After being stomped on by an elusive Pioneer, the Lions added another chapter to a season that, so far, has been a tale of feast or famine.
At home the College is 4-0, devouring opponents for an average of 55 points per game with an average differential of more than 23 points.
Away from Lions Stadium, as they were Saturday in their 28-43 loss to William Paterson University, the Lions are now 0-2.
Much like their 7-28 loss to Kean University, the Lions’ defense was unable to withhold its opposing rushing attack, as 220-pound sophomore running back Marcus McKinney burned the Lions for 224 yards and four touchdowns on 42 carries.
“(McKinney) was a really big back, probably the biggest we have faced all year,” senior wide receiver Cameron Richardson said. “We are an undersized defense and we are opportunistic, but we got overpowered as we were not used to tackling such a big back.”
“We couldn’t respond to the physical pounding and our guys wore down, especially at the second level,” head coach Eric Hamilton added. “A lead with a power ground game is tough to beat.”
McKinney’s dominance was on display early in the fourth quarter when the back gained 94 yards on 12 carries, leading the Pioneers from their own six-yard line to the end zone for his fourth touchdown.
Although McKinney torched the Lions late, the College led 28-14 into the third quarter on the strength of two connections between senior quarterback Chris James and senior wide receiver Mark Gardner. James hit Gardner early in the first quarter for a 57-yard strike to break the scoreless tie, and again in the third quarter for four yards to give the Lions a two-score cushion before surrendering the lead.
“On both sides of the ball, our execution deteriorated,” Hamilton said. “After we scored to take the lead, the wheels fell off starting with poor kick coverage and special teams play that let them back in the game. Momentum was tough to get back and we were physically handled on both lines of scrimmage.”
“Their defense was very aggressive and excited because it was their homecoming,” Richardson added. “They definitely scouted us well and were able to take away the bigger plays we had been having and were able to stop our rhythm.”
The Lions’ defense also played a large role in the early goings, grabbing an interception and forcing two fumbles which led to three College touchdowns on offense.
The College will look for its fifth home win at 2 p.m. on Saturday as the Lions take on the Red Hawks of Montclair State University for its annual Homecoming Game.
“We expect a lot out of Montclair,” Richardson said. “They’re probably going to be a lot like Willie P with bigger, more athletic players than us. They always play aggressive and it’s always a good game. We really have to pay attention to little things this week because we know they are looking to kick our ass.”
Hamilton added, “With so many of our former players coming back and the fact that it is not only a very good Montclair team, it is a long standing rivalry that I hope our guys get caught up in by the end of the week. There’s no better way to shake off a disappointing loss that and exciting upset win.”