Redshirt junior Tytus Ragle (New Castle, Ind. / New Castle) made several huge catches down the final stretch on Saturday night, the last of which was a 14-yard touchdown grab from Michael Appel Jr. (Springboro, Ohio / Springboro) with seven seconds remaining that gave the Valparaiso University football team an opportunity to tie the game with a 2-point conversion. Appel completed the pass to Ryan Mann (Vernon Hills, Ill. / Vernon Hills [Northern Illinois]) on the 2-point try, but Mann was tripped up just shy of the goal line as host Indiana Wesleyan held on for a 24-22 victory over the Beacons at Wildcat Stadium in Marion, Ind.
How It Happened
- Valpo got its first big play on the game’s opening kickoff when Jashon Butler (Lynwood, Wash. / Meadowdale [Arizona]) put together a 58-yard return. The two teams exchanged interceptions early as Wade Abrams (Fox River Grove, Ill. / Cary-Grove) made an early pick for Valpo to snuff out the first Indiana Wesleyan drive, but each of the first two Valpo drives also resulted in interceptions.
- The Wildcats had another quick three-and-out on their second drive as the Valpo defense stood tall and forced a punt. The teams exchanged punts before Valpo cracked the scoreboard first early in the second quarter when Appel found Solomon Davis (Brighton, Tenn. / Brighton) for a 32-yard TD hookup.
- Indiana Wesleyan’s next drive resulted in a missed field goal, but the Valpo defense was quickly back on the field after another interception by the Valpo offense. That time the Wildcats cashed in on favorable field position as Tristen Hayes tied the game with an 11-yard catch on a pass from Xander Stokes with 9:03 left in the second quarter.
- The Wildcats took the lead on a 29-yard field goal with 2:51 left in the second quarter, then Valpo had a punt blocked with 36 seconds left in the half, setting up the Wildcats for a 27-yard TD pass from Stokes to Isaac Smith that made it 17-7 at the break.
- It was Valpo’s turn to block a punt on Indiana Wesleyan’s first drive of the second half, setting up a short field that produced a 30-yard field goal by Patrick Oliva (South Bend, Ind. / Saint Joseph) that made it 17-10. Prior to the blocked punt by Abrams, Kevin Spelman (New Lenox, Ill. / Providence Catholic) came up with a sack on third down to polish off a three-and-out.
- The Valpo defense once again put an exclamation mark on a three-and-out with a sack on the next IWU drive, this time with Evan Annis (Hilliard, Ohio / Hilliard Davidson) and Abrams in on the sack. Valpo once again took over with good field position, and Ryan Hawk (Columbus, Ohio / Bishop Hartley) sent a 47-yard field goal try through the uprights to chip the deficit to four at 17-13 with 7:15 left in the third.
- A Valpo lost fumble on a mishandled handoff set up another touchdown drive for Indiana Wesleyan, and the lead extended to 11 at 24-13 with 3:10 left in the third.
- Valpo started to find success through the air on its drive that started late in the third and extended into the fourth. Appel found Evan Jernegan (Altadena, Calif. / St. Francis) for 28 yards after a 16-yard completion to Ragle on a key third-and-14. That ability to move the ball helped set up a 28-yard field goal by Oliva to make it a one-possession game at 24-16.
- The Beacons took over near midfield with 3:50 remaining in the fourth quarter, still down eight. A 20-yard catch by Brandon Jimenez (Suffern, N.Y. / Don Bosco Prep [Albany]) moved the ball well into IWU territory. An Indiana Wesleyan penalty helped Valpo pick up an automatic first down after a third-and-long play. On fourth-and-10 from the IWU 30, Appel found Ragle for 11 yards to keep the game alive. That set up the 14-yard Ragle TD grab to cut the lead to two. After the failed 2-point try, Valpo attempted an onside kick in the closing seconds, but the Wildcats recovered to set up victory formation.
Inside the Game
- The touchdown grab by Ragle marked the first of his collegiate career.
- Valpo went 3-for-3 on field-goal tries including the 48 yarder by Hawk on his first career field-goal attempt.
- Davis’ TD catch was his first of the season and the fifth of his collegiate career.
- Abrams recorded his first career interception.
- Hafner paced the team with eight tackles including a pair of TFLs. He accounted for one of the team’s three sacks. Annis was among the team leaders in tackles for the second straight week, notching eight stops to share the team lead with Hafner.
- Indiana Wesleyan, ranked fifth nationally in NAIA, has been difficult to beat on its home field. The reigning NAIA national semifinalists picked up their 14th consecutive home victory.
- This was Valpo’s first loss by three points or fewer since Oct. 15 of last season, a 26-25 defeat vs. Butler.
- Appel went 19-of-39 through the air for 194 yards and two scores. Several of the five interceptions were tipped passes and others were nice defensive plays. He was under heavy pressure throughout the game.
- The rushing attack was led by Barret Labus (Wadsworth, Ohio / Wadsworth), who netted 61 yards on 13 attempts.
- Nine Valpo players caught passes, led by Davis and Ragle with three apiece.
- Valpo moved the chains 24 times for first downs, double as many as Indiana Wesleyan. The Beacons outgained the Wildcats in total offense 281-225 including a 225-171 advantage through the air while permitting just 54 rushing yards.
Thoughts from Head Coach Landon Fox
“From a positive perspective, my belief is really high in our team and I think our players’ belief is high as well. I thought this was going to be the second time in my career that we’ve won a game while being minus five in the turnover battle, but we didn’t, and that’s the reality of it. When you turn it over that many times and don’t get many in return, you’re not going to win very many games. Credit our guys for continuing to compete and give themselves a chance.”
Valpo (0-2) will have a bye week next week before the home opener, Pioneer Football League opener and Homecoming game are all wrapped up into one Brown Field extravaganza on Saturday, Sept. 23 at noon vs. Marist. Ticket information is available on ValpoAthletics.com/tickets.