Raider Football Upsets Minutemen

Raider Football Upsets Minutemen

What a difference one week makes.

Seven days removed from one of the most bitterest defeats in its program’s history, the football team delivered one of the Raiders’ sweetest triumphs, edging the 15th-ranked Minutemen of Massachusetts, 17-14, at Andy Kerr Stadium on Saturday.

“We only had two options in terms of that loss [last week to Central Connecticut]: either crumble and let it dictate the rest of our season, or take it as a lesson and rise to the occasion versus UMass,” said junior safety Geoff Bean. “And as you see, we rose to the occasion.”

On a day when the highly -touted Massachusetts defense was supposed to take center stage, it was the Raider defense that stole the show. Colgate’s defensive unit accounted for eight Minutemen turnovers, scored the Raiders’ only two touchdowns and for three quarters silenced a UMass offense that had put up 30 points against Colgate in last year’s season opener.

“We knew UMass was very good on defense,” head coach Dick Biddle said. “But we had a plan: play turnover-free ball on offense, win the field-position battle and let our defense make plays. We had a little more intensity, a little more enthusiasm and a little more urgency than they did.”

The game started with a flurry of turnovers; neither offense could find its rhythm. Colgate’s defense took the ball from UMass three times in the first quarter alone. The team’s defensive moves included a touchdown-saving interception in the end zone by sophomore cornerback Cody Williams.

Early in the second quarter, jJunior wide receiver Kenny Parker provided the Raiders’ first big offensive play of the game when he gathered in a pass from sophomore quarterback Lee Sloan for a 38-yard gain. Parker’s catch set up a Raider field goal, giving Colgate a 3-0 lead with 10 minutes and 30 seconds left in the first half.

Later in the quarter, Bean made perhaps the most important play of the afternoon, picking off a UMass pass and racing 51 yards for the game’s first touchdown.

“There were so many big defensive plays in the game,” Bean said. “It’s hard to say that my interception was the biggest, but I do believe it gave us more confidence and momentum throughout the game.”

That confidence was noticeable in the play of the entire Raider defense. While the secondary continued to frustrate Minutemen quarterback Tim Day, senior linebacker Jared Nepa and senior defensive tackle Chris Petrone shut down the UMass running attack, which gained only 85 yards in the game. Nepa’s 12 tackles and one interception earned him the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week award.

Colgate’s defense picked up where it left off in the second half. Less than a minute into the third quarter, senior cornerback Chris Williams stripped a UMass receiver of the ball. Williams’ classmate Andrew Moore scooped it up and ran 42 yards down the sideline for a Raider touchdown, giving Colgate a 17-0 advantage.

“We knew this game would be won on the defensive side of the ball,” Williams said. “”The sSecondary’s success came directly from the great play of the defensive line and blitzing linebackers, who put a lot of pressure on the UMass QB.”

After Moore’s score, the Raiders and their fans played the waiting game. Colgate spent much of the fourth quarter trying to keep the ball out of the hands of the explosive UMass offense, which racked up 451 yards despite having been held scoreless for much of the afternoon. UMass put together two quick scoring drives in the fourth quarter to pull within 3 points of Colgate, but the Raider defense held its ground on the Minutemen’s final drive, forcing four consecutive incompletions to seal the win.

While the Raider defense shone against UMass, Colgate’s offense still has plenty of questions to answer as it prepares for Saturday’s match-up against Dartmouth. Sloan replaced injured senior co-captain Mike Saraceno as quarterback, and showing mobility and a strong arm, but he completed only six of 15 pass attempts. He is projected to start tomorrow against the Big Green. The Raider running attack, meanwhile, featured four different ball carriers against UMass, none of whom gained over fifty yards.

“We have lots of fire power on offense,” said senior lineman Todd Mulligan. “We just need to work together and execute the plays with all eleven guys. I think offensive inconsistency happens in the beginning of a season, but now it’s time for us to step up and play. Hopefully a good week of practice and correcting some of our mistakes will help us put some points up on Dartmouth this weekend and get a rhythm for the rest of the season.”

Over sixty of Mulligan’s friends and family showed up to the UMass game, wearing maroon t-shirts modeled after the team’s jersey and bearing their hero’s number 70.

“I think the support from all the fans at the game helped us, and it was definitely exciting for me on a personal level,” Mulligan said. “But ultimately I think the difference was made on the field by the players and coaches. The defense especially played an amazing game. I have to give them the props that they deserve.”

The Raiders play the Big Green of Dartmouth tomorrow in Hanover, NH, with the kickoff scheduled for 1 p.m.