Wayne State (1-1) lost its home football opener Sept. 9 to No. 18 ranked Indianapolis (2-0), 31-28, in a thriller that came down to the last play.
On their first offensive possession, the Greyhounds picked up five first downs as they marched down the field and capped an eight play, 76-yard drive with a 10-yard rushing touchdown by running back Tyre Lee.
The Warriors responded quickly with a scoring drive of their own led by junior quarterback D.J. Zezula, who threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Darece Roberson Jr. to make the game 7-7 with 4:33 left in the first quarter.
After forcing the Greyhounds to punt, WSU put together another solid drive that ended with an 11-yard touchdown catch by junior running back Deiontae Nicholas. It put the Warriors up, 14-7.
WSU was able to hold on to its seven-point lead going into halftime by forcing Indianapolis to punt on its next five offensive possessions after the Greyhounds’ touchdown drive to begin the game.
“After the first drive, I thought we settled in and played really good defense,” head coach Paul Winters said. “And I think offensively, on those first two drives, we were really rolling.”
In the third quarter, the Greyhounds were able to register two touchdowns to give them a 21-14 advantage. The first one came after a pass from Zezula bounced off the shoulder pads of receiver Manny Mendoza and into the hands of the Greyhounds’ Dillon Dallas.
The interception set the Greyhounds up in scoring position at the WSU seven-yard line, leading to a 3-yard touchdown run by Indianapolis quarterback Jake Purichia.
Winters said his team played poorly in the third quarter, particularly on offense, which allowed the Greyhounds to take control of the game.
At the 12:50 mark of the fourth quarter, senior running back Demetrius Stinson recorded a 1-yard touchdown. It completed a 10-play, 65-yard drive for WSU. The Greyhounds quickly answered with a 39-yard touchdown pass from Purichia to Tuwan Payton to give them a 28-21 lead with 10:18 left.
On the Warriors’ next drive, Zezula, who threw for 193 yards and three touchdowns, hit junior receiver Corey Ester for a 27-yard touchdown. It tied the game at 28 with 5:06 remaining.
The Greyhounds’ next possession featured a turnover on downs, as the Warriors stuffed running back Al Mckeller on fourth and 1.
With 1:25 remaining, Wayne State squandered a potential go-ahead drive by going three-and-out.
Indianapolis took full advantage of the opportunity, driving 64 yards in 57 seconds for the game-winning score.
The score was set up by a 46-yard pass from Purichia to receiver Aaron Matio, along with a roughing the passer penalty on the Warriors. It led to the game-winning field goal from Indy kicker Brad Schickel.
Despite the loss, Winters was still proud of how his team performed.
“I thought we showed more heart and determination,” he said. “We talked about intestinal fortitude all week and I thought we showed that.
Winters said he was satisfied with his team’s ability to hold Indianapolis’ rushing attack under 100 yards. This came a week after the Greyhounds ran for 326 yards in their win against Grand Valley State.
Though he saw some good things in the first two games, Winters added that his team still has a lot to work on.
“I wouldn’t use the word happy,” Winters said when asked if he’s content with how the team has looked. “I’m not discouraged, though. I think we learned a lot about ourselves.”
“Our guys weren’t challenged last week [versus Walsh]. We were challenged this week. What I’m encouraged by is that we responded to the challenge. So, I’m hoping that that carries over into the following weeks.”
The Warriors begin GLIAC conference play Sept. 16 when they host Saginaw Valley State at 6 p.m.