Gators Rally Late; Topple Denison, 31-28
MEADVILLE, Pa. – Senior quarterback Jordan Fowler was absolutely outstanding in his first game since winning NCAC Player of the Week accolades. In addition to throwing for a career-high 312 yards, the first-year starting signal caller tossed three touchdown passes, including a three-yard game-winning strike to Sean Griffin with 11 seconds left in regulation as the Gators rallied past Denison, 31-28, on Saturday at Frank B. Fuhrer Field.
Saturday's conference tilt included several big momentum shifts and marked the second consecutive home game to feature a last-minute game-winning score. After Denison (3-4, 2-1 NCAC) re-took the lead on a 37-yard touchdown connection from Max Paulus to John Wilson, the Gators (4-3, 2-1) got the ball back for what would be their final drive of the game with just under five minutes left in regulation.
Fowler converted two third downs, including a 15-yard run on a third-and-six from the Big Red 44 to move into Denison territory. Brian Tamburlin caught back-to-back passes out of the back field that covered 19 yards and moved the Gators inside the 10. With first-and-goal from the one-yard line, and less than one minute on the clock, the Denison defense came up with two huge stops on running plays to Tamburlin, while Fowler just missed Matt Griffith in the corner of the end zone on third down. Down to their final offense play, Fowler stepped up into the pocket and delivered a perfectly placed pass to Griffin on a quick slant to move Allegheny above .500 for the first time this season.
Fowler became just the seventh quarterback in team history to finish a game with over 300 yards passing. One week after piecing together his best statistical game donning the Blue and Gold, Fowler did it again as he finished 29-of-39 while helping Allegheny convert eight of its final 12 third down tries.
Wide receiver Matt Griffith was also spectacular en route to a career day on the outside. Griffith finished with a career-high 10 catches, including several leaping grabs, and closed the afternoon with 113 yards and two touchdowns. Griffin added six catches and 77 yards while hauling in the most critical attempt of the day.
It looked like Saturday's cold, rain-soaked affair would turn out to be a long day for the Gators, and not just because of the weather. Denison looked impressive at the start, and opened the game with an eight-play, 65-yard scoring drive that ended when Paulus found Lucas Graham for a 30-yard touchdown pass. After forcing Allegheny into a quick three-and-out, the Big Red assembled another dominating drive that Paulus capped with a one-yard keeper. Covering 10 plays, 50 yards, and over six minutes of game time, Denison moved in front, 14-0, and looked poised to deliver a huge conference road win.
Trailing 14-3 late in the second quarter, Allegheny authored arguably the biggest play of the game after taking advantage of a poor punt that put the Gators at the Big Red 26-yard line. Although there were only 13 seconds left until halftime, Fowler wasted no time as he targeted Griffith on the first play of the drive, who made a great catch despite solid coverage to slice the deficit to 14-10.
Defensive back Travis Wilkins paced the Gators' defense with 11 tackles, a sack, and a pass break-up. Bill Devlin and Brad Burkley also added sacks, while Ryan Schroth secured his first interception of the season.
The teams' were nearly even in their statistical production, although Allegheny manufactured a season-high 404 yards of total offense and out-gained the Big Red, 404-382.