Running Wild: Lions set yardage record

Justin Doniloski speeds away from the defense. (Tom O'Dell / Photo Assistant)
Justin Doniloski speeds away from the defense. (Tom O'Dell / Photo Assistant)

Long live the spread offense.

The Lions’ latest strategy of destruction through division paid heavy dividends on Friday, as the team pulverized Fairleigh Dickinson University – Florham 58-28, setting a new yardage record in the process.

The 2-0 Lions gained a school record 708 total yards, attacking for a balanced 369 yards through the air and 339 yards on the ground at home.

“The game plan was to spread the field and take advantage of the matchups in the secondary,” head coach Eric Hamilton said. “We wanted to put the pressure on from the get-go.”

The College flew out of the gate versus FDU, exploding for 27 points in the first quarter, highlighted by three touchdown grabs of 40 yards or more between senior quarterback Chris James and senior wide receivers Mark Gardner and Colin Weber.

“With our rushing in the first game, FDU knew that we could run so they tightened up the box and had man on man with our wide receivers, and then it’s just one on one, so Colin and Mark really stepped up,” James said.

Christopher James rears back for a deep pass. (Tom O'Dell / Photo Assistant)
Christopher James rears back for a deep pass. (Tom O'Dell / Photo Assistant)

“It was an overall effort by the entire offense that allowed Chris and I to connect down field,” Weber added. “The offensive line was blocking well, and with the threat of our running game, it’s tough for a defense to account for all the wide receivers down field.”
Weber finished with a game-high six receptions for 199 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

Leading 27-0 after the first quarter, the College took to the ground, using superior passing to open up the run game. The Lions scored three times running the ball in the second quarter, led by sophomore running back Justin Doniloski’s second score of the game, a 90 yard dash past Devil defenders.

“We opened up with our passing game and that definitely opened up the running lanes for me, Mike (Yetka), Chase (Misuira) and Kevin (Brown),” Doniloski said. “The line opened up the holes and we collectively ran hard as a group and executed the game plan.”

The Lions entered the half leading 48-7, two points shy of the school record for points in that span set against Ramapo College in 1980.

“It’s always great when your offense can get rolling from the start the way that we did,” senior wide receiver Cameron Richardson said.

“When we score on long plays and on consecutive drives like that, it kind of sends a message to the other team like ‘hey these guys came to play’ and I think they might have been feeling the pressure as we continued to score throughout the first half.”

Richardson, a team captain, was sidelined for the game with a high ankle sprain suffered in last week’s 47-31 victory over Buffalo State College.

The Lions coasted through the second half for the big win, which James attributes to his protectors up front.

“The biggest part of our victory and our 708 yards was the offensive line up front, because without them it doesn’t matter,” he said. “It all starts with them.”

Although the Lions have pounded their first two opponents, who combined for only four victories last season, the team must look ahead to some more difficult opponents.

“Now we play eight straight tough, physical New Jersey Athletic Conference games,” Hamilton said. “The next couple of weeks will be a tough test. The last two weeks were just a prep for what is coming. We have to concentrate on who we are playing and play a complete game.”

The Lions will finish a three-game home stand at noon on Saturday as the team hosts the Mustangs of Morrisville State College.

“I’m excited to see what we will be like for the rest of the season. This is a big game because 2-0 doesn’t mean anything if you are 2-1 next week,” James said.