Vikings football falls in spring opener

Nick Gainey

The Augustana Vikings varsity football team took the field for the first time in 506 days to take on the Illinois Wesleyan University Titans (IWU) at Charles D. Lindberg Stadium on March 27. Despite the circumstances regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the atmosphere felt like any other game. Hundreds of masked fans came out to support the Vikings, who fell 12-0 to the Titans.
Despite the loss, the Vikings were happy to be back on the field.
“We’re just happy to finally get to play a game, we’ve been beating on each other the past few months, and it was awesome just to face another team,” junior defensive lineman Matt Payton said.
Both teams struggled offensively in the first quarter. The only major threat came on a Titan field goal attempt in the middle of the quarter, but a botched hold gave the ball back to the Vikings. Illinois Wesleyan would be more successful on their next try, a 39-yarder to give them a 3-0 lead with 11:25 left in the second quarter.
Throughout the game, the Viking defense came up with several key stops, particularly on third down. Sophomore linebacker Tim Swaney walloped IWU quarterback Sage Shindler to set up a punt with just over eight minutes to go in the first half. 
The Viking offense found some life late in the half when senior quarterback Alek Jacobs found classmate Max Uranich for a 35-yard strike. But the Vikings were unable to convert the field goal and entered the half down 3-0.
Both teams continued to struggle on the offensive end to open the second half. The Titans were able to muster a 30-yard field goal with just under 14 seconds remaining in the third quarter to give them a 6-0 lead. Augustana once again presented a threat after an 18-yard punt return by senior John Kappel, but an intercepted pass put the Titans deep into Viking territory. The turnover would lead to an IWU touchdown, with Shindler finding Lucas Segobiano for a 22-yard score. After a penalty, the Titans would miss a longer extra point, leading to the final score of 12-0.
Alek Jacobs completed 5 of 15 passes for 77 yards to lead the Vikings. Sophomore Jacob Brooks led the team in rushing with 49 yards on 12 carries. On the defensive end, Tim Swaney had 16 tackles, including four tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Sophomore Cole Romano added four tackles and a sack.
Despite the setback, head coach Steve Bell was pleased with several aspects of the game.
“[I want] all our guys just to learn from what they did wrong, build on what they did right. If we can do that going into next week then I’ll feel a lot better about where we’re at,” Bell said.
Jacobs echoed his coach’s thoughts, emphasizing the importance of finishing out offensive possessions.
“We just got to score some points, we got to move the ball a little better and get points on the board. We set ourselves up, we were in position but we just didn’t capitalize on what we had, so we’ve got to progress in that aspect,” Jacobs said.
The Vikings will be back in action again on Saturday, April 3, at Lindberg Stadium against Millikin. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 pm.