-2).
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“I think it was step forward for us in terms of our focus, our intensity and how hard we played,” Willis added. “I think all that stuff was a definite improvement from the first week.”
Wartburg 38, Monmouth 9
Monmouth 0 7 0 2 — 9
Wartburg 3 21 0 14 — 38
Wart — FG Eagle, 28, 7:42. (Drive: 7 plays, 55 yards, 2:54).
Wart — McNair 54 pass from Moore (Eagle kick), 14:15. (Drive: 3 plays, 69 yards, 1:03)
Mon — Uryasz 42 pass from White (Biel kick), 12:34. (Drive: 4 pays, 83 yards, 1:26).
Wart — Joerger 25 interception return (Eagle kick), 9:09.
Wart — Goesch 1 run (Eagle kick), 1:59. (Drive: 7 plays. 53 yards, 3:59).
Wart — Carter 9 run (Eagle kick), 12:42. (Drive: 6 plays, 58 yards, 2:22).
Wart — Bailey 4 run (Eagle kick), 5:57. (Drive: 10 plays, 60 yards, 5:31).
Mon — McLaughlin tackled in end zone, 2:33.