WAYNE — Wayne State dropped its first home game of the 2021 campaign here at Memorial Stadium and Bob Cunningham Field after beginning the season with three wins at its home stadium to open the season.
Northern Sun Conference rival Augustana rolled into town and held off the Wildcats 32-24 in front of nearly 2,000 spectators for a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon matchup.
Both teams arrived at the game rated in the NCAA Division II Top 25 with the Vikings at No. 22 and the Wildcats holding the No. 23 spot in the poll.
Augustana, from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, opened a couple of double-digit leads against Wayne State, but the Wildcats gathered themselves to get back in the game on both occasions only to see the Vikings salt the final lead away in the final four minutes of the contest.
"I really don't feel as if we played bad," WSC coach John McMenamin said. "We made some critical mistakes at some real inopportune times but always seemed to get through them. Hats off to them (Augustana), they played better and made the plays when they needed them."
With the Vikings up 32-17 after quarterback Kyle Saddler's fourth touchdown pass with just six seconds gone in the final quarter, the two defenses dominated the middle part of the frame.
With 9:25 left in the contest, the Wildcats took off on a 11-play, 59-yard drive that culminated with a Mason Lee circus catch in the right corner of the end zone with 4:23 left on the clock.
"We had tried that play at the other end of the field earlier in the third," said Lee, the former Wayne High standout. "I kind of got tripped up and couldn't quite get to the ball."
On this play, the Augustana defender was draped all over Lee when quarterback Nick Bohn released the pass.
"I saw the ball coming and when someone is guarding you like that, you need to wait until the last second and use 'late hands' to grab the ball," Lee said. "I did just that and outjumped the guy for the ball."
The Wildcats kicked the ball deep on the ensuing kickoff and set the Vikings up at their own 25 with the ball barely trickling into the corner of the end zone just past the goal-line pylon.
Augustana's offense earned just enough yardage and first downs to milk the final four minutes off the clock and send the Wildcats to 5-2 and improve the Vikings to 6-1.
"In this league you need to bring your best every week to win, no matter who you are playing," McMenamin said. "We played good but not our best against a very good team."
Earlier in the game, the Vikings went up 17-3 before Wayne State got to within seven at the half after Anthony Watkins capped off another 11-play march that covered 72 yards with a 4-yard blast into the end zone.
Lee and Bohn hooked up on a 48-yard aerial with just under five minutes left in the third for the other Wildcat score.
"We definitely have some things to clean up, some penalties and missed assignments on both sides of the ball," McMenamin said. "I like our team and I like they way they work and compete — we'll get them fixed and move forward."
The Wildcats hit the road next week to take on Southwest Minnesota State in a 5 p.m. kickoff in Marshall, Minnesota, on Saturday, Oct. 23.
Augustana (6-1, 6-1) 7 10 9 6 — 32
Wayne State (5-2, 5-2) 3 7 7 7 — 24
AUG: Sean Engel 31 pass from Kyle Saddler (Ben Limburg kick), 9:19.
WSC: Alex Powders 25 field goal, 2:27.
AUG: Engel 20 pass from Saddler (Limburg kick), 12:32.
AUG: Limburg 43 field goal, 9:15.
WSC: Anthony Watkins 4 rush (Powders kick), 4:11.
AUG: Limburg 25 field goal, 11:55.
AUG: Devon Jones 40 pass from Saddler (kick failed), 5:43.
WSC: Mason Lee 48 pass from Nick Bohn (Powders kick), 4:58.
AUG: Jones 18 pass from Saddler (kick blocked), 14:54.
WSC: Lee 7 pass from Bohn (Powders kick), 4:23.