For Friends’ Cortlin Couture, it was a lineman’s dream.
For McPherson College’s Bulldogs, it was a kick-in-the-gut nightmare.
In one of the most wild, crazy, zany, goofy, bizarre -- insert your favorite adjective here — endings ever at McPherson Stadium. Couture’s 1-yard catch of a tipped pass with 9 seconds left in the game Saturday gave the Falcons an 18-17 snatchaway victory.
The Bulldogs could only watch in stunned disbelief when after about a two-minute consultation of officials, Couture’s touchdown was ruled legitimate, because after a pass is tipped at the line of scrimmage, all offensive players are eligible receivers.
The play was actually a cut play for the linemen,” Couture said. “We were supposed to dive at the defensive linemen’s legs to just get them down. Something happened... I heard the ball being batted and I turned around and jumped up and caught it. I wasn’t in the end zone when I caught it, I just fell backwards and I was close enough to get in.”
That touchdown came just two plays following a 46-yard rainbow pass from Jayme Bristow to Chris Allen that was caught at the Mac 2 on a play where the Bulldogs’ Trea Lott appeared to have made an interception. But because both players had possession when they hit the ground, the tie goes to the offense.
“I think we had the pick when they went to the ground,” Mac coach Pete Sterbick said. “And the guy (Allen) ended up getting his hands on it. The tie goes to the offense. We benefited from that earlier in the game. I know the rule and that’s what happened. You could hope we could knock it down, but our kid was just trying to make a play.”
It was one of the most painful losses in recent Mac history. The defense had played brilliantly all day and needed just one more stop, as Friends — down 17-12 — took possession of the ball as its own 43 with 1:12 left and no timeouts. After two completions, the Falcons made a first down, then had an incompletion and a 14-yard loss when Mac’s Chris Barnes came up with a sack of Bristow. But on the next play, Bristow made his heave to Allen, setting the stage for the dramatic ending.
Sterbick concurred with the officials’ call on the touchdown, as he had no qualms with the ending that some Mac fans may have seen as controversial.
Until the last 72 seconds, the Mac defense had stoned the Friends offense to just 166 yards and one score.
Mac had led 7-6 at the half, as Jake Snodgrass hooked up with Paul Rotering on a 1-yard TD flip in the first quarter, with Cord Cunningham booting the PAT. Friends’ score came in the second quarter on Thomas Hankerson’s short plunge, but the PAT was missed.
Page 2 of 3 - On its first drive of the second half, Mac went the length of the field and had the ball first-and-goal at the Friends 2. After a no gain and incompletion, Snodgrass saw his pass picked off by Marcus Carter, who ran 100 yards for a touchdown, but the 2-point conversion failed to make it 12-7.
Sterbick was kicking himself after the game for the play call.
“Stupid, stupid call by me,” Sterbick said. “That one’s all on me. I didn’t feel good about running it in because a couple of plays before we missed the cutback and would have scored. But that’s on me.”
The Bulldogs showed a lot of heart, as they came right back to march 80 yards in seven plays, with Terrance Jones running nine yards to make it 14-12, which is how it stayed until the last series.
The Bulldogs appeared to have sealed the game with three minutes left when Lott picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown, but a roughing-the-passer penalty near the Friends sideline wiped it out, as it would have put Mac up by double digits.
Sterbick said Mac didn’t convert when it had the chances.
“Offensively if we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot, that’s a totally different game,” he said. “Not to take credit from them, but I’d rather them stop us and not us getting penalties.”
Both defenses were terrific. Mac had 292 total yards, with Snodgrass throwing for 176. The Falcons managed just 223 and less than three yards a play.
“I’ve been part of some crazy ones over the years,” Friends coach Monty Lewis said. “Seen a lot of crazy stuff happen at the end. I knew that sooner or later we’d catch a break. But I commend Mac. They’ve got a tremendous defense. I thought we’d be a little better on offense, but they flat took it to us.”
The Bulldogs, now 2-1 in the KCAC and 2-2 overall, must regroup as they play Saturday at Bethel, which is winless on the year.
“We have to find out what we’re made of,” Sterbick said. “We’re going to find out what kind of character we have and whether we can bounce back from a tough loss. We have to realize we have only one loss in the league and we’re still in this thing.”
Mac Listed First
First Downs — 21, 14. Rushes-Yards — 47-116, 38-90. Passing — 14-26-1-176; 11-21-1-133. Punts-Avg. — 7-35.4; 5-40.8. Fumbles-Lost — 2-1; 0-0. Penalties-Yards — 7-64, 9-119.
Page 3 of 3 - INDIVIDUAL
Mac — Jones 21-63, Snodgrass 14-36, Pomele 10-21, Thibodeaux 2-(-4).
Friends — Taylor 11-35, Racette 8-31, Hankerson 10-30, Allen 1-5, Scott 2-4, Barber 1-0, Bristow 5-(-15).
Mac — Snodgrass 14-26-1-176.
Friends — Bristow 7-13-0-94, Racette 4-16-1-39.
Mac — Record 5-32, Patton 2-72, O’Rourke 2-32, Rotering 2-9, Ramos 2-32, Thibodeaux 1-(-1).
Friends — Kelly 4-39, Butts 2-14, Allen 1-46, Taylor 1-(-3), Scott 1-10, Couture 1-1, Bauer 1-26.