The Colgate football season has been rife with interesting storylines. The emergence of first-year running back Nate Eachus and sophomore quarterback Greg Sullivan, Head Coach Dick Biddle becoming the winningest coach in Colgate football history and the sheer domination of the offensive line are a few of the most important headlines, but the storyline that may catapult the Raiders to the Patriot League Championship is their dominance in the second half of games. Colgate has outscored its opponents, 154-89 in the second half and 92-40 in the fourth quarter alone. Furthermore, the Raiders have made four second-half comebacks this season, which has been crucial in giving the Raiders a stellar 7-2 record.
The fourth second-half comeback of the season took place last Saturday at Andy Kerr Stadium, where Colgate overcame a 10-0 halftime deficit and defeated No. 21 Lafayette, 21-13 in front of 6,721 fans during Parents Weekend. The win propelled the Raiders to a 3-0 Patriot League record and a tie with Holy Cross for first place, possibly setting up a game for the title when Holy Cross visits Colgate on Saturday, November 22 for the last game of the regular season.
Both teams were banged up leading into the game, as Colgate senior running back Jordan Scott was still hobbled by a sprained ankle and was limited to only two carries, while Lafayette superstar linebacker Andy Romans was forced to come off the bench, and first-year running back Jerome Rudolph had to start in place of Lafayette RB Maurice White.
The game started ominously for the Raiders, as Sullivan threw an interception to CB Carlos Lowe on the game’s opening drive, giving Lafayette great field position on the Colgate 48-yard line. However, the Leopards could make nothing of it after going three-and-out. But Colgate did the same on its next drive, and Lafayette once again got great field position on its own 45-yard line. This time around, though, the Leopards took advantage of the opportunity and marched down the field for a touchdown. QB Rob Curley completed a 20-yard screen pass to RB Jerome Rudolph on third-and-10 to set Lafayette up at the Colgate 5-yard line after Rudolph received some great blocking downfield. After a one-yard Rudolph run on first-and-goal, Curley’s number was called again, and he threw a 4-yard play-action TD pass to fullback Joe Russo. The ensuing PAT gave Lafayette a 7-0 lead.
On the other side of the ball, Colgate’s offense continued to struggle. Sullivan, who played the game with a sprained ankle, struggled to find his rhythm in the first half, as he finished the frame by completing just one of nine passes for three yards and an interception. However, the Colgate defense bottled down Curley’s crew, allowing only a 47-yard Davis Rodriguez field goal throughout the rest of the first half.
The Leopards started with the ball in the second half, and they wasted no time getting down the field. The always pesky Lafayette wide receiver Shaun Adair caught three passes for 48 yards on this drive, including a 30-yard catch that set Lafayette up at the Colgate 18-yard line. Lafayette then marched 13 more yards down the field to set up a first-and-goal from the five. Curley pitched the ball back to Rudolph, who ran to the outside on a zone play, hoping to find daylight. However, Rudolph would have not of it, as junior linebacker Greg Hadley forced a fumble that was recovered by ‘Gate sophomore linebacker Zach Smith at the 8-yard line.
“[The outside zone play] is like their bread and butter play,” Hadley said. “Me and [first-year linebacker] Mike Carbone pursued, [junior safety] Uzi Idah cut out the lead blocker, and we were waiting for Rudolph to cut back, and as soon as he did, I got him.”
The forced fumble seemed to rejuvenate life in the Colgate offense, as the Raiders wasted no time in going on a 9-play, 92-yard drive that was capped off by a 7-yard Nate Eachus touchdown run. On the drive, Eachus pounded his way for 43 rushing yards, while Sullivan found sophomore wide receiver Doug Rosnick open in the secondary twice: one time for 23 yards and another time for 17 yards. The most startling stat of the drive was that Colgate only found itself in a third down situation once, but funny enough, this offensive success can be partially attributed to the Raiders’ stellar defense.
“The [Rudolph fumble] was the play of the game,” Eachus said. ” From there, we decided to dominate. We just got momentum after that play, got the ball back, and never looked back. And the Lafayette D just wore out.”
Lafayette responded to the Eachus touchdown with a 35-yard field goal, but the Raider offensive machine kept chugging along. After junior tight end Adrien Schriefer returned a short kickoff to the Colgate 46-yard line, the Raiders began what would be a game-winning and heart-stopping touchdown drive. However, it did not come without some trials and tribulations on the way. Head Coach Dick Biddle decided to go for it on fourth-and-two from the Lafayette 46, and Sullivan took a keeper and easily ran past the first down marker with nothing but green in front of him.
However, Lafayette safety Nigel Bryant stripped the ball. A collective gasp went up in the air as the ball bounced on the Field Turf, but junior wide receiver Pat Simonds made a clutch hustle play by recovering the ball at the 35-yard line. The gracious Sullivan then schooled all 11 players on the Lafayette D by taking yet another keeper 35 yards into the end zone, and the PAT gave Colgate its first lead of the game, 14-13.
It was now the Colgate defense’s turn to shine. Senior safety David Morgan sacked QB Marc Quilling, who replaced an injured Rob Curley, to put Lafayette in a 3rd-and-21 situation that it could not recover from, and the Leopards were forced to punt it away at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Once Colgate got the ball back, it was Eachus’ job to milk the clock and put the game away. And after a 16-play, 76-yard drive that took 8:26 off the clock, Eachus did just that by scoring his second touchdown with a one-yard run.
“I give all the credit in the world to the O-Line,” Eachus said. “It’s the best in the nation. “Having two All-American offensive tackles (seniors Steve Jonas and Nick Hennessey) is unbelievable. The O-Line carries the team to wins.”
Lafayette had a last chance to win with 3:56 remaining, but the Leopards put their car in reverse and actually lost 11 yards on the drive. Junior defensive end Austin Douglas took part in two sacks on the drive.The Leopards were forced to punt the ball away, and Colgate milked the clock down to zero with some Eachus runs.
Although Eachus’ 34 carries for 171 yards were undoubtedly impressive, the story of the game was the amazing strength of the Colgate defense, which has struggled at times this season.
“We didn’t really change much with the scheme,” Hadley said. “Lack of communication was a problem in the Bucknell game, so all three defensive units met separately this week, and we got our communication down,”
Hadley added, “We knew that it would come down to our D (in the Lafayette game). We knew that it would come down to our performance. The scheme was great, simple and effective. We were really focused on the game this week, and we came together as a D.”
Hadley, who was the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week and received national honors from the College Sporting News, finished the game with 10 tackles and a forced fumble. Those are amazing stats, but the most startling defensive number of the day is that the Leopards did not gain a single yard on any of its last six offensive plays of the game. In fact, the Leopards lost a total of 22 yards on those six plays.
By virtue of the win, Colgate is now ranked 24th in the College Sports Network poll.
Next up for the Raiders is a trip to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to take on the 3-5(2-1 PL) Lehigh Mountain Hawks, which has lost four of its five games by single digits. Jordan Scott’s status for the game is still up in the air, as he is day-to-day.