Kings of the Hill: Colgate Football Wins Conference in Thrilling Game

Bill Stoklosa and Paul Kasabian

The pressure was on. The weather was cold. The Patriot League title was on the line, and Colgate football did what they had done all year long. They ran the ball a phenomenal number of times, and their defense overcame a bad first half to perform well in the second and help Colgate secure a come-from-behind victory. This time though the reward was much greater than usual, as Colgate took home the Patriot League title after a hard fought 28-27 win over Holy Cross on Saturday, November 22 at Andy Kerr Stadium.

Things did not start out well for the Raiders as Holy Cross scored on the second play from scrimmage when standout quarterback Dominic Randolph delivered the ball to a wide open Jon Brock, who took the pass and ran the rest of the way for a 75-yard touchdown. Later in the quarter, Colgate tied the score up when sophomore quarterback Greg Sullivan perfectly executed a play-action fake and delivered the ball to junior wide receiver Pat Simonds, who took the ball to the house.

With the score tied at seven, Holy Cross regained the lead on its next possession. It took just three plays to do it, and the drive was capped off when Colgate left another Crusader wide open. This time it was Bill Edgar who collected a Randolph pass and took it 42 yards to the end zone. Colgate’s next drive was a 14-play, 63-yard drive that ate up 7:31. Every play on the drive was a run. The pivotal moment on the drive occurred after senior tailback Jordan Scott, who returned to the starting role after being hampered by an ankle injury, broke loose for a 12-yard gain on fourth-and-one to bring the ball to the Holy Cross one. Scott’s number was called one more time, and he took the ball the remaining yard for the touchdown.

Holy Cross took over in great filed position to start the next drive after Brett McDermott took the kickoff back 29 yards and Colgate got 15 tacked on for a personal foul, giving Holy Cross the ball at the Colgate 36. It didn’t take the Crusaders long to score after that, and on the fourth play of the drive Randolph found McDermott in the endzone by delivering a seven-yard pass to give the Crusaders a 21-14 lead after the PAT.

It looked like Colgate would answer right back on their next drive as they drove to the Holy Cross six. Facing a fourth-and-two, Sullivan executed a play-action fake, but Holy Cross got pressure on him and he threw the ball wide of his intended target, sophomore tight end Nick Cvetic. Cvetic made an awesome diving attempt, but the ball came out and hit the ground as Cvetic tried to pull it in. Holy Cross took over on downs and drove down to the Colgate 19. Holy Cross’ Jon Brock caught a pass from Randolph and ran three full paces with the ball in secure possession before fumbling the ball to the Raiders. However, the referee ruled the pass incomplete. Holy Cross’ Matt Partain nailed a field goal on the next play to stake the Crusaders to a 24-14 lead right before halftime.

The Raiders came out of the half with a run-heavy 79-yard drive that ate up10:09 off the clock. The drive was capped off when Sullivan found Simonds in the corner of the endzone for a 10-yard touchdown strike. Colgate seemed very poised coming out in the second half despite the 10-point hole, and thecoach chocked that up to experience coming back in games all season.

“I think the unique thing about this group is that they don’t look at the score they just go out and play,” Head Coach Dick Biddle said. “They knew the situation. They knew they had a chance, and they also knew we were getting the ball to start the second half and that it was imperative to get some type of score in that situation so that it becomes a one possession game. That’s all we wanted to do. Now if we’d never been behind I’m sure it would have been different, especially in a big game like that, but they’ve done it all year round. That’s the way they are.”

On the next drive, Randolph connected on a 26-yard pass to Luke Chmielinski to bring the ball to the Raider 20. Then Colgate’s defense came up huge and forced three consecutive incomplete passes to hold the Crusaders to a 37-yard field goal attempt. The field goal extended the Holy Cross led to 27-21, but Colgate only needed a touchdown and a PAT to take the lead.

On the ensuing Colgate possession, first-year running back Nate Eachus entered the game for Jordan Scott, who had tweaked his ankle. Eachus had been strong the last two months in place of Scott and he did not disappoint against Holy Cross. The drive began at the Raider 33. Eachus started the drive off with a four-yard run, followed by a 24-yard pass from Sullivan to Simonds. Eachus rushed for four more yards, and then Sullivan executed the classic fake handoff and ran eight yards to pick up the first. Sullivan ran again and picked up five, but then first-year running back Noah Jackson was tackled for a loss of three. Facing a tough third and eight, Sullivan delivered a pass to Eachus, who made a fantastic juggling catch for a 14-yard gain. With the ball now at the Holy Cross 11, Eachus broke off a six-yard run, then powered into the end zone on the next play to even the score at 27.

