ROCKFORD, Ill. - The Rockford University football team lost a heartbreaker 26-20 on Saturday afternoon to the Concordia University Wisconsin Falcons (2-6, 1-4 NACC). Saturday's game was a tale of two halves as the Regents thoroughly outplayed the Falcons in the first half as they held a decisive 141-9 advantage in rushing yards, but led just 14-7 at the break. The second half half belonged to the Falcons as CUW outscored Rockford 19-6 and forced a pair of Regent turnovers. The two second half turnovers proved to be costly as one came inside the CUW 10-yard line, and the other led directly to 7 Falcon points.
The game seemed to get off to a great start as the Regents scored touchdowns on two of their first three possessions. Rockford's first score came after the Regents partially blocked a punt giving the offense a short field to work with. The Regents needed just 7 plays to cover 27 yards and take a 7-0 lead. Freshman running back LaVar Johnson Jr. (Memphis, Tenn.) carried the ball 6 times on the drive and accounted for all 27 yards including a 2-yard touchdown run, his fifth in the past three games. However, the Falcons promptly responded with a touchdown drive of their own. After returning the ensuing kickoff to midfield, CUW went 50 yards on 7 plays to knot the game at seven all. Fortunately the Regents answered right back with their second touchdown in the first quarter. Senior Joe Breeden (Burlington, Ill.) gave his offense excellent starting field position as he returned the CUW kickoff 46 yards to the RU 49-yard line. The Rockford offense then relied heavily on its ground attack once again accounting for 42 of the 51 yards. The drive was capped off by an impressive 11-yard touchdown scamper on third and 11 by LaVar Johnson Jr. as Rockford retook the lead.
With Rockford now out in front 14-7 early in the second quarter, the RU defense took control of the game for the reminder of the half. Sophomore Dylan Peterson (Reynolds, Ill.) intercepted his second pass of the season deep in Regent territory to end the Falcons only other scoring threat of the first half. The RU defense held the Falcons to just 10 yards of total offense on their final three possessions as Rockford took a seven-point lead into the break.
The second half got off to a difficult start as the Regents turned the ball over on each of their first two possessions. On the opening drive of the second half; Rockford moved the ball 70 yards down to the CUW 6-yard line. Unfortunately it was the Falcons who came up with the big play as defensive lineman Maxwell Fischer batted the ball up into the air and then intercepted it to end the RU scoring threat. The RU defense was again up to the challenge forcing a fifth straight Falcon punt to give the ball back to the offense. However, just three plays into the possession, Rockford fumbled deep in its own territory giving the Falcon offense a short field. It would take CUW just one play to tie the game as the Falcons connected on a 28-yard touchdown pass.
From that moment forward it seemed as though the momentum shifted in Concordia Wisconsin's favor. Following a Rockford punt, the Falcons went 90 yards on just 7 plays to score its second touchdown in as many possessions and take their first lead of the game at 20-14. Fortunately though as has been the case all season long, the Regents never quit and responded with a score of their own. The RU offense covered 75 yards on 11 plays capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Eric Mackey (Marengo, Ill.) to tie the game. However the Falcons simply would not be denied as they answered right back with their second touchdown of the quarter to retake the lead at 26-20. Rockford had one final chance to tie or take the lead, but it was not meant to be as the Falcons held on for the win.
Offensively the Regents were led by their running back duo of LaVar Johnson Jr. and Chance Manning (Durand, Ill.). Johnson led the Regents with 126 yards rushing and two touchdowns. This marks the third straight week Johnson has eclipsed 100 yards on the ground and scored a pair of touchdowns. Manning also had a nice afternoon as he rushed for over 100 yards for the third straight game. The junior carried the ball 14 times for 105 yards.
Defensively Rockford had a trio of players record at least eight tackles. Defensive back Ja'uan Joiner (Phenix City, Ala.) tallied a season-high 9 solo tackles and 2 pass breakups. Sophomore defensive lineman Jacob Cremeens (Roscoe, Ill.) finished with 9 tackles including a season-high 7 solo tackles and 1 sack. Freshman Malik Johnson (Chicago, Ill.) recorded 8 tackles including a season-high 2 tackles for loss.
The RU football team will play its final home game of the season next Saturday, November 4 against Kalamazoo College. Kickoff is set for 1:00 PM at Sam Greeley Field.