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Defense Sets Up Win and Kordenbrock Finishes First Victory

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Sept. 30, 2017

WORCESTER, Mass. -- Jeffrey Kordenbrock’s 43-yard field goal as time expired lifted Lafayette to a 10-7 win over Holy Cross in the Leopards’ Patriot League opener. The victory marked the first career coaching win for head coach John Garrett and was the first for Lafayette in the final minute since 2009.

The Lafayette defense stood out all afternoon, coming up with big stops again and again, including in the fourth quarter. There was none bigger than 4th-and-1 at the Holy Cross 33 when Brandon Bryant stuffed Diquan Walker for no gain. A replay showed the officials’ spot was accurate following Bryant’s 15th tackle of the game and the Leopards took over on downs with 1:43 left in regulation.

On first down, Garrett dialed up a wide receiver run by Rocco Palumbo that picked up nine yards and stopped the clock as Palumbo went out of bounds. On the two subsequent plays, C.J. Amill was stopped for no gain and a loss of two.

The runs put the ball in the middle of the field and Holy Cross took a timeout with five seconds remaining to give the freshman kicker an opportunity to think about his game-winning attempt. After the timeout, Kordenbrock’s 43-yard kick was good, the longest of his brief career.

In the first quarter, the Leopard defense escaped unscathed. On Holy Cross’ first drive, the Crusaders (2-3, 1-1) settled for a 41-yard field goal that A.J. Wells banged off the left upright and it fell short. On their next drive, Holy Cross faced a 3rd-and-7 at the Lafayette 30. Holy Cross QB Peter Pujals found Tate Beachley open in the endzone, but Beachley dropped the ball. Holy Cross went for it on fourth down and was stopped when Yasir Thomas and Michael Root wrapped up Beachley after a four-yard catch.

The hosts broke the scoreless tie just over three minutes into the second quarter. Miles Alexander ran in a touchdown from eight yards out. The scoring drive started near midfield after a 31-yard punt.

The Leopards’ offense moved near midfield twice in the first half, but both opportunities ended in interceptions (one at the Holy Cross 30 and the other a diving pick by Nick McBeath at Holy Cross 42). The Leopards’ defense was up to the test, keeping the halftime score at 7-0.

The game-tying drive started with 3:49 left in the third quarter after Holy Cross turned it over on downs at the Leopards’ 35. Leopard QB Sean O’Malley hit Palumbo, Amill and Dylan Wadsworth for strikes of 12, 13 and nine yards down to the Holy Cross 32.

Lafayette faced 4th-and-1 from the same spot, and after a timeout O’Malley (27-40-3 for 226 yards) connected with Palumbo (7 rec. for 78 yards) who worked his way through a couple of defenders and into the end zone to tie the game. In the fourth quarter, punts accounted for the first four possessions. When the Crusaders took the ball for the final time, they turned it over on downs instead of opting to punt it away with 1:42 remaining. That set up the Leopards’ game-winning drive.

The Lafayette defense held Holy Cross’ offense in check, limiting the Crusaders to 319 yards (191 in the air and 128 on the ground), all season bests for Lafayette. Bryant led the team with 15 stops (nine solo) and a sack joined by Root with nine tackles and a sack and Jerry Powe with seven stops. Cornerback Phillip Parham had five tackles and two pass breakups.

Lafayette (1-4, 1-0) continues in Patriot League play next Saturday, hosting Fordham at 3:30 p.m.