Jacob Stein nailed the PAT to give the Raiders a 28-27. Now came the tough part, holding Holy Cross’ stellar offense in check.

It looked like the defense might not be up to the task as Randolph led his team down to the Colgate 31. But then, Randolph tired to throw the ball into a tight spot, and it came back to bite him, as junior cornerback Wayne Moten made a great diving pick at the 11-yard line. Colgate tried to keep the ball on the ground and run down the clock while moving the chains, but it only got as far as midfield before Stein punted to the 12. After a holding call the Crusaders were backed up to its six-yard line. A ten-yard pass from Randolph to McDermott brought about a 2nd-and-six, but the Colgate defense forced two straight incomplete passes, and the Crusaders punted the ball away and with 4:26 left on the clock Simonds fair caught the ball at the Raider 46.

Eachus started the drive off in a big way, ripping off a 17-yard run. Two more strong Eachus runs gave Colgate another first down. The Raiders faced a third-and-four from the Holy Cross 20 with 1:54 left on its next set of downs, but Eachus, eked his way past the marker to pick up the first. After two more Eachus runs, Holy Cross used its last time out. There was 1:16 left on the clock. Would they run Eachus again? You bet. He got the ball and powered his way past the marker, but the Holy Cross Crusaders didn’t make an attempt to tackle him, as a touchdown would give the ball them the ball back with time left to tie the game But, Eachus was too clever for them. He dove down at the one yard line to foil their plan. Since the Crusaders had no more time outs, they could not stop the clock. Colgate just had to kneel on it once and the Patriot League title was theirs. After the kneel down the fans who had braved the chilly temperatures stormed the field as the snow began to come down heavy. Cheering fans surrounded ecstatic Colgate players, and the dejected Crusaders had to find it in them to pick themselves off the turf. It was truly a surreal scene.

Quarterback Greg Sullivan was named Patriot League Offensive Player of the week for his performance against the Crusaders. Sullivan threw for 129 yards and two scores on the day, while rushing for 76. All told Colgate had 283 rushing yards on the day, to Holy Cross’ 19. Colgate ran the ball a staggering 69 times. Eachus led the way with 118 yards, despite not starting, and had a very solid 5.6 yards per carry. Scott had a good day, but it was clear he was not yet at full strength. He ran for 82 yards on 3.7 yards per carry. Simonds had another huge day catching the football, pulling in four receptions for 94 yards and two touchdowns. Colgate also played well in the clutch all afternoon. The offense went 10-16 on third down, while the defense held Holy Cross to a 20% success rate. On fourth down the offense was even more impressive, going 3-4. Holy Cross’ Dominic Randolph had a solid day passing with 316 yards and three touchdowns. However, his second half interception and Holy Cross’ lack of a running attack doomed the Holy Cross offense in the second half.

On defense junior defensive tackle Austin Douglas led the way with five tackles and a sack, followed by junior linebacker Greg Hadley with four tackles. Wayne Moten contributed with three tackles and his huge interception. The defense, like it has all season, performed much better in the second half, holding the Crusaders to just three points after halftime. Coach Biddle explained the reasons why his defense has consistently played better in the second half this season.

“On defense you have to adjust to what somebody else is doing, you don’t know what they’re going to do,” Coach Biddle said. “I think the players get comfortable after they’ve seen everything in the first half and they get comfortable with the adjustments. We’re less experienced on defense so it takes them a while. I think the other thing is that our offense in the second half really complements our defense because if you look at us in the second half, our time of possession is extraordinary.”

The win helped earn Coach Biddle his fourth Patriot League Coach of the Year Award and Nate Eachus Patriot League Rookie of the Year. The win also earned Colgate a spot in the NCAA Tournament where it played at Villanova last Saturday.

After riding the coattails of a dramatic come-from-behind 28-27 win against Holy Cross to win the Patriot League, the Raiders traveled to suburban Philadelphia to face the Villanova Wildcats on a sunny day with temperatures in the mid-40’s. The weather was pristine, but it did not reflect the smash mouth football taking place below the blue skies at dank Villanova Stadium. On the opening kickoff, Villanova’s Matt Szczur followed textbook blocking and ran 91 yards into the end zone untouched for the opening score. However, all was not well for the Wildcats, as linebacker Darrel Young, one of Szczur’s lead blockers, was virtually motionless on the field after the calamity that transpired. Medical attendants helped Young for 15 minutes on the field as Villanova Stadium grew eerily quiet. Thankfully, after Young was sent to a nearby hospital, it was revealed that the senior linebacker suffered a sprained neck and not anything worse. When play resumed, Villanova kicker Joe Marcoux pushed a PAT attempt to the right, which was affected by the rush of senior cornerback Chris Ekpo off the line.

