Short-handed Statesmen fall to #7 Wesley 35-28 in NCAA Playoffs
DOVER, Del.—Playing without several key starters, the Hobart football team gave seventh-ranked Wesley all it could handle, but came up short in its upset bid, falling 35-28 to the Wolverines in the first round of the NCAA Division III Football Championship.
Hobart entered the game without starting quarterback Nick Strang and wide receiver/punterYosh Karbowniczak. The Statesmen also had a lengthy list of active players at less than 100 percent healthy, including fullback Juan O'Farrill, who played with a cast on one hand. The news got worse as the game went on as leading wideout, senior Garth Muratori was forced from the game due to injury in the second quarter.
Understandably, the Statesmen (7-2) found themselves in an early hole. Jared Morris caught an 8-yard TD pass from Shane McSweeny for a 7-0 lead at the 8:21 mark of the first quarter. The Wesley defense forced Hobart to punt and the Wolverines (10-1) needed just three plays to cover 66 yards and take a 14-0 lead on McSweeny's 72-yard pass to Steven Koudossou at the 4:03 mark.
Hobart got on the board early in the second quarter, thanks to an assist from its defense. Junior defensive tackle Nick Auriemma came up with his first career interception at the Wesley 13 and was credited with a 1-yard return to give the offense a short field. Four plays later, junior running back Bobby Dougherty scored on a 1-yard plunge to make it a 14-7 game with 9:20 left in the half.
The Wolverines restored their 14-point lead with another big strike just two plays later. This time McSweeny connected with Koudossou for 66-yard scoring play.
With just over five minute to go in the half, the defense again set up Hobart's offense. This time senior linebacker Reggie Robinson recovered a McSweeny fumble at the Wesley 32. Eight plays later, sophomore running back Steven Webb dove in from the 1 to make it a 21-14 game with 2:11 left in the half.
McSweeny executed the 2-minute drill to perfection, directing a seven-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 42-yard touchdown pass to Matt Barile, to build a 28-14 lead 17 seconds before halftime.
Hobart's special teams helped the cause early in the second half. Wesley line up for its second punt of the second half, but senior Drake Woodard slipped through the protection to block the kick. Sophomore Devin Worthington scooped up the loose ball and ran 24 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-21.
The Wolverines countered with a 13-play, 60-yard march that was capped by McSweeny's five TD pass of the day, a 15-yard connection with Sean McAndrew. Wesley led 35-21 with 47 seconds left in the third quarter.
Hobart's finally scoring drive of the day got a boost from the Wolverines. After three straight incompletions, the Statesmen punted. The Wolverines fumbled the return and Hobart recovered. Wesley was also hit with a roughing the kicker penalty that moved the Statesmen half the distance to the goal line. Junior quarterback Kelly Olney hit Dougherty for 7 yards on first down and Webb scored on another 1-yard run to make it 35-28 with eight seconds left in the third.
Hobart missed its starters the most in the fourth quarter. Twice in the final 15 minutes the Statesmen found themselves inside the Wesley 10-yard line, but both times it came up empty. Muratori has thrived in those situations over the past two seasons, scoring 14 touchdowns, many of them on fade routes.
In his first collegiate start, Olney completed 16-of-37 passes for 211 yards and was sacked only once. Junior wideout Junior Woodard was his top target, catching four passes for 21 yards. First-year Elvin Souffrant pulled in three passes for 50 yards. Webb produced 138 yards of total offense, rushing for 45 yards and catching three passes for a team-high 93 yards.
Defensively, Robinson produced a career-high 15 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss, while junior linebacker Andrew Klindera added eight tackles. Senior defensive tackle Dane Wilcoxen had 1.5 sacks. First-year defensive end Tyre Coleman was credited with six tackles, including half a sack. He finished the season with 13 sacks, one shy of the Hobart season record, and 19 tackles for a loss, three off that record.
McSweeny finished the day 18-of-27 for 336 yards with five TDs and an interception. He was sacked three times. Jeremiah Howe caught a game-high six passes for 43 yards, while Koudossou had five catches for a game-high 166 yards and two TDs. McSweeny was also the Wesley's top rusher with 61 yards on 15 carries.
Mike Asiedu paced the Wolverines with 14 tackles.