From start to finish, the game looked exactly like the opener versus the University of Idaho.

A slow start, followed by the offense finding rhythm to take a lead and only to see it falter near the end with the defense not being able to get off the field to give the offense a chance.

Central Washington University was a victim to nearly the same anecdote, but this time versus Western Oregon University Saturday night at Tomlinson Stadium.

“It felt like the University of Idaho all over again,” said head coach Chris Fisk. “We just struggled to stop the run. We’re trying to do things to correct all that, but obviously not getting it done. It starts and ends with me and I’ve got to do a better job with our defensive staff.”

The Wolves, coming off a resounding GNAC win at Azusa Pacific last Saturday, came up with another huge road win, defeating the Wildcats 36-26.

This wasn’t the same Western Oregon (2-2) team that Central (1-3) put a beat down on twice last year. This was a Wolves team that ran all over the Wildcats and controlled the ball in the final quarter to secure its first win in Ellensburg since 1998.

Central was already having issues with its run defense coming into its GNAC matchup with Western Oregon (258 yards given up per game). For the second time this season, an opposing team rushed for over 300 yards as the Wolves netted a sterling 328 led by Omari Land who had 171 alone.

But dual-threat quarterback Ty Currie also found success on the ground. While he was limited to 12-of-22 in the air with 171 yards and two scores, the senior added 62 on the ground with three touchdowns.

“I think he came out with a lot of energy,” said linebacker Hamilton Hunt, who finished with a team-leading 17 tackles. “… I think as a defense, we really had a game plan to stop him. He’s a big part of that offense.”

Late in the third quarter and the entire fourth was the most detrimental to Central.

After running back Michael Roots added his fourth touchdown of the game with his 20-yard rush, breaking a few tackles along with it, Central grabbed a 26-21 lead after the missed PAT, 6:16 left in the third quarter.

And on Western Oregon’s next series, Central safety Chaz McKenzie came up with an interception at Central’s 33. But a quick three-and-out gave the Wolves the ball and on their 13 play, 68-yard drive that lasted over 5 minutes, they regained the lead on Currie’s seven-yard rush to the outside, 29-26, after the two-point conversion was successful (another Currie run).

Instead of taking advantage of the interception, Central now trailed with 14:15 left in the game.

“It’s something we haven’t done a good job with all year long playing off each other when good things happen to us,” Fisk said. “We didn’t go down and capitalize on that turnover. … We missed a big opportunity there to swing the tide of the game.”

Central gave the ball right back to the Wolves after redshirt freshman quarterback Canon Racanelli tossed his second interception of the game and Western Oregon took over at its own 35.

Three-straight running plays for first downs got the Wolves down to the 13. Tyren Sams’ pass interference call put the Wolves two yards out from the end zone, and Currie took it upon himself for another score, 36-26, with 9:28 left.

COULDN’T GET A STOP

Stymied once again on offense, forcing a punt, the Wildcat defense couldn’t get a stop when it needed it the most. Western Oregon burned all eight minutes and five seconds off the clock in 15 plays for 66 yards.

“Obviously the game of football, it takes a lot — takes a lot of effort,” Hunt said. “I think that’s more mental toughness. … We just have to be more mentally tough, to be able to execute, especially in the fourth quarter.”

Western Oregon ran 22 more offensive plays than Central and controlled the time of possession (38:23 versus 21:37). The Wolves were 8-of-14 on third down, 3-of-4 on fourth down.

“We got to get off the field on third down, we got to get off the field on third and long,” Fisk said. “On third and long, I’ve never been at a point in my career where I’ve been so scared to be in third and long.”

After trailing 14-0 early in the second quarter, Central responded to Western Oregon’s plodding 19 play, 99-yard drive that was over 10 minutes long.

In fact, Central’s next four drives all resulted in touchdowns.

Starting at its own 25, Central drove down in 12 plays for 75 yards that was capped by a 1-yard run from Roots, 14-6, with over five minutes left in the half. Racanelli completed passes to Tony Archie for a 15-yard gain on third-and-15, and the other on a swing pass wide to Roots who scampered his way down to the Wolves 24 for 24 yards.

With the Wildcats in a two-minute drive after holding the Wolves on defense. Racanelli and redshirt sophomore Ryan Ramones had gains of 18 and 24 with the latter getting the Wildcats down to its opponents 7.

Roots — with the help of the entire team — pushed his way into the end zone seven yards out to trim the deficit to one with 39 seconds left.

Receiving the kick-off in the second half, Racanelli marched Central into the redzone after he unfurled a deep ball to Drake Owen on third-and-9. The following play, Roots jumped over the line for Central to take its first lead of the game, 20-14.

After the Wolves regained the lead, Roots aforementioned 20-yard run put Central back on top for the last time.

“It all starts with consistency,” Roots said, who finished with 99 yards on 19 carries with four touchdowns. “We just got to keep the momentum on our side.”

Racanelli finished 14-of-26 with no touchdowns and two picks. Central was efficient on third down for the game (9-of-13).

“We preached all week about consistency,” Racanelli said. “And obviously when everyone did their job, we converted on those third downs when we needed it and made big plays.”

Central travels to West Texas A&M for a 3 p.m. start next Saturday.

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