By Nathan Gerdts
The 2004 Boston Red Sox after falling behind three games to none to the hated New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series. The 2009 Los Angeles Lakers after losing in the NBA Finals to the Boston Celtics the previous year. Kate Hudson after she broke up with Owen Wilson.
What do these all have in common? They represent instances where a bounce back from a major disappointment occurred.
Count the Missouri Valley College football team amongst that group. After an underwhelming performance in their season-opening 27-17 loss to Tabor College, the eleventh-ranked Vikings bounced back with authority, knocking off HAAC rival Peru State College 27-0 last Saturday at Gregg-Mitchell Field on the MVC campus.
“We were very frustrated with the first week that we did not play well at all,” said MVC head coach Paul Troth. “Peru State’s a very good option team. To hold down their rushing offense, I thought, was a tremendous effort from our guys.”
After the Viking defense forced a three-and-out to open the game, MVC got a solid 23-yard punt return from wide receiver Jarrell Davis to start their possession at midfield. The Viking offense moved 48 yards in 11 plays, highlighted by a 14-yard run to the Bobcat five on third down from running back Elliot Hawkins. Valley was stymied from there, however, and had to settle for a 20-yard field goal from Daniel Mouro and a 3-0 lead.
Neither side would have much traction as the second quarter started. The Viking defense picked up a fumble recovery from defensive back Terrance Hollins-White at their own 23-yard line, but the offense didn’t capitalize and punted away. Defensive lineman Brad Wolf recovered another Peru State fumble at the Bobcat 29-yard line, but the offense again stalled, and Mouro missed a field goal attempt from 48 yards away.
The Vikings finally got things to go their way with just over two minutes in the first half. Starting at their own 22-yard line, the Valley offense got a jolt when Hawkins picked up gains of 14 and 11 yards on a run and a reception, respectively. Quarterback Bruce Reyes found wideout Mikquel Johnson for another 11 yards, then hit Davis on a comeback pattern that he broke several tackles on to score a 42-yard touchdown. Peru State tried to counter with a late drive, but linebacker Jacob King blocked a 44-yard field goal attempt to maintain Valley’s 10-0 lead at the halftime break.
“It was a huge stretch, obviously,” said Troth. “We got momentum right before the half with that score, and our defense was playing well.”
The Vikings did not take their foot off the gas pedal to open the third quarter. MVC put together a 12-play, 63-yard scoring drive, highlighted by Reyes finding Davis for a 17-yard gain on a third-and-12. Hawkins capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge to extend the lead to 17-0.
“When momentum’s going your way at the end of the first half, one thing you want to do is not give it away to start the second half, and I thought we did a pretty good job of that,” said Troth.
Three straight Viking possessions ended in turnovers, but the defense would not budge, even forcing a stop on a fake punt attempt by Peru State. MVC used the short field from the fourth-down stop to score again in five plays, ending with a 38-yard touchdown pass from Reyes to wide receiver Ricky Fuentes. The Vikings added a 41-yard field goal from Mouro on their final possession to finish off the 27-0 victory.
The Viking offense piled up 367 total yards. Reyes completed 15 of 29 passes for 205 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Hawkins powered the Vikings’ ground game with 22 carries for 102 yards and a touchdown. Davis had a big game for MVC, catching six passes for 98 yards and a score, as well as totaling 108 yards in punt returns.
Said Troth of Davis, “Everybody sees that he’s making plays, and we want to get the football in his hands. He’s not the biggest guy in stature, but he’s a good football player, and we expect him to make big plays.”
The Valley defense was equally, if not more, impressive. Defensive end Ty Phillips led the team with eight tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss and one pass break-up. His performance earned him the HAAC Defensive Player of the Week award. Wolf added four tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss, and a fumble recovery. The Viking defense surrendered just 139 yards to Peru State, their lowest allowed total since a matchup with Avila last season.
“We had a long week of practice where we were angry and ticked off [after the loss to Tabor],” said defensive back Christian Walker. “It was a good feeling to see our hard work pay off, and a shutout is obviously something that gets a defense feeling good.”
The win evens the Vikings’ record at 1-1, while the Bobcats fall to 1-2. MVC next hits the road for a sizeable HAAC matchup with fourteenth-ranked Benedictine College. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. in Atchison, Kansas, and Troth knows the opportunity for his team is enormous.
“They’re always tough, and they’re especially tough at home,” said Troth. “If we’re going to go up there and win, we’re going to have to play well. If we turn the ball over and don’t tackle well, we’re going to get beat. That’s what we expect. They’re a good football team, and it should be a fun game.”