Big third quarter propels Vikings to win over Beloit

Lawrence football action Ethan Simmons
Lawrence's Ethan Simmons had a punt return for a touchdown and grabbed a touchdown pass in the Vikings' 32-27 win over Beloit.

APPLETON, Wis. -- The Lawrence University football team used a big third quarter and some key defensive stands Saturday to post a 32-27 Midwest Conference North Division victory over Beloit College on Ron Roberts Field at the Banta Bowl.

Lawrence scored 20 third-quarter points, and the Vikings stopped Beloit twice deep inside Lawrence territory in the final five minutes to preserve the victory.

Receiver Ethan Simmons returned a punt for a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass for the Vikings. Rookie running back Prince Mukuna had the biggest game of his young career with 18 carries for 92 yards. Quarterback D'Andre Weaver came on in relief and ran seven times for 27 yards and a touchdown and completed 5-of-8 passes for 62 yards and a score.

Lawrence linebacker Wyatt Lee collected 14 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss. Defensive end Cullen Ellis added 10 tackles and a sack. Tyler Kujawa and Jaxon Stratton both had interceptions for the Vikings, and Sheldon Garman's fumble recovery and 43-yard return on the play set up a touchdown. 

Joey Werner paced the Beloit offense with 29 carries for 112 yards and a touchdown, and Patrick Nicolas had 18 tackles, an interception and scored a defensive extra point.

Lawrence led early when Billy Wallisch connected with Jacob Sullivan for a 25-yard scoring pass, but Beloit scored the next three touchdowns to take a 19-6 lead.

Weaver took over the offense late in the first half and directed a six-play, 68-yard scoring drive. He connected with Simmons on a 31-yard touchdown pass with 50 seconds left in the second quarter. Beloit's Nicolas blocked the extra point and returned it for two points, but Lawrence trimmed the Bucs' lead to 21-12 at the half.

Lawrence took the opening possession of the second half and moved 65 yards in 11 plays for the score. Simmons' spectacular 16-yard run gave Lawrence a first down at the Beloit seven-yard line. Peter Bukszar then scored his first career touchdown two plays later on a five-yard run to cut the lead to 21-19.

On the ensuing possession, Jasaad Graves pried the ball away from Werner, and Garman scooped it up at midfield. Garman raced to the Beloit seven-yard line, and the Vikings were back in business. Weaver scored two plays later on a two-yard run and Lawrence led 25-21.

Later in the third quarter, Beloit's Andy Berlin punted, and the ball bounced near the Lawrence 35. Simmons caught it on the bounce at the 30 and raced toward the near sideline. He cut back to avoid one tackler and found the end zone for a 32-21 Lawrence lead. It was the first punt return for a touchdown since Derek Micke did it against Grinnell College on Sept. 23, 2006.

Beloit scored in its next possession to cut the margin to five, but the Lawrence defense stopped the Bucs on their next three drives. 

Beloit drove to the Lawrence 25 but faced fourth-and-seven. Erick Mitchell's pass was intercepted by Jaxon Stratton at the Lawrence 12 to end that threat. A Lawrence fumble two plays later gave Beloit the ball back at the Lawrence 24. Beloit was pushed back on a penalty and faced fourth-and-14. Mitchell scrambled but Ellis dragged him down from behind at the Lawrence 25 to turn the ball over on downs and seal the win.