Widener Stuns No. 8 Delaware Valley, 28-27
DOYLESTOWN (PA) – Widener University quarterback Chris Haupt threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Michael Penna with no time remaining and then hooked up with wideout Cedric Clayton on the two-point conversion as the visiting Pride stunned eighth-ranked Delaware Valley College, 28-27, in a Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) game.
It was the season finale for Widener and the upset improved the squad to 5-5 overall (4-3 MAC) and its first non-losing season since winning the conference crown in 2007. The Pride also regained the Keystone Cup – the award handed out to the winner of the annual meeting of the archrivals in recognition of small college football excellence in the Philadelphia area – for the first time since '07.
For the Aggies, the loss snapped a 16-game, regular-season winning streak in the conference and dropped them to 8-2 overall and 6-1 in the MAC. They had wrapped up their third straight conference championship and second consecutive berth to the NCAA Division III playoffs last week, but the setback may put the team on the road now for the postseason. The entire 32-team playoff field will be announced on ESPNews between 3:00 and 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 15 with the first round of the postseason set for next Saturday, November 20 (12:00 p.m.).
After being tied 13-13 at halftime, Delaware Valley appeared to have seized control of the game with a pair of 21-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Mark Hatty. The first went to Dan Heiland with 7:14 remaining in the third quarter to cap an eight-play, 80-yard scoring drive. The second, which was set up by a Mike Jaskowski interception, went to fellow wideout Joe Gionfriddo to end a four-play, 31-yard drive just 1:51 into the fourth. Jake Sobchak hit both extra-points as the Aggies took a 27-13 advantage.
Widener went on a 13-play drive after Gionfriddo's score, but Aggie cornerback Terrance Osborne forced a fumble on a reception and safety Rob Eagles recovered at the Delaware Valley 24-yard line.
The Aggies went three-and-out and were forced to punt. Corey Heard's boot was caught by Pride freshman Laquan Robinson, who broke a tackle, went across the field and all the way into the end zone for a 54-yard touchdown. It was Robinson's fourth return for a touchdown on the year, including three on punt returns, and it made it a 27-20 ballgame with 7:26 remaining.
Delaware Valley took over on its own 27-yard line and drove to the Widener 30 where it faced a fourth-and-one. With all-time leading rusher Matt Cook on the sidelines with an injury he suffered three plays earlier, fullback Tom Devlin got the call, but he was stopped short of the first down by Dan Cosenza and Shane Szumuski with 3:57 to go.
Taking over at the 30, the Pride netted just five yards on the first three plays to bring up a fourth down. They converted as Haupt hit Rick Ritter for 12 yards. Widener crossed into Aggie territory and faced a fourth-and-six from the 34-yard line. Haupt hit Adam Smith out of the backfield and he lunged for the final two of seven yards and the first down to keep the drive alive.
The Pride lost a yard on first down and an incomplete pass made it third down. An eight-yard pass from Haupt to Smith brought a third fourth down, this time fourth-and-three from the Delaware Valley 20. Smith got a handoff and picked up five yards to move the sticks again. Haupt then hit Harry Rannels for a four-yard pass to the 11-yard line and Widener used its final timeout with 12 seconds left.
Two straight incomplete passes in the end zone made it fourth-and-six with just 2.6 seconds remaining. Haupt rolled slowly to his left, had time and found Penna, who wrestled the ball away from an Aggie defender in the end zone for a one-point deficit. The Pride elected to go for the two-point conversion and the win and lined up in a formation that had some of their offensive lineman spread out. Haupt hit Clayton for a short pass to the left, and with blockers in front of him, he ran inside the pylon for the upset win.
The game was scoreless after a sloppy first quarter that saw two turnovers by each team, a blocked punt by Delaware Valley and a botched snap on an Aggie field goal attempt. Widener's second turnover, a Troy Green interception of a Haupt pass, came at the latter stages of the quarter and led to an Aggie touchdown 2:14 into the second. That score came on a fourth-and-six from the Pride 20 when Hatty found Isaiah Hall in the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
Later in the quarter, Hatty was picked off by Gary Fish, who returned the interception 30 yards to the Aggie 11-yard line. On the first play after the turnover, Haupt hit Penna for the touchdown. However, Matt Breslin's point-after attempt sailed wide as Delaware Valley still had the lead at 7-6 with 10:33 left in half.
The teams exchanged punts with Widener's trapping the Aggies at their 10-yard line. However, a 57-yard pass from Hatty to Heiland helped Delaware Valley quickly move the ball downfield and the nine-play drive was capped by Cook's five yard touchdown run. A bad snap on the extra-point attempt forced a rush attempt that was stopped, leaving the score at 13-6 with 2:12 to go before the intermission.
On the ensuing possession, Widener needed just six plays and 71 seconds to march 62 yards and find the end zone. The final three came on a Smith run and Breslin hit the extra-point to knot the game at 13-13 at the break. That led to the wild second half and the Widener victory.
Delaware Valley was outgained for just the second time this season as the Pride held a 360-298 advantage in yardage. Hatty was 17-for-31 for 203 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions while Gionfriddo was the leading receiver with six grabs for 76 yards and one score. Cook went over the 100-yard mark for the 20th time in his career as he netted 132 yards and one touchdown on 27 carries.
Defensively, Jaskowski led the way from his end position as had 14 tackles, three sacks and an interception. Osborne finished with nine tackles, three pass breakups and a forced fumble while All-American linebacker Kyle Gesswein had five stops, half a sack and a blocked punt.
Haupt completed 27 of 54 passes for 262 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Five different players had five catches to lead the team while Penna finished with four receptions for 49 yards and two scores. Smith carried the ball 14 times for 63 yards and one touchdown. Joe Wojceichowski had nine tackles and one of the Widener's four sacks to lead the defensive effort.