CEDAR RAPIDS - Jared Smith scored from 3 yards out with 29 seconds remaining to give Buena Vista a 28-26 come-from-behind victory over Coe College on Saturday, assuring the Beavers of at least a tie for third place in the Iowa Conference.
"I think the biggest thing is they found some confidence in themselves and they realize they could finish the game out and come back from a situation that they were put in," Buena Vista coach Steve Osterberger said.
Buena Vista trailed 26-21 when it got possession of the ball on its own 20-yard line with 2:15 left to play. After Smith ran for 8 yards for a first down on third-and-1, sophomore quarterback Eric Jamison completed a 7-yard pass to Shane Jacobson, a 10-yard pass to Josh Espinosa, a 26-yard pass to Jay Heathcote and a 16-yard pass to Heathcote to put the ball on the Coe 3-yard line with about 35 seconds to play.
On the next play, Smith ran it in for the winning score. Buena Vista's Andy Hodges then intercepted a Tim Vinyard pass to secure the victory.
Buena Vista took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when Smith scored on a 3-yard run. Coe's Scott Schara kicked a 36-yard field goal to make it 7-3.
The second quarter saw a lot of offense as 27 points were put on the board. Buena Vista struck first with a 46-yard TD pass from Jamison to Espinosa.
Coe answered with a 33-yard pass from Vinyard to Seth Wallace to make it 14-10. Jamison and Espinosa hooked up again for a 22-yard scoring strike to put the Beavers in front 21-10 with 1:03 before halftime.
But the quick-striking Kohawks countered with a 19-yard TD pass from Vinyard to Wallace with 13 seconds left in the first half to close it to 21-16.
Coe scored 10 unanswered points in the third quarter to take a 26-21 lead. Schara kicked a 35-yard field goal and Vinyard and Wallace hooked up for the third time - a 95-yard touchdown play with 5:12 remaining.
Buena Vista's defense held Coe to just 108 yards rushing and frustrated Vinyard somewhat. The Iowa Conference total offense leader completed just 9 of 36 passes and threw four interceptions. However, Vinyard did pass for 358 yards.
"We got a lot of pressure on him," Osterberger said. "We made him throw it when he wasn't ready to throw it, but yet he had 358 yards passing. There's some things that we need to sew up and learn from."
Osterberger thought the play of his defense made the difference in the game.
"I think the defense coming up in the third and fourth quarter and shutting them down and giving our offense some opportunities to put some points on the board was the difference," he said. "The big drive at the end obviously was a huge bonus."
Coe entered the game as the league's leading offense, and the Beavers held them in check with the exception of three big pass plays.
"I think our guys did a great job on defense," Osterberger said. "We gave up some big plays, but our defense came up big in the second half and also got four or five turnovers. Anytime you do that I think you're going to win the game."
Buena Vista generated 441 yards of offense in the game. Smith rushed for 196 yards on 41 carries and Jamison completed 15 of 30 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns.
Kurt Boustead and Andy Fish each had 10 tackles to lead Buena Vista's defense. Troy Nielsen added eight and Garrett Gingrich and Hodges had seven apiece.
Osterberger talked about what the win meant for the program.
"It was huge," he said. "We look at it as a great momentum-builder to finish our year with and something to build on in the future. It gives our guys an opportunity to finish a game out right and do what you have to do at the end."
Buena Vista, now 6-3 overall, plays host to Cornell this Saturday at 1 p.m.