MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — Iowa Western's reign atop the NJCAA football world is likely over.
The longest road trip in the five-year history of Reiver football resulted in a loss that probably dashed IWCC's hopes for a repeat national championship. No. 5 Georgia Military ended No. 2 Iowa Western's national-best 18-game winning streak with a 48-38 win at Davenport Field.
Two costly turnovers, both resulting in touchdowns, doomed the reigning NJCAA champions, leading to a 34-10 deficit that even a 28-point fourth-quarter flurry couldn't offset.
“We had to fight our butts off from start to finish,” Georgia Military coach Bert Williams said. “That's the best team we've been on the field with in years. (Our) guys were ready. They were hungry. And they wanted to do it.”
The turning point in the game came in the second quarter. Locked in a 10-10 tie, the Reivers faced a fourth-and-5 at the Bulldog 31. Connor Bravard's pass for Geronimo Allison on a slant route was tipped into the air. While the Reivers seemed to stop on the play at the site of an incompletion, Corey Neely intercepted it and ran it back 85 yards for a touchdown.
Brandon Rutherford added a field goal before halftime to extend Georgia Military's lead to 20-10.
Iowa Western's Mondo Williams then fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half. Perfect Robinson scooped up the loose ball and raced to the end zone to make it a 17-point game. Former Auburn running back recruit Jovon Robinson added a score soon after as the Bulldogs went up 34-10.
Through three-plus quarters, the Reivers held the nation's leading rusher to 106 yards on 28 carries. Then Robinson broke loose for a 65-yard touchdown that sealed GMC's victory.
“We contained him pretty well for three quarters,” said Iowa Western coach Scott Strohmeier, whose team bussed more than 1,000 miles this week to Georgia. “And then he busts one. That was the tough thing.”
Robinson finished with 229 yards on 34 carries. His second touchdown run came one play after the Reivers had cut the lead to 34-24 with 7:58 left.
“Body blow, body blow, body blow, body blow, uppercut,” Williams said. “That's the thing about him. He can do that. He's a great player. I'm glad he's on our team.”
Bravard's touchdown pass to George Sehl just prior to Robinson's run gave Iowa Western fleeting hope. But he was sacked on the two-point conversion try that could've cut the deficit to eight.
The play epitomized the day for Bravard, who lost for the first time ever as a starting quarterback. The sophomore out of West Des Moines Dowling threw 55 times for a career-high 357 yards but was intercepted four times.
The Reivers had six turnovers in all.
“We shot ourselves in the foot and did a lot of things wrong,” Bravard said. “We've got to move on, but it's tough. This one hurts because we feel we're a better team. This one really hurts.”
It would take major luck to get Iowa Western back into the title hunt after Saturday. Only once since it began playing football in 2009 has a one-loss team reached the NJCAA championship game.
“I felt if we took care of business today, we controlled our own destiny,” Strohmeier said. “Now, unfortunately, it's out of our hands. All we can control is taking care of the next game.
“That's college football. You hit a bump in the road and you might be out.”
Georgia Military, which began the season outside of the NJCAA poll, now finds itself in the hunt after beating a second-ranked team for the second time this fall and a third top-10 team this year.
An elated Williams said he just hopes Iowa Western doesn't play its way back into a rematch.
“I hope we don't have to play them again for it in the end,” he said.
Iowa Western (5-1) .................................. 7 3 0 28—38
At Georgia Military (6-0) ............................ 3 17 14 14—48
IW: Akise Teague 2 run (Danny Hamilton kick)
GM: FG Brandon Rutherford 35
IW: FG Hamilton 22
GM: Zireycus Letman 10 pass from Patrick Thomas (Rutherford kick)
GM: Corey Neely 85 interception return (Rutherford kick)
GM: FG Rutherford 28
GM: Perfect Robinson 23 fumble return (Rutherford kick)
GM: Jovon Robinson 13 run (Rutherford kick)
IW: Austin White 1 run (Geronimo Allison pass from Connor Bravard)
IW: George Sehl 6 pass from Bravard (run failed)
GM: J. Robinson 65 run (Rutherford kick)
IW: Bryant Johnson 20 pass from Bravard (Hamilton kick)
GM: Akeem Judd 31 run (Rutherford kick)
IW: Bravard 1 run (Hamilton kick)
RUSHING: IW, Teague 16-67, White 7-10, Bravard 10-10, Bender 2-(-14). GM, J. Robinson 34-229, Judd 4-37, Thomas 6-36, Team 1-0.
PASSING: IW, Bravard 23-55-4 357. GM, Thomas 13-28-0 162.
RECEIVING: IW, Moore 6-110, Allison 6-110, Johnson 4-75, Sehl 2-18, Gilbert 2-15, Hinkel 1-30, Smith 1-0, Teague 1-(-1). GM, Williams 6-69, Letman 3-55, McGuire 2-28, J. Robinson 1-6.