Freshman Tyler Stolen, who had just minutes earlier converted a key onside kick to give Buena Vista the ball back, nailed a 25-yard field goal with 58 seconds left to help lift the Beaver football team to a thrilling 29-28 home victory over the University of Dubuque on Saturday afternoon. The game was the season finale for both teams.
The Spartans had built a 28-19 lead with a little more than five minutes to play following a 16-yard touchdown run by Kyle Acker.
BVU, however, got the ball back and marched 60 yards in only nine plays, capped-off by a three-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Bobby Brown to junior Adam Cave with 2:47 left. Stolen's PAT made it a two-point game at 28-26.
Stolen, the three-time reigning Iowa Conference Special Teams Performer of the Week, then placed an onside kick attempt perfectly, that was recovered at the Dubuque 45 yard-line by senior Mason Nielsen.
On the first play from scrimmage, junior Dylan Barrett scampered 37 yards along the far side, giving BVU a 1st-and-goal at the Dubuque eight. The Beavers got it down to the three yard-line, but were backed-up 15 yards for an illegal chop block. Barrett, who was injured on his previous rush, came back into the game and picked up nine yards on second down and one more on third down, setting up Stolen's 25-yard attempt with the wind at his back.
Dubuque got the ball back at its own 25-yardline after Stolen punched the ensuing kick-off through the endzone, and began the drive with 58 seconds left.
The Spartans got all the way down to the Beaver 31 and had one final chance for a heave into the endzone as time expired, but the pass sailed out of the back of the endzone, sending the Beavers storming onto the field for the second straight week.
"This team just kept playing and believing we could get it done," said BVU head coach Jay Anderson afterwards. "Our defense did a fantastic job against a very explosive offense. It's a credit to our defensive staff and players."
The field goal by Stolen was his only attempt of the game, and he also finished with six punts for an average of 44 yards, including a career-long boot of 62 yards in the first quarter that resulted in a touch back. He later had a kick of 54 yards that was returned, to go along with a 57-yard boot that was downed at the Spartan one.
"Tyler had another big day," Anderson added. "He has been a big part of this win streak. Our special teams as a whole played very well today and made a difference in the game."
Barrett totaled a career-high 184 yards on the ground for BVU on 30 attempts, to go along with one touchdown.
Brown completed 14-of-24 passes for 124 yards and two scores. He falls one completion short of matching Brandon Phelan for second on the program's all-time single-season completion list. He does, however, move into third on the single-season list with 2,410 total yards on the year.
Cave hauled in a team-high six catches for 38 yards, while Henningsen caught five for 62 yards and one score.
"Offensively, we played well at times," Anderson said. "We just didn't make any plays in the third quarter, but stayed the course and played very well in the fourth. Barrett and the offensive line had a great day running the ball. Bobby and the receivers made some big plays when we had to."
Dubuque got a 15-yard TD pass for the game's first score, followed by a Barrett 2-yard plunge to make it a 7-7 game after one quarter. Henningsen's 15-yard touchdown catch put BVU in front with 5:21 left in the second quarter, and Stolen's first missed PAT of the year left it at 13-7 at the half.
The Spartans, with the wind at their back in the third quarter, chalked up a pair of TD passes to take a 21-13 lead into the fourth.
Cave's three-yard TD catch just minutes into the fourth quarter got the Beavers back within 21-19, but the two-point attempt to tie the score fell incomplete.
Dubuque later marched 99 yards down the field in just seven plays to extend the lead to 28-19 before the late-game drama unfolded for the Beavers.
Nielsen came up big for the Beavers in his final collegiate contest, recording that onside kick, and also intercepting a pair of passes, the first of which helped set up BVU's first score of the game. Fellow senior Brady Randall chalked up a team-best 13 tackles, including nine solo with freshman Justin Kahl and sophomore Kyle Arnold right behind with eight apiece.
Dubuque finished with 505 yards of total offense with BVU chalking up 326 more.
The win was the fourth straight to finish the year for the Beavers, as they end with a 4-6 overall mark (4-3 IIAC) and tie for third in the IIAC standings. The Spartans finish their season at 5-5 overall (4-3 IIAC).