Hall accounted for 20 of the Eagles’ 25 yards tallied in the overtime frame, rushing the ball 4 times capped by his final 2 runs of 6 and 9 yards to put UW-L up 27-20 and leave the rest to the Eagle defense, which held the Cougars on 3 straight plays during Azusa Pacific’s OT chance.
Azusa Pacific appeared to be headed toward a much-needed pick-me-up victory when the Cougars rallied from a 20-3 deficit with 2 fourth quarter touchdowns, including a 41-yard bomb from senior QB Rudy Carlton to junior WR Jon Davis with 38 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 20-20 and force OT.
Clinging to a 20-13 lead, Wisconsin-La Crosse stopped Azusa Pacific on 4 straight plays from the Eagle 12-yard line and needed to just run out the final 68 seconds to preserve the win. However, behind the Cougar defense which stopped UW-L on 3 consecutive plays, including a third-and-4 play, Azusa Pacific used all 3 of its timeouts and got the ball back on a short punt with 44 seconds left in the game. On the first play from scrimmage, Carlton hit a streaking Davis to knot the game at 20-all, shocking the partisan Eagle crowd which had watched UW-L control the entire game until that moment.
As they had done in their other 2 losses, the Cougars shot themselves in the foot early in the game, committing 2 turnovers deep in their own territory on their first 4 plays. Though UW-L didn’t cash on the first take-away, it did on the second, going just 14 yards on 4 plays, highlighted by Eric Donoval’s 3-yard TD run that put La Crosse up 7-0 just over 6 minutes into the game.
Early in the second quarter, Azusa Pacific appeared to be headed toward the equalizer, pushing the ball to a first-and-goal at the UW-L 8-yard line. However, a false start on first down put a hiccup on the drive and the Cougars had to settle for a 26-yard Ben Hansen field goal.
La Crosse then converted the second of 2 Carlton interceptions into another TD when Garrett Mueller and Hall successfully converted a halfback-option into a 40-yard scoring strike to give the Eagles a 13-3 halftime lead.
Midway through the third quarter, UW-L put together its only lengthy drive of the game, going 80 yards on 6 straight rushing plays, finished off by Hall’s 10-yard scoring run that pushed the Eagle lead to 20-3 with 5:44 left in the third quarter.
A 37-yard Donny Lee return of the ensuing kickoff positioned Azusa Pacific at the midfield stripe and 7 plays later Hansen made his fifth field goal of the season, a 30-yarder to cut the UW-L advantage to 20-6 to close the third quarter.
Azusa Pacific then motored 74 yards on 6 plays, going the final 21 yards on an option play in which Carlton accounted for the first 7 yards and junior RB Alex Peltier took the ball the final 14 for the Cougars’ first TD of the game 32 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Led by freshman LB Jay York who had a career-high 10 tackles including his first career quarterback sack, the Cougar defense was outstanding against a prolific Eagle offense, which in its only other game this season, racked up 662 yards and completed 17-of-20 passes in a 47-21 dismantling of No. 11-ranked Hardin Simmons College on the road. However, Azusa Pacific rattled Eagle QB Griffin Moe, sacking him 5 times and allowing him just 100 yards through the air. In addition, Cougar DBs Beau Leaman and Jayson Sanchez each picked off Moe.
All tallied, Wisconsin-La Crosse finished with 312 yards of offense, 80 of which came on 1 drive (232 on the other 15 drives). Azusa Pacific registered 344 while owning the ball an extra 7 minutes over the Eagles. Peltier finished with a season-high 86 yards on 23 carries. Carlton, who misfired on 3 of his first 8 passes which included an interceptions, settled down to go 14-for-35 for 208 yards. Davis, who came in as the Cougars’ leading receiver with 22 receptions through the first 3 games, had 4 grabs for 70 yards.
With the victory, La Crosse improves to 2-0 on the season while Azusa Pacific falls to 1-3.