Colgate Football Advances to National Quarterfinals


Sophomore quarterback Grant Breneman throws a pass in enemy territory. The standout quarterback led the Raiders to an epic comeback win.

It was like something out of a movie: the game was tied at 20- 20 and three seconds remained on the clock as a spot in the national quarterfinals hung in the balance. Junior kicker Chris Puzzi lined up in the center of the hash marks, and sent a 38-yard kick through the uprights to clinch a monumental 23-20 victory, which sent the Raiders into the next round of the national tournament. The game was the first NCAA playoff game hosted at Colgate since 2002.

Played against the #6 nationally-ranked James Madison University (JMU) Dukes, this was Colgate football’s biggest game of the season and most important matchup since 2015, when the team reached the national quarterfinals.

According to Colgate Athletics, the stands were packed with 6,418 people, as students, families and friends gathered to cheer on the Raiders. With their win, the #8 seeded Raiders will now face #1 seeded and #1 nationally-ranked North Dakota State University on Saturday, December 8 in Fargo, North Dakota.

JMU was first to get on the scoreboard. Jawon Hamilton returned the opening kickoff 37-yards, and then, just three plays later, the Dukes reached the end zone. The Dukes were able to convert, making the score 7-0. At half time, Colgate trailed 10-6.

The Raiders did not have a great start to the third quarter, fumbling on the first snap. However, their strong defense was able to keep the Dukes to only scoring a field goal. Colgate then had a big offensive drive, gaining 75 yards in just six plays. Colgate’s sophomore quarter- back Grant Breneman made a pass to senior linebacker James Holland, who gained 28 yards for the Raiders, bringing Colgate to the JMU 41 yard-line. A couple plays later, Breneman ran for 32 yards to tie up the game at 13-13.

Colgate used this tie as momentum and continued to have success offensively. Breneman found senior wide receiver Owen Rockett, who gained 39 yards on the play. Next, he hit senior wide receiver Owen Buscaglia for a gain of 20 yards, putting the Raiders on the JMU 17-yard line. Breneman connected with Rockett again, who scored a 14-yard touchdown for the Raiders, putting them ahead 20-13.

The Raiders did not let up defensively, intercepting passing on the next two possessions, but unfortunately were not able to convert these interceptions into touchdowns. They had a couple big stops toward the end of the game, stopping the JMU fake-punt and allowing Colgate to regain possession with just 2:46 remaining on the clock.

Colgate then performed offensively, finding Rockett and Holland to gain yards on the Dukes. JMU tried to stop this momentum, calling timeouts to breakup time, but Colgate pushed on and the 38-yard field goal secured the victory.

Junior offensive lineman, Louie Berkowitz, commented on the Raiders’ win and their season.

“In the beginning of the sea- son we set goals for ourselves to reach the playoffs and win games. We’ve worked extremely hard to reach this point and have been successful because every teammate has fully bought in. An exciting playoff win in December at Andy Kerr is just the beginning,” Berkowitz said.

This victory puts Colgate at 10-1 on the season, with its 15th straight win over a Football Championship Subdivision opponent. The Raiders are now ready to prepare for their game against North Dakota State, who are the defending national champions and winners of six of the last seven NCAA crowns. Kickoff is at noon eastern time on ESPN or 04 WKXZ-FM.

Contact Kate Kelly at [email protected]