Leopards' Defense Pounds Holy Cross
Oct. 20, 2012
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EASTON, Pa. -- The Lafayette defense continued its outstanding play, picking off two more passes while registering a season-high six sacks for a loss of 40 yards in the Leopards' 30-13 win over Holy Cross on Homecoming Weekend on College Hill.
The 5-2 Leopards, who lead the nation with 17 interceptions, held Holy Cross to 244 yards of total offense (47 rushing, 197 passing) on Saturday at Fisher Stadium. Mike Boles picked off his first pass of the season late in the fourth quarter to put away the game. He finished with eight tackles. Darius Safford's third INT of the year came in the first half, resulting in a field goal. Rick Lyster had two sacks and two QB hurries for the Leopards.
Offensively, Mark Ross registered his fourth straight 100-yard receiving game, reeling in a 12 catches for a career-best 168 yards and a touchdown. Ross is the first Leopard player since John Weyrauch '04 to have four or more 100-yard receiving games. Weyrauch had six straight at the end of 2001 and the first two games of the 2002 season.
In the first quarter after punts by each team on their opening possession, Lafayette (5-2, 2-0) put together a 65-yard drive that ended with a 42-yard Ryan Gralish field goal attempt that hit off the outside of the right upright and kept the game scoreless. The drive stalled at the Holy Cross 25 after three third-down conversions kept the defense on the field. The first was a 3rd-and-2 pass from Andrew Shoop to Jamel Smith that picked up three yards at Lafayette's 29-yard line. Later in the drive, Shoop scrambled for six yards on 3rd-and-6 before completing a six-yard pass to Justin Adams on 3rd-and-3 at the Crusaders' 38.
The Leopards were first on the scoreboard midway through the second quarter with a five-play, 71-yard drive that spanned 2:20. Two penalties to start the drive put Lafayette in a 1st-and-20, but Shoop connected on passes of seven (Brandon Hall), 20 and 43 yards (Ross) to set up a 1st-and-goal from the Holy Cross 10. Shoop took the snap to his right and dove to the pylon to score and put Lafayette up 6-0. Gralish missed the PAT wide to the right.
Safford picked off Steven Elder (23-34 for 197 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT) at the Holy Cross 47-yard line to end Holy Cross' next possession before Gralish knocked in a 31-yard field goal to give Lafayette a 9-0 lead with just over a minute remaining in the half. Lafayette took the 9-0 advantage into the locker room, the second straight week Lafayette shut out its opponent in a half.
Lafayette extended its lead early in the second half after the defense forced a three-and-out thanks to a sack by Tahir Basil on the first play from scrimmage. Basil's takedown was one of six on the day. Three straight runs for tailback Vaughn Hebron of eight, seven and 51 yards brought Lafayette down to the Crusaders' five. Hebron racked up 66 of his 95 rushing yards on the Leopards' initial third quarter scoring drive. The 51-yard run was the longest of his career. On 2nd-and-goal from the five, Shoop hooked up with Ross for a touchdown to push the lead to 16-0.
The visitors responded with a touchdown of their own, taking the football 75 yards in 11 plays and using 3:44. Sam Auffant ran for 20 yards on the drive, while Elder added 55 through the air, including a 12-yard toss to Alex Schneider for the score. Holy Cross (1-6, 1-2) elected to try a two-point conversion, but missed, and trailed 16-6 going into the fourth quarter following a missed 42-yard field goal by John Macomber with 1:41 showing in the period.
Ethan Swerdlow's punt to start the quarter preceded another Macomber miss, this time from 48 yards, before Lafayette pushed the lead to 17 points. Starting at its own 31, a pair of handoffs to Ross Scheuerman set up 3rd-and-7 for the Lafayette offense. Shoop and Ross moved the chains once and then went right back to his big wide receiver for 23 more yards on the next play. Three runs, one by Scheuerman and two by Hebron, made it third down at Holy Cross' 28 where Lafayette took a timeout.
A play-action pass was called and Shoop found Hall down the seam for the touchdown. Hall made the over-the-shoulder catch as he was being interfered with at the goal line.
It only took Holy Cross 11 seconds to answer as Kalif Raymond tore off an 80-yard kick return that brought the Crusaders within 10, 23-13, with 8:49 left in the game. It was the first kick return for TD that Lafayette had given up since Nov. 8, 2008 vs. Bucknell.
Boles' interception at the Holy Cross 13 with 4:20 left set up an insurance score that Hebron punched in from a yard out to run the final to 30-17.
Lafayette continues Patriot League play on Oct. 27, hosting Georgetown at 6 p.m.
Spurred by a student-led "black out" the Leopards wore black jerseys for the 10th time in program history, improving their record to 6-4 with the non-traditional tops.
With four games remaining, Lafayette eclipsed its season win total from 2011. The Leopards are 2-0 in league play for the first time since a 4-0 league start in 2009.