Colgate senior defensive tackle Josh Wurst hails from Milford, N.J., a 15-minute drive from Lafayette College. When the Raiders traveled to Easton on Saturday to take on the Leopards, Wurst was – at least from the Colgate perspective – a local hero.
Wurst’s fumble recovery in the first quarter set up a Raider field goal, while his interception in the fourth quarter set up a touchdown. Lafayette’s “Wurst” nightmare also had six tackles and a sack.
“I was just in the right place at the right time during most of the game, to the point where I was given the opportunity to make some big plays,” Wurst said.
With Wurst leading the way, the Raider defense forced four turnovers and held the Leopards to two touchdowns. Colgate came away with a hard-fought 18-15 victory.
Junior wide receiver Kenny Parker’s 20-yard touchdown reception with 1:10 left in the game gave the Raiders a dramatic and much-needed victory.
With the win, Colgate secured its tenth consecutive winning season and put itself in position to vie for the Patriot League title. The Raiders are now tied for first place in the Patriot League with a 3-1 league record with two games remaining.
“I didn’t really look at this game as a game to salvage our season,” Wurst said. “I knew we could win and I know we can win the remainder of our games.”
It wasn’t all Wurst on defense. Senior linebacker Jared Nepa turned in another outstanding performance, registering 14 tackles. Sophomore Cody Williams added 12 tackles and a fumble recovery of his own.
The Raider defense was tested early, however. Lafayette drove to the Colgate four-yard line on its first possession. But Colgate junior safety “Big Play” Geoff Bean forced a fumble at the goal line, which Williams recovered in the end zone.
Colgate’s defensive unit forced fumbles on Lafayette’s next two possessions as well.
“When it came down to it, guys stepped up when they needed to,” Wurst said. “Whether it was [senior defensive end Tom] Cassano breaking up a pass in the fourth quarter on third down, [senior defensive tackle Chris] Petrone playing through a sprained ankle, or just pure hustle by everyone to get to the ball carrier, everyone on defense buckled down when they needed to make sure the game didn’t slip out of our hands.”
On the offensive side of the ball, senior quarterback Mike Saraceno passed for 236 yards and two touchdowns, while first year Jordan Scott paced the Raider running attack with 109 yards on 31 carries.
Saraceno and Scott hooked up for the first Raider touchdown – a 20-yard screen pass – early in the fourth quarter, giving the Raiders a slim 12-7 advantage. The subsequent two-point conversion attempt failed when Saraceno’s pass fell incomplete, keeping the margin at five. Lafayette answered with a 49-yard drive capped by Jonathan Hurt’s four-yard touchdown run. After a Scott fumble and a Lafayette punt, Colgate got the ball back at its own 32-yard line with 3:55 left in the game.
On third-and-seven from midfield, Saraceno found sophomore receiver Eric Burke for a 32-yard gain. Two plays later, he hit Parker in the end zone for the game-winning score. With a chance to put the Raiders up by four, first-year kicker Jacob Stein, who hit two field goals in the first half, missed his second extra point of the game.
Down just three points, the Leopards attempted a 49-yard field goal with under a minute left to play in an effort to tie the game. The kick sailed wide left and the Raiders emerged victorious.
With the playoffs back in their sights, the Raiders host Bucknell tomorrow at 1 p.m. at Andy Kerr Stadium, looking to avenge a 42-7 blowout loss to the Bison a year ago.
“We’re anxious to play Bucknell this week,” Wurst said. “There’s a lot on the line now and we still have a chip on our shoulder from last year’s game. I think this year we’re going to be more focused and better prepared. We’re not willing to compromise the Patriot League Championship and we’re not going to let what happened last year happen again.”