Fourth-Quarter Rally Comes Up Six Points Short
Sept. 21, 2013
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PHILADELPHIA - Lafayette rallied from a 20-point third quarter deficit before coming up six points short of reigning Ivy League champion Penn on Saturday night at Franklin Field. Penn collected a 27-21 decision, snapping the Leopards' two-game series win streak against the Quakers.
Lafayette played from behind the entire rainy night. The defense found itself in several short field situations in the first half, but managed to hold Penn to 13 points before intermission.
Things started out well, defensively. Shane Brady, who earned the start at safety, registered his first career interception, picking off Billy Ragone on Penn's first possession.
Ragone, a fifth-year senior, evened things out statistically midway through the first quarter, completing a five-yard touchdown pass to Spencer Kulcsar for 7-0 lead at 9:15 on a drive that covered 65 yards in eight plays.
The Penn (1-0) defense got to Lafayette QB Zach Zweizig on the Leopards' next possession. David Park sacked Zweizig and forced a fumble. Penn took over at the Lafayette 22, but the Leopard defense was up to the task. Steve Mercado dropped a Penn ballcarrier for a loss of three yards.
Connor Loftus' subsequent 34-yard field goal missed, but he did add a 30-yarder as the quarter closed for a 10-0 Quaker lead.
Lafayette got on the board on its first drive of the second quarter, completing a seven-play, 63-yard drive at 12:40. Zweizig hit Mark Ross for a 29-yard touchdown strike on an acrobatic catch while Ross (6 catches, 70 yards) was wearing a defensive back. Ryan Gralish's PAT made it 10-7 at 12:40.
The Quakers added a 39-yard field goal with 7:52 left in the half. Zweizig was knocked from the game late in the first half and did not return, relieved by sophomore QB Andrew Dzurik.
In the second half, Dzurik was back under center. His first attempt of the half was picked off at the Lafayette 43. The Quakers used the resulting drive to stretch their lead to 20-7. Penn churned out 26 yards on the ground, but it was a four-yard scoring toss to Mitch King that gave Penn the 13-point advantage.
With a little more than six minutes left in the third, Penn had the ball 2nd-and-goal at the seven. The snap was botched and it looked like Lafayette would drop Penn for a big loss. Kulcsar scooped up the ball and ran it around the left end for a 27-7 lead with 6:11 left.
Lafayette began to mount its comeback in the fourth quarter. The Leopards' defense forced a punt and Matt Smalley broke through to block it, allowing the ball to travel just 11 yards. The Lafayette offense put together a nine-play drive, using five running plays by Greg Kessel and Ross Scheuerman. Scheuerman's second straight seven-yard run made it 27-14 with 10:51 remaining in the game.
Defensively, Lafayette allowed only one first down on the next drive, forcing a punt. The Leopards took over with 7:34 left and marched 86 yards for a score. The crucial play on the drive was a 3rd-and-10 at the Penn 25 when Dzurik hit Justin Adams for a 24-yard first down. Scheuerman finished the drive with a one-yard TD plunge to pull Lafayette within six, 27-21 with 5:31 left.
Lafayette looked to its defense again and the unit responded. The Leopards forced a three-and-out and took over at their own 38 with three minutes and two timeouts left. The Leopards held Penn to 37 yards of offense in the fourth quarter while Lafayette's offense piled up 154.
Dzurik (12-22-2 for 157 yards) immediately found Hall for a 10-yard gain before the drive stalled. Penn stuffed Scheuerman for a loss of one at the line. Then a botched snap moved Lafayette 13 yards farther away. Lafayette took a delay of game penalty that put the Leopards 4th-and-29 at the 33-yard line. Lafayette dialed up the hook and ladder to Ross, but his lateral was ruled a forward pass, turning the ball over to Penn to end the game.
Lafayette (0-3) will open Patriot League play on Oct. 5, hosting Bucknell at 3:30 p.m.