Freshman quarterback Tim Jenkins, in his first college football game, threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to help Fort Lewis College come from behind and beat Oklahoma Panhandle State 23-13 in the season opener Saturday afternoon in Durango.
Trailing 13-10 early in the fourth quarter, Fort Lewis held the Aggies deep in their own end to force a punt.
Taking over near midfield, Jenkins directed the Skyhawks on a seven-play scoring drive to give FLC its first lead of the game.
The freshman from ThunderRidge High School in Highlands Ranch scrambled to his right on first down and connected with senior Phillip Dodd for 14 yards.
After hitting senior Brandon Schneider for a short gain, Jenkins passed to junior Justin Johnson for 17 more yards and a first down.
After a pair of running plays moved the ball to the 5-yard line, Schneider worked free in the back right corner of the end zone.
Jenkins, threading a laser of a line drive through the Oklahoma Panhandle defense, found Schneider for the 5-yard touchdown and a 16-13 Fort Lewis lead with 9:03 to play.
"Our defense did a good job of getting us good field position," Jenkins said after his first collegiate victory.
"And I had great protection. The play ... was something we had worked on in practice down at the goal line," the freshman said. "He (Schneider) knew what we were going to do."
"The ball actually got tipped," said Schneider, a rangy senior from Smokey Hill High School in Aurora. "The DB (defensive back) made a play on it. It was a good, hard throw."
Jenkins was 4 of 5 passing for 40 yards on the go-ahead drive.
One series later, Dodd broke free on a deep route while Jenkins rolled right again.
The wide-open Dodd collected the pass from Jenkins and raced 40 yards for a touchdown with 4:52 remaining in the game.
The conversion kick from Nate Soucie, a freshman from Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale, was good, giving Fort Lewis its final 23-13 lead.
Soucie had kicked a 28-yard field goal late in the third period, cutting Oklahoma Panhandle's lead from 13-7 to 13-10.
The teams had played to a 7-7 tie in the first half, which was marked by an epidemic of penalties (including 12 against the Skyhawks).
Oklahoma Panhandle scored first on a 19-yard run from Darryl Brister, a sophomore from New Orleans.
The Skyhawks tied the game with 2:14 to play in the first quarter when freshman Jackson Knox from California caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from starting quarterback Justin Peters, a sophomore from Chandler, Ariz.
But Oklahoma Panhandle stunned the Skyhawks on the first series of the third quarter.
Jose Mendoza, on a quick draw, sprinted through the middle of the FLC defense to score on a 51-yard run. The Aggies muffed the extra-point shovel pass attempt to lead 13-7.
That's when coach Ed Rifilato turned to his erstwhile secret weapon: senior punter Nick Becker.
Becker, who booted a 62-yard punt in his first opportunity early in the game, blasted punt after punt in the second half as the Skyhawks pushed the Aggies back.
After another 60-yarder in the second quarter, Becker had a 52-yard punt in the third quarter that led to the 14-play drive and Soucie's field goal.
His next punt, more of the directional variety, pinned the Aggies back at their own 9-yard line.
That led to the go-ahead drive and Jenkins' TD pass to Schneider.
"I had great snaps, and I had a lot of time," said Becker, a senior from Legacy High School in Thornton.
"They weren't rushing that hard."
He said he's been feeling strong this year after a troublesome hamstring injury a year. An offseason of extensive rehabilitation improved his leg strength, he said.
When he nailed his first 60-yarder, he said: "That gave me a lot of confidence. It felt good."
Simply, he said, it was his best day ever punting.
Oh yes, he also had a key sack from his linebacker position in Oklahoma Panhandle's final threatening drive of the game.
He and defensive colleagues Sam Loeblein, Raymond Mendoza, Ryan Metz, Demitri Scotto, Kevin Wegrzyn, Bryan Hall and the rest of the gang combined to shut down the Aggies late.
"The defense played tremendous," FLC head coach Ed Rifilato said. "They did a good job."
Eric Hills, a former prep standout at Piedra Vista High School in Farmington, had a first-half interception for the Skyhawks to stop one Oklahoma Panhandle drive.
He nearly had another in the second half before leaving the game with a leg injury.
Jenkins ended his first game 9 of 16 for 118 yards and two touchdowns.
Peters was 7 of 17 for 78 yards as the FLC passing attack generated 196 yards.
Sam Apraku led FLC in rushing with 40 yards on 10 carries, including a key 7-yard gain for a first down in the go-ahead drive early in the fourth quarter.
"That last drive started with our run game," Jenkins said. "We were ahead (15-13), and we were grinding it out. Sam (Apraku) had a big carry for 7 yards. We knew we could come back with the play action."
The result was the touchdown pass to Dodd, who finished the day with four receptions for 72 yards.
Know, the freshman from Santa Monica, had six catches for 85 yards in his first game in a Fort Lewis uniform.
Mendoza led all rushers with 127 yards for the Aggies, who finished with 258 total yards to 236 for the Skyhawks.
"Basically, we found a way to win," Rifilato said, echoing the closing statements he made to his team at midfield after Saturday' victory.
"Now we go to ... Texas."
The Skyhawks will travel to Abilene next week to take on Abilene Christian.