The No. 3 ranked Rowan University Profs drove deep into Lions’ territory, threatening another come-from-behind victory on Friday night. The Lions defense gained possession of the ball with just a minute left, giving the College a 22-20 victory, its first victory over Rowan in five years.
The Lions, 4-1 overall, 2-0 New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) now command first place in the NJAC, followed by Montclair State University (3-1 overall, 1-0 NJAC). The Lions, currently ranked No. 22 in the Don Hansen Division III poll, handed the Profs their first regular season loss since Oct. 13, 2001.
“The last two years, it’s been really close and we’ve been on the short end of the stick,” sophomore cornerback Steve Andrews said. “To get to the playoffs we have had to beat them and that’s how it has been the past two years.”
With just over four minutes of regulation time left in the fourth quarter, senior quarterback Bob Schurtz regained the Lions’ lead when he hurled a 36-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Alan Kotteles.
The Profs blocked a key extra point, which restricted the Lions to only a two-point lead.
The Lions went into the second half with a 7-0 edge over the Profs. Junior running back Patrick Thompson ran a 31-yard touchdown for the Profs with 2:47 left in the third quarter, tying up the game.
Early in the fourth quarter, sophomore kicker Black Abbot scored a 27-yard field goal with 14:15 left to play, giving the Lions a slight 10-7 lead.
Profs Thompson followed up the Lions’ field goal with a 65-yard touchdown at 13:19 in the fourth quarter, which helped push the Profs to their first lead of the game, 14-10.
Senior running back Jon Hedgepeth scored on a three-yard rush with 11:20 left in the game, giving the Lions back the lead, 16-14. Hedgepeth led the Lions in rushing yards with 23 carries for 67 yards.
The Profs mustered a final offensive touchdown with 4:12 left in the fourth quarter, when freshman quarterback Mike Orihel threw a 24-yard pass to senior wide receiver Eugene Racz. This gave the Profs their last lead of the game.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Lions recorded the first touchdown of the night when Schurtz ran ball from the two-yard line.
The 61-yard drive ended with 1:30 left in first-half play. The Lions almost scored a field goal in the first half, after junior linesman Justin Mannick picked off Orihel and returned the ball deep into Profs’ territory.
But, with a minute left in the first half, the Lions were unable to capitalize on Mannick’s interception. Abbot missed the 28-yard field goal, which would have given the Lions a more commanding lead going into halftime.
The Lions were still able to collect 276 yards of total offense, but Rowan’s offense collected 310 offensive yards in the second half alone, which helped contribute to their 396 yard total.Sophomore linebacker Steven Vogt and junior linebacker Ray Bateman each tallied nine tackles for the Lions defense.
“The last couple years, the defense didn’t make the big play at the end of the game,” Andrews said. “This year it was a good test for us and as a defense we came through which is good for our confidence.”
“Its one of the best wins of my college career because it is our biggest NJAC rival,” senior cornerback Jeremy Julio said. “Rowan is always ranked high so it felt good to go out and beat them.”
At the end of the game, with the roaring cheers of defense in the background, junior linemen Michael Sykes and senior defensive lineman Scott Paterson made a crucial stop at the Lions 40-yard line.
Orihel failed to convert a 3 and 14 pass into a first down, turning over the ball for the final time.
The Lions downed the ball from their own 40-yard line to the deafening screams of Lions fans, who realized that for the first time since 1998, the College’s football team defeated Rowan.
The Lions travel for a third straight road game against NJAC rival William Paterson University on Oct. 10, at 7 p.m.