St. John Fisher College forced four turnovers, including two in the final three minutes, as the nationally-ranked Cardinals overcame a 10-point, four-quarter deficit and beat host Washington & Jefferson College 28-24 on Saturday.
With the win, Fisher, ranked No. 9 in the latest d3football.com poll, improves to 2-0, while the Presidents, who have strung together 28 consecutive winning seasons, fall to 1-1.
Fisher took its first and only lead of the game with 5:59 left in the fourth quarter. On a 3rd-and-9 play from the Fisher 9, quarterback Ryan Kramer connected with senior Jason Beaumont for a 91-yard touchdown strike down the right side line to give the Cardinals a 28-24 lead.
The Presidents marched into Fisher territory on the ensuing drive, but senior Travis Tones sacked the W&J quarterback and forced a fumble on fourth down to end the drive. The Presidents had one final drive to regain the lead in the final minute, penetrating the Fisher 40, but senior All-American Troy Sant sealed the win with his second interception of the season.
Fisher trailed 17-7 at the half, and luckily, the deficit wasn't much greater. The Cardinals were outgained 246-33 in the first half and totaled just one offensive first down. The Cardinals lone touchdown came on a 100-yard interception return by senior Adam Burdick in the second quarter. The interception return marked the second time a Fisher player has had a 100-yard return and the 65th time a Division III player has accomplished the feat.
The second half was a different story. The Cardinals marched 81 yards on 10 plays on its opening drive of the third quarter with Kramer connecting with Dave Kirchner from 14 yards out for his first career touchdown to make it 17-14.
The Presidents, however, came right back on the ensuing drive and scored to regain their double-digit lead.
Early in the fourth quarter, after a 24-yard punt return by Matt Monacelli, the Cardinals answered with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Kramer to Beaumont to make it 24-21.
The Cardinals were out-gained 445-258 for the game, but won the turnover battle, 4-0. Zach Dolan intercepted a pass inside the Fisher red zone in the first quarter. Mike Benderski also blocked a field goal in the opening period.
Beaumont, who transferred to Fisher last year and was a standout pitcher for the Fisher baseball team, pitching a complete-game win over eventual national-champion Marietta College in the NCAA Division III Regionals, finished the game with two catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns.
Kramer was 10-for-24 for 183 yard and three touchdowns. Cody Miller led Fisher's ground game with 32 yards on 12 carries.
Defensively, Joe Leavell was in on 12 tackles and recovered a fumbled. Wade Kline made 10 stops, while Tones added eight.
Mike Donitzen averaged 31 yards on nine punts. He was also credited with eight tackles as one of Fisher's starting linebackers.
Brendan Carey was a perfect 4-for-4 on extra points.
Fisher will return to action at 7 p.m. next Saturday and will host University of Rochester in Courage Bowl VIII. The game is dedicated to the children of Camp Good Days and Special Times.