By Maximillian C. Burgos
The football team showed promise in its season opener on Friday, Sept. 1, against Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham at Lions Stadium, but the team ultimately lost, 38-24.
The Lions drove the ball well in the first half, dominating the opposition, but once senior quarterback Trevor Osler left the game with an apparent injury, the wind left the Lions’ sails. Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham made it rain with their passing game, dropping multiple 40-plus-yard bombs down the field, but the game was much closer than the stat sheet infers.
In the first quarter, the Lions built a 10-7 lead. Their first drive was very methodical, keeping the Lions ahead of the chains. Senior tight end Chase Vena caught the first touchdown of the game over the middle of the endzone.
The crowd went wild as the Lions scored their first touchdown on their first drive of the season. But the Devils answered with a touchdown late in the first quarter on a similar approach that depended heavily on their short-ranged passing attack.
The Lions went into halftime with a 17-10 lead. It looked liked the Lions were going to pull away in the second half as long as they stayed on course. Unfortunately for the Lions fortunes changed when Osler went down with an injury. The rushing attack was still clicking, but the momentum of the game had shifted to the Devils and their aerial attack.
However, there were some standout performances on the field. Senior running back Khani Glover had 75 yards on 10 touches and a pair of touchdowns. Junior running back Connor Owen also punished the Devils defense with his bruising running style and gained 65 yards of his own. Following the game, Glover maintained a positive outlook for the season.
“It felt great to back out here, first game under the lights,” Glover said. “I just did what I do best, run. I knew it going to be a battle and we had to come up with something on offense. We just have to fix our mistakes, look at the film and get better for next week.”
Stepping in for the injured Osler was freshman quarterback Andrew Donoghue. Donoghue was a tad rusty, but he showed glimpses of true athleticism and poise. He totaled 98 yards through the air and 11 on the ground.
Head coach Casey Goff showed confidence in his young quarterback in the case that Osler did not recover for the next week.
“If (Osler) doesn’t come back next week, Andrew’s our guy,” Goff said. “I think the youngster did a great job. He made a few young guy mistakes but his progression has been what we thought it could be. He’s a hell of a football player. If we have to get him out there earlier than anticipated, then so be it.”
Though the Lions defense allowed 593 yards in the air, they did manage to hold the FDU rushing attack to only 13 yards.
Senior linebacker Kevin Hennelly intercepted a pass over the middle in his second play in the game and made a decent return. The Lions could do little with the ball after Osler’s injury though.
Junior linebacker Max Busca led the Lions with 10 tackles and sophomore defensive followed closely with nine tackles. Senior defensive lineman Shane Kelley also posted three tackles, and one of them for a loss. Still, none could stop the aerial attack that FDU demonstrated.
The Lions ultimately fell 38-24. The Lions were clearly disappointed about the loss. Goff spoke about his thoughts on how his team did in the loss.
“I thought effort was there,” Goff said. “I just thought we made some fundamental mistakes, being out of position at times or poor angles to the ball and just missed tackles. I also harp on no big plays on the defensive side. I know they had some dudes, some matchup problems but some people in position have to make plays. We have to take a look at what we are doing and that’s on me.”
There were many positives to take away from the game for the Lions. Their defense will need to work moving forward, but the offense showed the ability to score this year. In their first game, the Lions scored more points than they did in the first six games of last season.
The Lions travel on Saturday, Sept. 9, to play Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Maryland. Frostburg is a fierce opponent that the College has struggled with before. Frostburg is heavily favored in the matchup, but Goff and his Lions seem up to the challenge.