MEADVILLE, Pa. – Senior defensive back Colin Hartford intercepted a potential game-tying two-point conversion with 37 seconds left in regulation and Allegheny held on to defeat DePauw University, 22-20, at Frank B. Fuhrer Field on Saturday. The win marked the first time Allegheny has opened the conference season with three straight wins since 2003, the Gators last appearance in the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament.
Another inspiring effort by Allegheny's defense fueled Saturday's victory. Senior linebacker Bill Devlin paced the performance with a game-best and career high 15 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss. Eleven of Devlin's stops came without any assistance, while he registered the highest number of tackles for an Allegheny player in a single game since Nov. 2, 2010.
There were a number of outstanding individual efforts against the Tigers, including Brad Burkley, who triggered a near-flawless first quarter for the Gator defense. Burkley closed with 10 tackles, including 3.5 for loss, and a fumble recovery. Senior Rudy DeStefano also shined in the win. Finishing with 10 tackles, DeStefano set up the eventual game-winning score with a 72-yard interception return midway through the fourth quarter.
Allegheny, which held DePauw to just one yard of offense through the first 15 minutes of action, grabbed a 3-0 lead on a 22-yard field goal by Ryan Mong with 7:17 left in the opening frame. Adding field goals of 23 and 25 yards, Mong extended his season and career mark to 6-for-6.
The Gators stretched their lead to double figures late in the first quarter after Burkley pounced on a fumble during a muffed punt return. Taking over at the Tigers' 13-yard line, senior Mike Person connected with Derrick Emigh on an eight-yard pass en route to Emigh's first touchdown catch of the year.
Allegheny tacked on three more points at the end of its next possession as the Blue and Gold orchestrated a nine-play, 43-yard drive after forcing a quick three-and-out. Allegheny's bid for the end zone stalled at the six-yard line following a false start penalty, although Mong's second successful kick extended the advantage to 13-0.
DePauw's offense was finally able to get on track after going without a huddle in its last possession of the half. Marching an impressive 71 yards on 10 plays, Justin Murray completed an 11-yard pass to a wide-open Bobby Coburn to cap the drive, while the Tigers cut the deficit to 13-7 just before the break.
The Tigers' no-huddle offense resulted in better success during the third quarter, while DePauw took advantage of several costly penalties to grab its first lead of the game. On a third-and-seven from the Allegheny 27-yard line, the Gators were flagged for a hold on the outside. Three plays later, the Tigers had first-and-goal from the five after Allegheny was whistled for roughing the passer on third-and-13. On second-and-goal, Murray found Connor Jeffers just inside the goal line with four minutes left in the stanza as DePauw moved in front, 14-13.
After the Allegheny defense forced DePauw to punt from its end zone on the visitors' ensuing series, Emigh triggered the Gators second touchdown of the afternoon with a 24-yard punt return that gave Allegheny first-and-goal at the eight-yard line. Two plays later, senior Tim Werley scampered up the middle for his third career rushing touchdown although a missed two-point conversion left Allegheny ahead, 19-14, with 13 minutes left on the clock.
Werley, who has served as the team's feature back following a devastating series of injuries to the Allegheny back field in the last several weeks, enjoyed a career day as he rushed 23 times for 96 yards.
The Tigers manufactured a commanding final quarter, holding the ball for nearly 11 minutes while totaling 124 yards of offense. DePauw was 3-for-6 on third downs during the final frame, and scripted an exhilarating finish with an 11-play, 66-yard drive in its final possession of regulation that nearly pushed overtime. Murray extended the drive with a 22-yard completion to Coburn on a third-and-four, while Murray rushed 12 yards on a quarterback keeper to pull DePauw within a two-point conversion of tying the game. On the two-point attempt, Murray rolled right and fired for the corner of the end zone, but the pass intended for Cody Crook was plucked out of the air by Hartford.
Person finished 11-of-27 for 61 yards, while rookie Andrew Niklaus caught a team-high three passes for 19 yards. In addition to two catches, Emigh totaled 83 return yards to finish with a game-high 107 all-purpose yards.
Allegheny's defense racked up 16 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including four sacks.
The win marked the Gators' second in as many tries against the Tigers, although their first as conference rivals. Allegheny upended DePauw in the inaugural meeting of the series with a 17-10 victory in Meadville last season.