Colgate answered back with an impressively effective pasing attack. Unfortunately, disaster struck on the third such pass to Simonds. Sophomore quarterback Greg Sullivan threw a dart to Simonds over the middle for a first down, but a devastating hit from Osayi Osunde jarred the ball high into the air for a lollipop fumble. A few Wildcat players had a shot at the ball but failed to pick it up. However, ‘Cat linebacker Marquis Kirkland grabbed the pigskin and ran 49 yards down the sideline to set ‘Nova up at the ‘Gate 35-yard line. After 4 successful rushing plays, running back Aaron Hall took it in from six yards out, and the Marcoux PAT gave ‘Nova a 13-0 lead.

After Colgate went three-and-out, Villanova endured two sacks from DT Paul Mancuso and sophomore LB Zach Smith. After a terrible 28-yard punt, Colgate took over at the ‘Nova 46-yard line. A Sullivan pass to junior TE Adrien Schriefer got ‘Gate to the 21-yard line en route to Colgate facing a third-and-goal from the 11. Sullivan fell back to pass and targeted Simonds in the end zone, but the wide receiver was knocked in the helmet by Salim Koroma, leading to a pass interference call, giving Colgate the ball at the two-yard line. Senior running back Jordan Scott then took the hand-off and ran into the end zone for yet another rushing touchdown, sending the myriad of Colgate fans into a frenzy in hopes that the 13-7 deficit would be eliminated soon.

However, this would be the apex of happiness for ‘Gate in this game, as a depressing pattern of dominance emerged from the home ‘Cats. Villanova began to assert its dominance on the ground, as the offensive line opened up mile-wide apertures for a collection of running backs. Angelo Barbaro ran in for a five-yard touchdown run, capping off a drive in which ‘Nova had eight rushes for 68 yards. After a Colgate three-and-out, ‘Nova continued to exclusively stick to the running game, as Szczur took a direct snap into the end zone for a four-yard rush, helping ‘Nova claim a 27-7 lead. On their next offensive drive, ‘Nova decided to experiment with a double reverse. WR Phil Atkinson took the ball and sprinted down the sideline 65 yards for a TD. Colgate got the ball back and struggled again and was forced to punt it away. After a 35-yard Szczur catch, Ball scored an eight-yard touchdown. Villanova led 41-7 at the half, much in part to a constant running attack that did not let up.

“We didn’t expect them to run as much as they did,” junior rush end Julieus Barlay said. “We missed tackles that turned two-yard gains into five-yard gains, and when you’re giving up runs like that at five yards a pop, it’s not going to be good. “

With the game effectively out of reach, Szczur continued his career day with a 16-yard catch and run for a touchdown to open the scoring in the second half. Jordan Scott culminated the following drive for the Raiders with a one yard touchdown run. Unfortunately, on Villianova’s next drive, new running back, back-up Louis Ademeyi, made a name for himself behind the beefy offensive line and took the ball 69 yards…to the 1-yard line. Unfortunately for Ademeyi, his hard work was not rewarded, as fullback Anthony Lucidonio scored the touchdown. Marcoux’s PAT gave ‘Nova a 55-14 advantage. At this point, the Wildcats took out most of their starters. Scott rushed for a 2-yard touchdown, the 57th of his illustrious career and Simonds caught his ninth touchdown pass of the season, to end the scoring on the day.

Jordan Scott, who accrued 27 carries for 94 yards and three touchdowns, now owns the FCS record for carries with 1,238. Simonds caught six passes for 82 yards and a touchdown, and Sullivan had 201 net yards. On the other sideline, it can be said that the Wildcats took a page out the Colgate playbook for its formula for success. Villanova’s rushing efforts, which can be largely attributed to the offensive line, proved to be extraordinarily fruitful, as the Wildcats had 44 carries for 386 yards (8.8 YPC) and six touchdowns. ‘Nova QB Chris Whitney threw only seven passes on the day.

Despite the disappointing loss, Colgate had one of the most successful seasons under Head Coach Dick Biddle, finishing undefeated in the Patriot League for the second time in 10 years.

The 2008 squad will be remembered for a litany of themes, namely a three-pronged running attack, dominating offensive line, the “bend but don’t break” defense, and the record breaking. However, at the end of the year, fans will remember this team as “Cardiac Colgate”, which played in some of the most entertaining comeback games in recent memory. Will next year’s squad keep up the trend? The kickoff for the 2009 season is Saturday, September 5 against Monmouth at home.