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Lafayette Outlasts Colgate in Overtime, 37-24

Lafayette head coach Frank Tavani and the Leopards celebrated their 37-24 overtime win over Colgate.

Nov. 5, 2011

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EASTON, Pa. - Junior cornerback Darius Safford picked off a pass in the endzone, returned it 100 yards and sealed a 37-24 come-from-behind overtime victory over Colgate on Saturday night at Fisher Stadium.

The Leopards (4-5, 1-2) scored first in the overtime session. Facing 3rd-and-goal at the Colgate 14, QB Andrew Shoop completed a fade pass to Mark Ross in the end zone to give Lafayette the lead. Colgate picked up two first downs, including the second one on a 4th-and-4. Lafayette stopped Jordan McCord (37 carries for 172 yards) for no gain on first down and Safford's pick-six ended the suspense on Lafayette's Senior Day.

Overtime was far from a sure thing, as Colgate's late fourth-quarter drive gave the Raiders a 24-17 lead with 1:35 left in regulation. The 13-play, 68-yard drive ate up six and a half minutes. On the ensuing kick, Lafayette took over on its 21-yard line. The scoring drive was almost over before it started, as Shoop had to complete a pass to Alan Elder for eight yards and a first down deep in Lafayette territory. Shoop followed with 26 and 27-yard strikes to Nathan Padia and Kyle Hayes to move to the Colgate eight. The next play Shoop hit Hayes (7 catches for 124 yards) for eight yards and the game-tying score to send the Leopards to overtime for the first time this season.

Shoop, who completed passes to 10 different receivers on the night, finished 21-of-34 for 262 yards and two touchdowns. His counterpart, Gavin McCarney, was 22-of-34 for 274 yards with one TD and one interception.

McCarney put the Raiders on the scoreboard in the first quarter with a 36-yard touchdown pass. Lafayette cornerback Brandon Ellis battled with Daniel Cason for the ball, but Cason was able to corral it in the endzone for the 7-0 lead.

The Raiders (4-6, 0-4) lead lasted for all of one play as freshman kick returner Ross Scheuerman exploited a gap in the near hash and returned the kick 78 yards for a touchdown. It was the Leopards' first kick returned for a touchdown since Oct. 25, 2008 (Greg Stripe 80 yards at Fordham).

Lafayette threatened late in the first half. The Leopards had the ball 1st-and-10 on the Colgate 27 with a minute to go. Shoop dropped back for a pass and lost the ball. Colgate drove inside the Leopards' territory, but the half came to an end with a McCarney toss into the back of the endzone that was knocked away, preserving the 7-7 tie.

In the second half, a 54-yard pass from Shoop to Hayes put Lafayette 1st-and-goal at the three. A false start hindered the offense and Lafayette was forced to settle for Austin O'Brien's 21-yard field goal with 7:45 left in the third quarter.

The Raiders answered with a 10-play, 59-yard drive that was finished off by McCord's five-yard TD run. McCord carried six times and caught one pass on the drive. The Leopard defense gave up a big play when McCarney hit Cason for a 56-yard pass. Safford was beaten on the play, but recovered to make a touchdown-saving tackle at the one-yard line. A false start penalty aided the Lafayette defense which forced a 20-yard field goal by Joe Uglietto. Colgate led 17-10 with 11 minutes left in the game.

Shoop and the offense answered. Scheuerman's 33-yard kick-off return set up Lafayette near midfield. The Leopards' needed eight plays to score and used a 26-yard toss from Shoop to Greg Kessel to get to the one-yard line. Shoop finished off the drive and knotted the game at 17 before the teams traded scores in the final 1:35 to send the game to overtime.

Defensively, senior linebackers Leroy Butler and Ben Eaton made 15 and 14 tackles apiece.

Lafayette closes out the season on the road, traveling to Holy Cross for a 12:30 p.m. kick off on Nov. 12 and then across the valley to face Lehigh in the 147th meeting of college's football's most-played rivalry on Nov. 18 12:30 p.m.

NOTES: Safford's 100-yard interception return for touchdown is tied for the longest in school history. In 2001, Jeff Werrell and Adriel Linyear combined for a 100-yard return vs. Columbia.

Lafayette is now 3-6 all-time in overtime games. It was the first overtime win since Sept. 26, 2009, a 20-17 victory over Penn (also the last home overtime game). Colgate senior tailback Nate Eachus, who had 599 yards in three previous meetings with Lafayette, did not dress for Saturday's game.

Saturday's 13-point overtime victory is the only game at the Division I level (FCS or FBS) this season that has been decided by nine or more points.