Ottawa University football team was on pins and needles all night Saturday and into Sunday afternoon waiting on its playoff fate after a 23-20 loss Saturday to Tabor at Peoples Bank Field.
It was a close call. Ottawa (8-3) received one of the final at-large bids for the playoffs. No. 15 Ottawa plays at No. 2 Grand View, Iowa (10-0) 1 p.m. Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa.
It is Ottawa’s fifth straight playoff appearance. Grand View is playing its second playoff game. The Grand View program is in its sixth year of existence.
Ottawa nearly gave away a chance at the playoffs with the loss. The Braves were in line for a home playoff berth and at least a top 8 finish in the poll with a win.
Ottawa slipped all the way down to No. 15 in the final poll.
“We have no idea what we will get,” Ottawa coach Kent Kessinger said following the loss. “We have to be fortunate. It depends on how far the raters drop us.”
The Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference has three teams in the playoffs, which may be the most ever in conference history.
For Ottawa, it was a bitter pill to swallow. The Braves had their 26-game home winning streak against KCAC foes snapped.
“We knew we were going to get a good football team,” Kessinger said. “We could not make plays when we needed to make plays. Whether it was stops or keeping drives going on offense. At times, we did well. It comes down to in big games there are certain plays kind of foretell things.”
The gale force wind played a big factor in the game and strategy.
“The greatest debate was what to do at halftime,” Kessinger said. “They were going to get the ball. Should we kick into the wind or should we kick with the wind. We went back and forth. The way they are running the football, we are going to have to try for a big quarter.
“We needed to have defensive stops. That third quarter we had the ball for two minutes.
“That is where we rolled the dice. The wind was blowing so much I did not know what we would get out of a kickoff into the wind. It was a huge factor. It was gale force.”
Tabor controlled the third quarter with a nine-minute touchdown drive to tie the game at 14-14 with 1:35 left.
Ottawa struck quickly as Josh Stangby returned the kickoff 47 yards. Luke Lundy took it 29 yards on the first play from scrimmage for a touchdown.
A bad snap on the extra point proved to be a big play as Ottawa came up empty and led 20-14.
Tabor scored again on a five-minute drive and took a 21-20 lead with 6:32 left.
“That botched snap on the extra point was as big as anything,” Kessinger said. “The bad snap put us in a hole.”