NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - The Westminster College football team gave Washington & Jefferson a scare Saturday but the visiting Presidents survived to beat the Titans, 20-16, in a Presidents' Athletic Conference (PAC) game held at Harold Burry Stadium.
The Titans are now 2-2 on the season and 1-1 in the PAC, while W&J improves to 3-2 overall and 2-1 in league play.
This was the closest margin for a Westminster-W&J game since the Titans last beat the Presidents, 19-17, in 2000 and the first time that W&J beat Westminster by fewer than 25 points since 2003.
Westminster had the ball on its own 29-yard line while down 20-16 with 2:50 left and it drove to the W&J 39-yard line, but the Presidents sacked junior quarterback Shawn Lehocky twice on third and fourth down, the latter with 1:20 remaining before W&J knelt on the ball to secure the win.
W&J outgained Westminster in total yardage 425-236 including 174 to minus-17 in rushing, but the Titans took advantage of several other key areas. Westminster forced five turnovers including three interceptions while also enjoying a 75-30 penalty yard advantage and the Titans also came up big with three fourth-down stops throughout the game.
Lehocky threw for 253 yards, three shy of a career high, on 16-of-30 passing with two touchdowns, one interception and six sacks. During the game Lehocky became the eighth 3,000-yard passer in Westminster history as he now has 3,190 career passing yards.
Lehocky found junior wide receiver Geno Pasquinelli, the PAC's leading receiver with 7.0 grabs per game, on a 16-yard touchdown with 4:25 left in the second quarter. Pasquinelli's third touchdown reception of the season cut W&J's lead to 13-7 after the Presidents scored two touchdowns in the first quarter.
Pasquinelli finished the game with three catches for 52 yards, snapping his streak of 10 straight games with at least five receptions.
Sophomore kicker Zac Henry drilled a 26-yard field goal early in the third quarter to whittle W&J's lead down to 13-10. The Presidents wouldn't answer until early in the fourth quarter when quarterback Matt Bliss snuck in from 1 yard out for the eventual game-clinching touchdown with 12:02 remaining.
Bliss finished the game 24-of-40 passing for 251 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. He also rushed nine times for 30 yards including three sacks.
Bliss hit Alex Baroffio from 23 yards out for the game's second touchdown after W&J running back Tim McNerney scored on his team's opening drive of the game from 4 yards out.
McNerney finished with 30 carries for 141 yards while Hunter Creel (6 for 85) and Baroffio (5 for 80) were W&J's leading receivers.
On the Titans' second drive after Bliss's touchdown run, Lehocky connected for a 27-yard pass to junior tight end David Wright and a 20-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver John Baummer. Henry missed the extra point and the Titans trailed 20-16 with 5:02 remaining.
Baummer finished with a season-high three catches for 59 yards and Wright was two for 39 yards.
On W&J's ensuing possession the Titans allowed a first down and they had to burn two timeouts before forcing the Presidents to punt from their own 41-yard line. Westminster's potential game-winning touchdown drive was foiled by sacks by W&J's Andy McGill and Brian DeFranco.
McGill had to of W&J's six sacks and he finished with three tackles. Neil Sorice led W&J with eight stops including a sack.
Junior linebacker Alex Kernicky led the Titans with a career-high 15 tackles, the most by any Titan this year, while junior linebacker Derrick Orloski tied a career high with 10 stops.
Westminster junior cornerback J.J. Nalesnik had two interceptions, the most by any Titan in a game since 2009, while junior safety Kyle Allen snatched his third interception of the season and the eighth of his career. Nalesnik also had six tackles and a pass break-up, while Allen made eight stops and two pass break ups.
Westminster travels to Bethany next Saturday, Oct. 8, at 2 p.m.