MOREHEAD, Ky. — Senior slot receiver Brandon Bornhauser scored on a four-yard run with 17 seconds left Saturday as the Morehead State football team erased a 16-point second-half deficit and defeated Valparaiso, 48-47, in a Pioneer Football League shootout at Jayne Stadium.
The Eagles (3-5, 2-3 PFL) trailed 37-21 early in the third quarter and found themselves down 47-35 with less than eight minutes remaining before sophomore slot receiver Jake Raymond scored on a five-yard scramble and MSU’s defense held the Crusaders to a three-and-out. MSU drove 58 yards in 1:14 for the winning score. Valpo (2-6, 0-4) lost for the 11th straight time in conference play and for the eighth consecutive year to Morehead State.
The Eagles recovered an onside kick attempt by senior kicker Luke Boyd with 3:09 left in the game. Junior corner back Eric Pugh fell on a loose ball at the Crusader 29-yard line to set up a scoring drive that brought his team to within 47-42.
“I think we are the comeback kids,” Head Coach Rob Tenyer said. “Every game we have won this year we had to rally. Our guys now understand that effort is the most important part.”
Raymond finished with a career-best eight receptions for 116 yards and a score through the air too. Bornhauser rushed for a career and team-best 72 yards, scoring his 18th and 19th career touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Austin Gahafer notched a season-high 352 passing yards on a season-best 31 completions and three touchdowns and has now thrown for 810 yards against Valparaiso in the last two matchups.
Junior linebacker Luke Keller registered a team-high 10 total stops and helped haul down Crusader quarterback Ben Lehman in the backfield on a third-down play late in the game to halt Valpo’s second-to-last drive. Sophomore safety Dominic Iori intercepted Lehman’s final pass to seal the victory.
“We had some exceptional individual performances today,” Tenyer added. “We had guys on both sides of the ball step and make plays in key situations. I was really proud of our effort, fighting through adversity and not giving up.”
Valpo defensive back A.J. Bradley intercepted a Gahafer pass with less than three minutes to play, but the Eagle defense forced a punt. Junior slot receiver Justin Cornwall returned it 17 yards to set up at the MSU 42-yard line and the eventual game-winning drive.
Bornhauser caught a 22-yard toss from Gahafer down to the Valpo 30-yard line and then threw an 18-yard strike to Gahafer to the Crusader 12-yard line with less than a minute remaining.
Valparaiso built a 24-7 lead in the first half, including a 79-yard punt return TD. The Crusaders ballooned their advantage to 37-21 with 11:45 left in the third period when Jarrett Morgan returned a kickoff 91 yards. The visitors also led 30-14 with 14:10 left but missed an extra-point try.
Sophomore wide receiver Tanner Napier (26 yards), Cornwall (8) and Raymond (38) hauled in Gahafer’s touchdown trio. Bornhauser scored on a six-yard run from the wildcat formation in the third quarter, and senior running back Rees Macshara scored the Eagles’ first TD of the day on a 12-yard jaunt.
Valpo running back Brandon Hall recorded a game-best 120 yards on 22 carries while scoring twice. Lehman was 13-of-21 for 224 yards.
Freshman running back Lawrence Jones rushed for a career-best 61 yards as the Eagles piled up a season-best 569 total yards. Valpo had 399 total yards. Morehead State converted eight third-down situations and was 2-of-3 on fourth downs and 5-of-5 in the red zone.
Sophomore linebacker Matthew Brewer added a career-hgh 10 total tackles, while junior defensive lineman Rob Lewis made 1.5 tackles for negative yards.
Morehead State is now on the road the next two weekends. The Eagles face Butler on Saturday at Noon ET in Indianapolis, Ind.