By Nate Tenopir – Senior Staff Writer
With four seconds remaining in the Mavs game Saturday against the No. 9 Central Missouri Mules, Mules quarterback Eri Czerniewski found receiver Jamorris Warren for a 9-yard touchdown. Warren’s second touchdown of the game gave Central Missouri the victory, coming back from a 31-7 fourth quarter deficit.
What seemed like a secure 24-point lead was overcome with just 14 minutes remaining. The Mules answered a UNO touchdown with four straight touchdown drives of their own and put up 27 points to steal the win.
Junior quarterback Jon Daniels, filling in for an injured John Teigland, started his first game at UNO and led an offense that totaled 355 yards. The junior quarterback completed 9 of 18 passes for 135 yards, one touchdown and one interception with two more scores on the ground.
Though the Mavs came up with three Mule turnovers and seemed to control the game for the first three quarters, it was the 287 yards of offense and 28 points that Central Missouri found in the final 14:11 that made the difference.
For the second game in a row, the Mavs were fortunate to recover a fumble inside their five-yard line and had the first few breaks go their way. UNO defensive end Nate Wissink forced the ball from Mule quarterback Czerniewski at the UNO two-yard line and teammate Kevin Ehlers recovered to turn away Mules on the opening drive.
After both teams went three and out on their following possessions, UNO came up with yet another punt block and took over on their own 45-yard line. Five plays later, Levi Terrell put up the first points of the afternoon scoring from the Mules’ five-yard line.
“It felt really good running the ball against them,” said Terrell. “Our [offensive line] did a great job making holes and getting us into the second line of defenders.”
On the ensuing Central Missouri possession, UNO safety Jordan Hale picked off Czerniewski at the UNO 21-yard line and the offense capitalized 15 plays later. Daniels scored and the Mavs took a 14-0 lead with 8:24 remaining in the first half.
The Mavs got another fortunate bounce the next drive when linebacker A.J. Williams forced a fumble at the UNO 24-yard line, but the offense was unable to get points off the turnover. UNO held the Mules scoreless the rest of the half and went to the locker room leading a top-10 opponent on the road.
“Give props to our defense,” said Terrell. “To be able to hold an offense like that to zero points in the first half is extremely impressive, in the end it just came down to them coming out in the second half and making big plays.”
After receiving the second half kick, Daniels threw an interception on the opening play and had it returned 30 yards for a touchdown for the Mules first points of the day. Unfazed by the mistake, Daniels led the Mavs on a 13 play, 57-yard drive culminating in a four-yard touchdown pass to receiver Justin Coleman.
When Central Missouri was unable to field the following kickoff cleanly, UNO took over at the Mule 41-yard line after a 15-yard personal foul on the UNO bench was enforced. The Mavs were only able to amass 19 yards on the following drive but scored when Jacob Ramsay’s made a 24-yard field goal.
Daniels touchdown to start the fourth made the score 31-7 but the fourth quarter was about to change everything. After drives of 70 yards and 80 yards resulted in Mule touchdowns, Central Missouri went for an onside kick with the score 31-21 and recovered with 4:37 remaining in the game.
The Mules’ Anthony Stewart found the end zone 2:35 later to make it 31-27, but the Mavs’ Shaquil Barrett blocked the extra point. With the potential of tying the game with a field goal now gone, Central Missouri had to stop the Maverick offense and find enough time to get the ball to the end zone.
The Mules tried another onside kick but UNO recovered this time at the 30-yard line. Three plays and three Central Missouri timeouts later, the Mavericks faced a fourth and 10 at the Mule 25-yard line, needing a first down to run out the clock and get the win.
Rather than attempt a 42-yard field goal, UNO chose to run the ball and was stopped after a five-yard gain. With just 57 seconds remaining, Czerniewski connected on passes of 19, 7, 17, 14, and 19 yards to give his team a first down at the Maverick 10-yard line.
Czerniewski’s first and second down passes were incomplete and the game came down to one play with four seconds left. When Czerniewski’s pass to Jamorris Warren was complete, the comeback was assured.
“We played hard but in the end they made one more big play then us and pulled out the win,” said Terrell. “I’m very proud of my team either way. We played a great game and proved that we can play with ranked teams when we play our game.”
With the loss, UNO drops to 3-5 overall and 3-3 in the MIAA. The Mavs, who will play two of their final three games on the road, are in danger of having their first losing season in 14 years.