Myers Hendrickson summed up Kansas Wesleyan’s first defeat of the season with two words:


“Uncharacteristic mistakes,” he said following the No. 5-ranked Coyotes’ 42-24 Kansas Conference loss to No. 13 Southwestern in the regular-season finale Saturday afternoon at Graves Family Sports Complex.


KWU fumbled five times and lost three, each leading to Southwestern touchdowns. The Coyotes also muffed the second half kickoff which also led to a Moundbuilders’ TD.


“I felt like we did some good things but so many uncharacteristic mistakes that we don’t usually make,” he said. “Hats off to Southwestern, they were the better team today.”


The loss was the first of the year for the Coyotes (10-1 overall, 9-1 KCAC) and denied them the outright conference title that they will share with Southwestern and No. 10 Bethel, which lost on the road to NCAA Division II West Texas A&M 52-9 Saturday.


The NAIA Championship field and first-round pairings will be announced at 6 p.m. Sunday, KWU hoping to receive an at-large bid. Play begins next Saturday.


Adding to the frustration was the fact the Coyotes won nearly every statistical battle. They outgained Southwestern in total yards 458-366, ran 85 plays to the Moundbuilders’ 46, had 13 more first downs, were 9 of 16 on third down conversions and won time of possession by more than 10 minutes.


But the mistakes and several big plays by Southwestern’s offense turned the tide.


The Coyotes struck first when Eren Jenkins (FR/Chicago, Ill.) scored from 19 yards out on a sweep around left end with 4:14 left in the first quarter.


The second quarter was nightmare, though.


Quarterback Isaiah Randalle (JR/Sacramento, Calif.) fumbled at the Southwestern 17-yard line and the Moundbuilders scored two plays later on Brad Cagle’s 65-yard pass to Aaron Jones with 3:10 left in the half. KWU kept the lead, though, when the extra point kick failed.


Wesleyan drove the Southwestern 28 on its next possession but Nick Allsman (SO/Belleville, Kan.) lost the ball on first down at the 26. Cagle threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Ziyon Kenner six plays later, making it 13-7 with 4:05 remaining.


The Coyotes’ final drive of the half ended in controversy. Randalle scrambled 24 yards to the Southwestern 2-yard line with less than a minute left. On the next play a penalty flag was thrown for what appeared to be defensive pass interference on Randalle’s pass to Stevie Williams (SR/Los Angeles, Calif.) in the end zone.


The flag, though, was waived off. Out of time outs KWU managed to get off one final play but Allsman was tackled short of the goal line on a sweep around right end as time expired.


The second half got off to an equally frustrating start when the Coyotes let the kickoff drop untouched, the Moundbuilders recovering at the KWU 37.


Southwestern scored four plays later on Cagle’s 3-yard run converted a two-point conversion on Cagle’s two-point conversion pass to Ziyon Kenner that made it 21-7 with 12:43 left in the quarter.


The Coyotes regained their offensive stride on the next two possessions. Randalle hit tight end Jake McClure (JR/Wichita, Kan.) with a 19-yard touchdown pass and after Julian Urioste (FR/Portales, N.M.) intercepted a Cagle pass they scored again on Randalle’s 26-yard pass to Patton Germann (FR/Salt Lake City, Utah) that tied the game at 21 with 6:12 left in the quarter.


Southwestern, though, answered with a seven-play, 55-yard drive, Keyshawn Wyatt scoring from the 1 for a 28-21 lead with 2:29 left in the quarter.


Aaron Main (JR/Tulsa, Okla.)’s 23-yard field goal with 8:33 left in the game cut the deficit to 28-24. The Moundbuilders, though, closed it out with two late touchdowns – Cagle’s 2-yard run with 3:10 left and 36-yard pass to Layke Hoffman with 1:27 remaining, the latter two plays after KWU’s third lost fumble.


“Mistakes we haven’t made all year,” Hendrickson said. “We’re always so sound with ball security and special teams and today we weren’t.”


Cagle, Southwestern’s starter most of last season, suffered a serious knee injury in the spring and was able to make his first start of the 2021 season Saturday. He was 10 of 14 passing for 233 yards, three touchdowns and ran for two scores.


“We knew Cagle had started to play some but I didn’t think we’d see him the entire game – made some miraculous comeback,” Hendrickson said. “He was really good. What makes him effective is he’s efficient and he was definitely efficient in good decision making today.”


Randalle 30 of 38 for 269 yards and two touchdowns. Drevon Macon (JR/Los Angeles, Calif.) had 10 receptions for 50 yards and Williams five for 54 while CJ Fluker (FR/Defiance, Ohio) led the ground attack with 59 yards rushing on 12 carries. Allsman added 58 on 15 attempts.


“We went toe to toe with them and that’s what’s so frustrating because the score is not indicative of the game,” Hendrickson said. “And it really makes you feel that when you look at the stats. … But we just made too many mistakes. It’s a frustrating loss.”