Last-Second Field Goal Shocks Leopards in Opener
Sep 7, 2013
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EASTON, Pa.- Sacred Heart's freshman kicker Alec Finney booted home a 42-yard field goal as time expired to push the Pioneers past Lafayette in first game of the Leopards' 130th season.
The game did not look like it was going to come down to a last-minute field goal. With 3:08 on the clock and trailing 23-17, the Leopards put together a four-play, 72-yard drive. Junior quarterback Zach Zweizig completed three straight passes to three different receivers. He found Demetrius Dixon for an 18-yard gain, followed by a 22-yard catch by Mark Ross. Then Justin Adams caught a ball and stepped out of bounds at the Sacred Heart 12-yard line.
Zweizig handed the ball off to Ross Scheuerman who hit a big hole on the opposite side of a blitzing linebacker for easy score that put Lafayette ahead 24-23 with 2:02 left on the clock.
The Pioneers (2-0) started what would be a controversial drive on their own 21-yard line. Quarterback R.J. Noel found Tyler Dube for a nine-yard pickup on first down and another time for 10 yards out of a timeout at 1:21.
Coming out of a second timeout, Lafayette appeared to close out the game, as DeOliver Davis intercepted Noel at the 22-yard line. The Leopards, however, were flagged for roughing the passer, negating the turnover.
Sacred Heart advanced the ball to the 25, where the Pioneers settled for a 42-yard field goal attempt, the first of Finney's career. Sacred Heart called its final timeout with three seconds left on the clock. Finney's kick was just long enough to clear the crossbar.
The game ended harshly, but started smoothly. Sophomore Matt Smalley took the opening kickoff back 98 yards for a touchdown. The return set a new school record, surpassing Andrew May's 97-yard kick return vs. Holy Cross in 2000.
On Sacred Heart's first possession, Noel capped a three-play, 81-yard drive with a 66-yard rushing touchdown. He finished the day with 121 yards on the ground to go along with 152 (17-26-1) in the air.
The Leopards took the next possession to the one-yard line. Starting 1st-and-goal at the seven, Zwezig picked up five and Scheuerman (21 carries for 95 yards) followed with another yard on second down. The Pioneers stuffed fullback Pat Creahan and then knocked Scheuerman for a loss of one to end the threat with the game still tied at 7-7.
On the first play of the second quarter, Lafayette took the lead with Ryan Gralish's 19-yard field goal. As the quarter came to a close, Sacred Heart drove 68 yards on seven plays including a 24-yard pass from Noel to Sean Bell. Greg Moore reeled in a one-yard TD for the 14-10 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, Sacred Heart's Chris Rogers' converted a 28-yard field goal at 4:55. The Lafayette offense responded with a touchdown. Mark Ross grabbed a Zweizig pass in the end zone to knot the game at 17-17. Ross finished with 11 catches for 156 yards, his fourth straight game with 100 or more receiving yards and the 10th of his career.
Rogers added two more field goals in the fourth quarter, the second coming at 10:22 for a 23-17 advantage.
The Leopards' next drive saw them move the ball to the Sacred Heart 14, but Zweizig's fourth-down offering to Creahan was incomplete. The Leopards' defense, which was led on the night by Jared Roberts and Mike Boles with 10 tackles apiece, forced a punt that set up the go-ahead TD at 3:08.
Lafayette remains at home, hosting the CAA's William & Mary on Sept. 14 at 6 p.m.
NOTES: Ross' continues to leave an indelible imprint on the Lafayette recordbooks. He is now the lone recordholder for receiving touchdowns with 20 (breaking a first-place tie with Phil Ng '89). He advanced to sixth place in career receiving yards with 1,889, surpassing Mark Layton '11 (1780) and ranks eighth for career receptions (135).
Lafayette was without starting TE Brandon Hall and starting DE James Coscia who missed the game with injuries.
The Leopards started freshman Andy Labudev at defensive tackle and sophomore Bobby DePietro at defensive end.