Thursday night, the Hamline University Fighting Pipers traveled to Storm Lake, Iowa to open up the 2018 season. The Pipers were hoping that the Buena Vista Beavers would be the first casualty on their way to a six-plus win season, but quarterback Cole Miller had other ideas, throwing for 382 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Beaversto a 39-27 victory.
Hamline would get on the board on their first possession of the game. Starting from their own 25 yard line, junior quarterback Justice Spriggs completed a pass to Ryder Hutton for 5 yards, then went up top to Tanner Lunceford for a 70 yard score, giving the Pipers a 7-0 lead.
Buena Vista came right back with a touchdown of their own. A 28 yard pass from Miller to Eric Pacheco began the drive and, on the next play, Miller found Pacheco once again, this time for 37 yards and the score. The extra point was blocked to keep Hamline on top by one.
The next five possessions would result in punts, but the Beavers would finally get through on their fourth possession of the game, taking a 13-7 lead. Miller began the drive with back to back rushes, the first for 13 yards and the second for 12. Methodically, Buena Vista moved the ball down the field using six plays to get to the Hamline 24 where it would be fourth and 1. The coaching staff opted to go for it, and Miller rewarded them with an 11 yard completion to Josh Werge for a first down. Two plays later, the QB connected with Caleb Herrick for a 5 yard touchdown to put the Beavers up by six.
That lead held into the second quarter, when Hamline University would retake the lead. Starting from their own 14 yard line, Spriggs was sacked on the opening play setting up second and 17. Brandon Miller made it a manageable third-down with a 14 yard scamper and Spriggs found Lunceford for a first down out to the Hamline 27. As Buena Vista had done, the Pipers moved to the opposing 13 where the drive looked like it would stall at fourth and 2. However, the coaching staff opted to go for it and Spriggs found Miller for a first down to the 2 yard line. Triston Thomas scored up the middle one play later to give the Pipers a one point lead.
With a little over three minutes left in the half, the Beavers would retake the lead. On second and eight at their own 13, Miller went down the sideline to Pacheco who shielded himself from the defender, hauling in the ball near his own 45 yard line. Pacheco then shook off the defender, racing the remaining distance for his second touchdown of the game. The 87 yard touchdown put Buena Vista on top heading into the half, 20-14.
It looks like the Buena Vista Beavers would get the opportunity to take a commanding lead to start the second half as they received the kickoff. However, on the third play, Miller was sacked for a 7 yard loss and fumbled the ball. Zach Reed recovered and raced 25 yards for the touchdown to put the Pipers back on top, 21-20.
The Beavers would retake the lead on their next possession. The Storm QB completed four of six passes to help move the team to the Hamline 11 where it was third and 6. A pass interference call gave them a first down at the 2 yard line and Josh Werge carried the ball on the next play to put Buena Vista up by five.
It stayed that way until the fourth quarter when Buena Vista University began to pull away. The quarterback led a 12 play, 69 yard drive that ended with him completing a pass to Matthew Yngve for 1 yard and a touchdown to put the Beavers up by 12.
Hamline would respond with a touchdown drive of their own. Starting from their own 25 with 5:12 left in the game, Spriggs completed three successive passes to move to midfield. The Pipers would move to the BVU 13 where they were faced with fourth and 10 after three straight incompletions. Spriggs came up big, however, finding Thomas for 13 yards and the score. The extra point was blocked as Hamline trailed by six.
The Pipers went for the onside kick but it did not travel far enough giving Buena Vista the ball at the Hamline 43. A first down run resulted in a 3 yard loss. Miller then looked for the first down, completing a short out to Pacheco, who made a nice spin move to free himself from the defender, then raced the remaining distance for a 46 yard touchdown to restore the 12 point edge. That is how the game would end with the Beavers winning, 39-27.
Cole Miller had a monster game, completing 25 of 40 passes for 382 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran for 54 yards on 17 carries. Eric Pacheco started the season off right as well, making eight catches for 242 yards and three scores. He averaged 30.3 yards per catch.
The unsung hero for Buena Vista was their punter, Caleb Hall. Of his six punts on the evening, five were downed inside the 20 yard line, including two inside the 10. The defense was led by Colby Laughlin, who had 10 tackles.
Justice Spriggs finished the evening 25 for 52 for 326 yards and two touchdowns. Brandon Miller led the rushing attack with nine carries for 71 yards. Tanner Lunceford had seven catches for 117 yards and a touchdown, and Matt Miller had six catches for 100 yards. The Hamline defense was led by Luke Trudell, who had six tackles, a sack, and two forced fumbles.
Hamline University (0-1) will look to rebound when they welcome the Macalester College Fighting Scotts on September 8. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00.
By Robert Pannier