Crusader March: Football Loses Season Finale

Bill Stoklosa

Even though the Raiders were already eliminated from postseason contention, Colgate entered its final game of the year against Holy Cross with a chance to earn a share of the Patriot League title with a win and a Fordham loss. While Bucknell beat Fordham, 31-21, Colgate couldn’t hold up its end of the bargain, as a poor second half doomed the Raiders to a 27-20 defeat in Worchester, Massachusetts on Saturday, November 17.

Holy Cross started the game in grand fashion when Brett McDermott ran the opening kickoff back 72 yards to the Colgate 27-yard line. However, the Crusaders’ chance to go up early was thwarted when running back Terrance Gass fumbled the ball away at the Colgate 13. After Colgate senior defensive tackle Jim Meara pounced on the ball, the Raiders proceeded to march all the way to the endzone. Most of the load was carried by junior running back Jordan Scott, who punched the ball in from four yards out to put the Raiders on top, 7-0 after the PAT.

Colgate scored on its next possession as well, as Scott led an 80-yard drive straight to the endzone. Once again, it was Scott who scored the touchdown – this time from one yard out – to put Colgate up 14-0 with 13:53 left to go in the second quarter. The big play on the drive was a 26-yard pass from junior quarterback Alex Relph to sophomore wideout Ty Henry. However, Holy Cross got back in it when Dominic Randolph connected on a 35-yard strike to Gass, cutting the deficit to seven points with 8:15 left in the second quarter. The Crusaders would score once more in the half thanks to a 41-yard Matt Partain field goal, and Colgate entered the intermission with a 14-10 lead.

Colgate fired the opening salvo of the second half. The Raiders got the ball on the opening kickoff and drove 73 yards to the endzone. Behind a stellar offensive line, Scott ran right through the Crusader defense and capped off the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run. But senior kicker Mike Buck missed an extra point for the first time all year, so Colgate’s lead remained at 10 points early on in the third quarter.

Holy Cross quickly answered back, as Partain connected on 27-yard field goal to make the score 20-13 in Colgate’s favor. The Raiders got the ball back and went on a 62-yard drive that lasted 6:59 and ate up the rest of the third quarter, but the beautiful drive ended in disaster for the Raiders. With Colgate on the Holy Cross 15, the game’s momentum took a 180-degree turn when Casey Gough picked off a Relph pass in the end zone.

“We were going in to go up two touchdowns,” Head Coach Dick Biddle said. “We turned the ball over and that changed the momentum. The ball was a little under thrown in the end zone. We just didn’t execute it well.”

Just over a minute later, Holy Cross knotted the game up with a lightning-fast, four-play, 80-yard drive. Randolph completed two huge passes on the play: a 37-yard pass to Jon Brock that put Holy Cross in Colgate territory, and a 26-yard pass to Brett McDermott that put the Crusaders in the endzone. The ensuing extra point tied the game at 20.

Colgate was forced to punt on its next possession, and Holy Cross took over on its own 31. The Crusaders engineered another precision passing drive. Every play was a pass, and Randolph went six-for-seven with 69 passing yards on the drive. Justin Maher caught a three-yard touchdown pass that gave Holy Cross the lead for the first time all game with 7:28 left in the fourth quarter.

On Colgate’s next drive, Casey Gough continued his stellar game by intercepting a Relph pass for the second time. But the ‘Gate defense stayed strong and forced Holy Cross to punt. Colgate drove the ball to midfield, but on third-and-ten, Relph was intercepted a third time courtesy of Kyle Mushaweh with less than four minutes remaining. Colgate got one last chance after a turnover-on-downs with 14 seconds left, but Adam Sadowski sacked Relph as time expired to end the contest. The Raiders wasted a super effort from Jordan Scott, as the junior phenom rushed for 206 yards and three touchdowns.

“All year long [Scott] has been a great running back,” Biddle said. “As the year has gone on, the offensive line has gotten better and blocked really well. What he is doing is incredible. He is one of the best players in [FCS subdivision] in my opinion.”

In his final game as a Raider, the stupendous senior linebacker Mike Gallihugh once again led the team in tackles with six. He was one of the key players on a team that finished in the three-way tie for second place at 4-2 in the Patriot League, up from fifth place last year.

Though Colgate is losing the heart and soul of its defense, things are looking up going into next season.

“Expectations will probably be a lot higher,” Biddle said. “We get nine starters back on offense. I think expectations for that unit will be extremely high. On defense we lose our three captains (Gallihugh, cornerback Cody Williams, and tackle Pat Nolan), but we still have seven out of eleven starters coming back.”

The most important returnee will of course be Scott, who will be the centerpiece of the offense next year. Colgate reversed its overall record of 4-7 last year with a three-game improvement this year, and a similar victory gain next year will probably mean a return to the Division I-FCS playoffs for the Raiders.