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Leopards Outdueled in Back-and-Forth Affair

Andrew Shoop

Nov. 12, 2011

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WORCESTER, Mass. - Aided by two pass interference penalties, Holy Cross put together a 15-play, 97-yard drive that culminated in Eddie Houghton's seven-yard touchdown and a 29-24 win over Lafayette on Saturday afternoon at Fitton Field.

On the game-winning drive, Holy Cross faced 3rd-and-12 at its own one-yard line. QB Ryan Taggart's pass was incomplete, but Lafayette was whistled for a pass interference penalty. Taggart kept the drive moving with his feet, running for gains of seven, eight and seven yards. He was sacked by Kyvory Henderson and Leroy Butler, and the Crusaders were saddled with a 4th-and-11 situation at their own 40.

Again, Taggart threw an incompletion only to have it wiped out by a pass interference penalty, handing Holy Cross (5-5, 3-2) another first down on a play that would have otherwise ended the game. Taggart closed out the drive with a 25-yard pass on first down to Gerald Mistreta. The second of Houghton's two rushes gave Holy Cross the 29-24 advantage.

The Leopards (4-6, 1-3) still had an opportunity to win the game. Starting at the Lafayette 34, junior quarterback Andrew Shoop and the Leopards moved to the 45 on passes to Mark Ross (8 catches for 102 yards) and Kyle Hayes (5 catches for 115 yards). Shoop then picked up a third down with a 10-yard run to the 35, finishing with 73 yards on the ground. Shoop hit Ross on first down, moving the ball to the 22. The next play, miscommunication between Shoop and Ross led to an interception in the end zone. For the day, Shoop was 17-for-38 for 252 yards.

Holy Cross opened with scores on its first two drives to start the game. The Crusaders used six plays in a crisp opening drive. Taggart (23-32-0 for 225 yards) completed three passes and rushed for 10 more yards. Houghton fought his way into the end zone for 21 yards out for the early lead. Houghton finished with 17 carries for 68 yards.

Lafayette turned it over on its first offensive drive when Shoop was picked off at the Holy Cross 43. The Crusaders took advantage, converting a 28-yard field goal. Holy Cross' used a short kickoff into the wind on the ensuing kick which Greg Stripe returned 30 yards and into Holy Cross territory. The next play offensive coordinator Mickey Fein dialed up the tailback pass, and Ross Scheuerman came through with a 35-yard toss to Hayes. The Leopards eventually scored on 3rd-and-goal from the 10 as Shoop hit Ross who slid away from coverage.

Two minutes into the second quarter, Holy Cross stretched the lead to nine, cutting through the defense to cover 62 yards on 11 plays. Taggart hit Alex Schneider for a two-yard touchdown toss.

The Leopards answered with a 32-yard Austin O'Brien field goal into a strong wind. Shoop threw a 32-yard completion to Hayes that got the drive moving. He also picked up a fourth down with a run. Scheuerman managed 28 yards on the ground before the drive stalled and resulted in the field goal.

The Holy Cross offense kept rolling. Taggart connected with Mistretta for a 21-yard score with 3:06 left in the half. The Crusaders led 23-10.

Needing to keep pace with Holy Cross' offense, the Leopards' offense responded. Lafayette took over on its 25 with three minutes to go in the half and three timeouts in the bank. The Leopards found themselves 1st-and-goal at the two after a pass interference penalty in the endzone. Lafayette had the ball 4th-and-goal at the one with five seconds left in the half. Shoop handed to the first back through, Greg Kessel, and he pushed his way into the endzone. The drive covered 75 yards on 12 plays as Lafayette trailed 23-17 at intermission.

In the second half, the Leopards struck first, covering 80 yards on 12 plays. Facing 3rd-and-goal at the 20, Shoop zipped the ball to Ross near the pylon for the TD. O'Brien's PAT gave Lafayette a 24-23 lead with 09:08 left in the third. As the third quarter came to a close, Lafayette had a chance to add to its lead. Lafayette had the ball 2nd-and-4 at the Holy Cross nine-yard line. Shoop dropped back to pass to Ross who was run into by a defender. Lafayette was forced to settle for an O'Brien 26-yard field goal attempt into the wind. O'Brien hooked it wide left.

Another missed opportunity haunted the Leopards in the fourth quarter. Lafayette had the ball 1st-and-10 at the Holy Cross 20-yard line. On fourth down from the 25, Shoop was intercepted and Holy Cross took over at the three-yard line where it embarked on its game-winning drive.

Defensively, Shane Brady, who was starting at safety for the injured Kyle Simmons and Shane Black, made a team-high nine tackles and broke up a pass.

Lafayette turns it attention to Lehigh for the 147th meeting of college football's most-played rivalry. The Leopards will take the short ride to Lehigh's Goodman Campus for a 12:30 p.m. kick-off on Nov. 19. Sixth-ranked Lehigh is coming off a decisive win over Georgetown on Saturday that clinched the Patriot League title.

NOTES: Saturday's game had a familiar feel to the 2009 meeting in Worcester - then a back-and-forth affair between nationally ranked teams with a share of the Patriot League title on the line. In that game, the Leopards were 3rd-and-10 at the Holy Cross 35 and driving for a game-winning score. Quarterback Rob Curley threw a ball to Mark Layton, but Layton was run into by the defender, leaving one official clearly grasping for his flag that never left his side but would have resulted in a first down.

In Saturday's meeting there was just one punt (by Holy Cross in the third quarter). Holy Cross has won four straight in the series.

Statistically, Lafayette had 428 yards of total offense to 360 for the Crusaders. The teams were nearly identical in terms of time of possession, separated by less than a minute. Lafayette was penalized nine times for 69 yards to five penalties for 39 yards for Holy Cross.