MORRIS – Entering Friday night’s Northern Illinois Big 12 game against Rochelle with a 2-5 record, Morris was in the rare position to play spoiler against the Hubs.
Consider Rochelle spoiled, as Morris forced five Hub turnovers and Jake Walker ran for 215 yards and a touchdown in a 31-28 Redskins victory.
“Hats off to the line on both offense and defense,” Walker said. “They made big holes on offense and pushed their guys backwards on defense.”
Kevin Hernandez recovered a Rochelle fumble on the opening position, giving Morris the ball at the Hubs’ 38. On third-and-12, Morris quarterback Griffin Sobol escaped pressure and hit Kyle Hill, who made a diving catch for a 25-yard gain to the 1 yard line. On the next play, Matt Feiden scored and Jake Reed’s kick gave the Redskins a 7-0 lead.
Rochelle countered quickly, as Evan White went 60 yards for a touchdown, but the 2-point conversion run failed, leaving Morris ahead 7-6.
After a Morris punt, Rochelle faced third-and-18 following a sack by Mark Lincoln. However, Hub quarterback Angel Burciaga hit Keeegan Akers for a 53-yard touchdown. The pair combined for the two-point conversion as well, giving Rochelle a 14-7 lead.
Morris was not done taking advantage of Rochelle mistakes. After a bad snap on a punt attempt, the Redskins took over on the Hubs’ 32. Sobol hit Jeremy Shannon for a 17-yard touchdown and Reed’s kick tied the game. On the ensuing Rochelle drive, the Morris defense sacked Burciaga and forced a fumble, which Hill recovered. After a 21-yard gain on a screen from Sobol to Jake Walker, Walker bolted 34 yards for a touchdown and Reed’s kick made it 21-14. Rochelle answered, as Marquez Felix went 49 yards for a touchdown with 1:06 to go until halftime. The conversion failed, and Morris went into halftime with a 21-20 lead.
The Redskins wasted no time starting the second half as Walker bolted 64 yards before being pushed out inside the 1 yard line. Robbie Meucci scored on the next play and Reed’s kick made it 28-20.
Hernandez recovered another fumble and Morris took over at the 40. The drive ended with a 20-yard field goal by Reed and a 31-20 lead with 6:34 to go in the third quarter.
Again, Rochelle had an answer, as Burciaga hit White for 56 yards on third-and-8 to the Morris 19. On third-and-6, Burciaga hit Jake Ryan for a 15-yard touchdown and then connected with White for the conversion, making it 31-28 with 3:32 to go in the third.
Fittingly, the Morris defense put the game away with 46 left when Andrew Faught recovered a fumble, the fifth fumble recovery for the Redskins on the evening.
“This was our best overall game of the year,” Morris coach Alan Thorson said. “We got some turnovers and we took advantage of them. Jake Walker is a special back and a lot of our young guys played real well tonight. This is a game we can build on.”