Coach Frank Haege's team might not have the resources of MIAC powers, but its late-game resolve is impressive.
The Auburn football team has an official nickname, the Tigers, and also is referred to by the more-colorful option, the War Eagles. The Augsburg football team has the official Auggies and it could be time for a more-intriguing option: the Anti-Masons.
Glen Mason was an effective program builder at Minnesota for a decade, yet his time with the Gophers is most remembered for a handful of miraculous defeats.
Frank Haege is in his eighth season at Augsburg, which has an underdog tradition in the MIAC football that outdoes anything faced by the Gophers in the Big Ten.
"We're trying to get to the top of the middle, and knock off one of the big teams once in a while,'' Haege said. "We can't match up with St. Thomas, St. John's and Bethel when it comes to finances and facilities, but we can have fun trying.''
It is 3 1/2 miles from the Augsburg campus along Interstate 94 in Minneapolis, and the St. Thomas campus that sprawls from the Cretin-Summit intersection in St. Paul. Yet, it's the difference between Manhattan and Green Bay when it comes to amenities.
Augsburg is squeezed in between the freeway and the endlessly torn-up Riverside Ave.
"We get a certain kind of player: kids from inside the city, kids from a first-tier suburb, and some small-town kids who want to come to the big city,'' Haege said. "We have guys who have faced things in life ... who have some stories to tell.''
The Augsburg football players who have been around the past two years have stories to tell that are almost beyond belief.
On the second week of the MIAC schedule in 2011, the Auggies went to Collegeville, and the expectation in the D-III world was that they would continue a road losing streak vs. St. John's that dated to 1980.
The Auggies were in a winning position, until Connor Bruns threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Sam Pederson with 23 seconds left to give the Johnnies a 31-26 lead.
Augsburg regained possession at its 20 with 18 seconds left and no timeouts.
"I wasn't on the field when we huddled up, but the coaches said, 'Get in there,' '' receiver Wesley Waytashek said this week. "On the first play, I ran a post, there was a busted coverage and it went for 48 yards. When I got up, the offense was already there, ready to spike the ball.''
Quarterback Marcus Brumm threw a Hail Mary to the end zone that fell incomplete.
"We got lucky,'' Waytashek said. "Somehow, there was six-tenths of a second left on the clock.''
Haege still smiles and says: "I couldn't believe the guy on the clock didn't let time run out.''
The Auggies put three receivers in a bunch to the left, and Tyler Swanson to the right, and he came down with a 32-yard touchdown pass. Augsburg 32, St. John's 31.
How quiet did the crowd get? "Can't tell you, because we went nuts on our sideline,'' Haege said.
Last Saturday, Augsburg opened its MIAC schedule at Gustavus Adolphus. It was "St. Peter Day'' and there were 5,000 fans inside the new Hollingsworth Field.
The Gusties drove 66 yards to take a 24-20 lead with 1:04 left. Ten seconds later, Kellan Euerle intercepted a pass by Ayrton Scott, Augsburg's talented freshman, and victory looked to be assured for the home team.
Key word: looked.
The Gusties were going to run out both Augsburg's timeouts and the clock. And then a helmet came off the head of a Gustavus player, and this year's new rule made it a dead ball and stopped the clock.
"Biggest moment of the game, right there,'' Haege said.
The Gusties punted to the end zone. Augsburg was at its 20 with 34 seconds left -- and no timeouts, of course.
Scott completed three passes for 38 yards, including a 12-yarder to Waytashek. The Auggies were at the Gustavus 32, with 10 seconds left. Hakeem Bourne-McFarlane, a starting defensive back, was in as a receiver for the last drive.
"I threw the ball up to Hakeem and hoped he would come down with it,'' Scott said. "He did, and made it to the end zone.''
Bourne-McFarlane muscled 3 yards through Gustavus tacklers to get the 26-24 victory for Augsburg on the game's last play.
"Looked like that guy from Michigan State [Keith Nichol] who beat Wisconsin a year ago,'' Haege said. "Hakeem kept fighting and got the ball to the goal line. Man, it was close.''
The Augsburg Anti-Masons like it close.
Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500-AM. email@example.com
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