May 4—Grand View quarterback Johnny Sullivan said the Vikings left something out on the field this year.
The No. 2-ranked Grand View football team fell 27-24 to No. 6 Northwestern College on April 24 in an NAIA FCS quarterfinal at home in Des Moines, and Sullivan can't help but think about next season.
"It's a huge motivator, especially because we came up just short," said Sullivan, a Clinton High School graduate. "My first year here, we came up short in the semifinals. This year, I feel like we underperformed to what we could be. I think we had a national-championship caliber team. It definitely didn't leave a good taste in my mouth that last game, and I think that goes for all my teammates, too, so I think we're all ready to come back and get after it in the fall."
The Vikings went 6-0 during the regular season in the fall, then won their first playoff game before falling to Northwestern in the spring.
In a season filled with postponements, missed games and uncertainty, Sullivan hopes to get back to a sense of normalcy next year.
"It was definitely different than any other year," Sullivan said. "To start off with in the fall, we only had six games, where some other schools had the full 10 or 11. I think that could have affected us — not making excuses or anything, but it was definitely different and it was definitely much harder than a year where you just play a full 11 games and then go on to the playoffs, but at the same time, a lot of schools had to deal with that and that really wasn't an excuse for us."
Against Northwestern, Grand View took a 14-0 lead, but eventually found itself down 24-17 with four minutes remaining. An interception by the Vikings' defense gave the team a chance, and Sullivan capitalized on it — he threw 48-yard touchdown bomb to tie the game back up 24-24.
"That interception leading to that touchdown, that really gave us life back and tied the game up right at the end, but unfortunately it didn't unfold our way," Sullivan said.
Northwestern responded with a field goal and the Vikings' offense had one more drive, but they turned the ball over on downs to end the game.
"We didn't have any timeouts left and we were just trying to run our two-minute offense and there was under a minute left," Sullivan said. "We just couldn't convert. We didn't have any timeouts to work with, so it was hard to run our normal offense."
Sullivan finished the game 21-of-38 passing for 211 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. For the season, Sullivan completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,584 yards, 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Under Sullivan's direction, the Vikings' offense ranked third in scoring offense per game (45.5 points) and eighth in pass efficiency (167.7).
Sullivan said he was able to shut out most of the distractions from a COVID-stricken year. He doesn't let himself off with any excuses, though — he said the Vikings have unfinished business next season.
"I think I was able to shut it out pretty well," Sullivan said. "I think that first playoff game, it was just knocking the rust off and getting back into the swing of things because in a regular year, we'd typically be in a groove for the playoffs. I think we did some good things in the second half of the first playoff game and the second playoff game, but clearly it wasn't enough to get it done."