Pioneers humble Lions in season opener

The Lions forced four turnovers and stopped the Pioneers from scoring on two fourth-down plays. (Tom O’Dell / Photo Editor)

Despite a late Lions surge that nearly erased four quarters of languishing offense, the College could not overcome a stifling William Paterson defense, falling in its season opener 15-7.

Following a blocked punt by junior linebacker Brent Ressler in the game’s final minutes, the College was given good field position and a last chance to even the score. The hosting Lions (0-1) reached the opposing 16-yard line with less than a minute remaining before turning the ball over on downs and solidifying the team’s first loss of the season.

“Our passing game was definitely hampered by (William Paterson’s) blitzing,” junior quarterback Jay Donoghue said. “We have to give credit to them for attacking us the way they did. As a quarterback, I was disappointed we couldn’t get something going early. Passing is all about rhythm and we couldn’t establish it.”

Donoghue and sophomore Nick Tyson traded snaps for the Lions on Friday, and although Tyson had some success running the ball, the duo combined for only three completions, 17 yards and an interception.

The offense’s anemic nature was clearly frustrating, but the team did not lose steam after the game’s disappointing midpoint. Down 15-0 at the half, the Lions showed a bit of life when Tyson scored the team’s only touchdown, finding the end zone on a 14-yard run. Tyson finished the game leading the Lions in rushing with 52 yards on 13 attempts.

“Fifteen to nothing looked like a pretty big hole, but we rallied in the scrimmage against Albright when we faced a similar deficit,” Donoghue said. “Nobody wanted to quit and that’s a testament to our coaching. They believe in us and we believe in each other.”

The Lions playing the Pioneers. (Tom O'Dell / Photo Editor)

Sophomore running back Kevin Brown also ran well, picking up 46 yards on only seven attempts and averaging 6.6 yards per carry.

The Lions were much more solid on the defensive end, as they forced four turnovers and stopped the Pioneers on two fourth-down plays in scoring position. The College’s defense, which allowed an average of 32 points last season, also held William Paterson to only two touchdowns in spite of offensive troubles.

“We did hold pretty strong,” senior defensive back Matt Kreider said. “Although I feel we should have limited them to less than one score, we managed to keep the pressure on by bringing blitzes from a variety of different areas throughout the game, and randomizing it in a way so that their offensive line couldn’t have a chance to settle in and get comfortable.”

“Part of our defensive philosophy and what we do is to continuosly bring pressure,” junior linebacker Kevin Allgood said. “Be it a blitz, a D-line stunt, or a combination of both, we are always trying to play behind the line of scrimmage. Negative or zero yardage plays are what we strive for throughout the game. We mixed up our calls and kept their offensive guessing which enabled us to be successful in that aspect. Its a fun defense to not only play but to watch, and we love executing it to the fullest.” Allgood gained 10 total tackles in the loss.

The Pioneers’ offense put up points via a 42-yard score by sophomore running back Dawys German, who finished the game with 106 yards on 18 carries, and a 14-yard touchdown pass by sophomore quarterback Ryan Gresik.

Donoghue remains positive as the bye week approaches. “I think we need this week especially as an offense,” he said. “It usually takes a little longer for an offense to start clicking. I would assume we will continue with our option philosophy and take it to FDU in a couple weeks.”

The College will travel to Farleigh Dickinson University – Florham for a non-New Jersey Athletic Conference game on Sept. 17.