CHESTER (PA) – Delaware Valley College's dreams of a fifth consecutive Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) championship came to an end as ninth-ranked Widener University completed an undefeated season with a 42-23 home triumph over the Aggies.
Delaware Valley entered the game needing a win over the Pride to force a three-way share (along with Lycoming College) of the MAC championship and become just the second football school in the conference's 100-year history to win five or more straight crowns. The Aggies also needed to win by 16 or more points to win the tiebreaker and earn the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA Division III playoffs for the fourth straight year.
Instead, Delaware Valley ended its regular season with a 7-3 overall record and a 6-2 mark in conference play. The Aggies will now await word on whether or not they will be selected for an Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) South Region Bowl Game. The pairings for the three bowl games will be announced Monday.
For Widener, which was off last week due to a canceled game in New Jersey due to Hurricane Sandy, it improved to 9-0 overall and finished off conference play with a 7-0 mark. The MAC championship was the 19th in program history and its first since 2007. That was also the last time the Pride went to the NCAA playoffs. Widener also regained the Keystone Cup, which is handed out annually to the winner of the Delaware Valley-Pride rivalry.
Delaware Valley trailed 28-10 at halftime, but made it a five-point game thanks to a late touchdown in the third quarter and another one early in the fourth. The first score came on a six-yard touchdown run by wide receiver Dashown Waller with 16 seconds left in the third. On the ensuing possession, senior safety John Robinson made a diving interception at its own 40-yard line. It was the third turnover of the game forced by the Aggie defense.
Big runs by tailback Kyle Schuberth moved the ball down the field and they once again faced a fourth down, this time a yard away at the 17-yard line. Schuberth moved the sticks with a three-yard scamper. A pair of incomplete passes brought up third down when quarterback Aaron Wilmer threw a strike to senior tight end Ed Ferrell for a 14-yard touchdown. They failed to score on the two-point conversion, but it was still a one-score game, 28-23, with 10:50 remaining.
A big return on the kickoff by Widener's Anthony Davis brought the ball out near midfield, but a personal foul moved the ball back to the Pride 34-yard line. They quickly moved the ball inside the Aggie 25, but then faced fourth down. A false start penalty moved the ball back five yards to the 29 for a fourth-and-13 and Widener still elected to keep its offense on the field. Quarterback Chris Haupt sailed a perfect pass down the left sideline and Jermaine Quattlebaum made a diving catch in the end zone for touchdown. James McFadden's extra-point put the Pride up 12, 35-23, with 7:58 on the clock.
On the next drive, Wilmer threw a bomb downfield, but Widener safety Jarard Stewart was there to intercept it at the Pride 16 with 6:35 left. The Pride fumbled on first down, but was able to recover it. They were forced to punt and Delaware Valley took over on its own 47-yard line with just over five minutes remaining. However, on second down, Chris Ruiz was stripped of the ball after a catch and Widener recovered. The Pride hit a long pass on a third-and-14 to put the ball inside the Aggie 10 and fullback Tyler Rank scored from a yard out on fourth down to cement the game and the championship for Widener.
Delaware Valley got the first big opportunity in the game as Widener went three-and-out on the opening drive and a low snap on the punt attempt resulted in the Aggies taking over at the Pride five-yard line. Wilmer called his own number on third down from the three and went up the middle for a touchdown. Brandon Snyder added the extra-point for a 7-0 advantage with 12:37 remaining in the opening quarter.
Widener drove into Aggie territory on the ensuing possession, but was forced to punt and Delaware Valley took over on its own four-yard line. On third down, Wilmer went back to pass, but the ball slipped out of his hands and the Pride's John DiBiase recovered it in the end zone for the touchdown. McFadden's point-after tied it up at 7-7 with 8:08 to go in the first.
Widener then took over at the Delaware Valley 47-yard line following a partially blocked punt. The Pride needed just five plays to find the end zone as Haupt hit Davis for a 14-yard score and a 14-7 lead with 4:59 left in the first quarter.
Delaware Valley took the ensuing kickoff and drove to the Widener 15. The drive stalled and Snyder's 32-yard field goal sailed wide left. However, the Aggies got the ball back at the Pride 46 as Terrance Osborne intercepted a pass by Haupt. A couple of big runs by Wilmer moved the ball down to the 13, but a fumble and a sack brought up third-and-long. Wilmer hit Lewis Vincent at the 17-yard line to move into field goal range and Snyder split the uprights to pull Delaware Valley to within four, 14-10, just over five minutes into the second quarter.
Widener responded with a nine-play, 74-yard scoring drive that was capped by Couve LaFate's five-yard touchdown run. McFadden added the extra point to up the Pride lead to 21-10 with 6:25 remaining in the half. They then got their second defensive score of the game just two minutes later as Jamal Dorsey intercepted a screen pass and raced 58 yards to the end zone for a 28-10 advantage. Delaware Valley had a drive late in the half, but turned the ball over on downs and Widener took a knee to send the teams to the locker room.
Early in the third quarter, the Aggie defense forced a turnover as linebacker Chad Wisniewski came up with an interception and returned it to the Pride 38-yard line. They drove to the 29 and faced fourth-and-inches. Schuberth got the call and just got enough for a first down. They then had a third-and-eight when Wilmer hit Vincent for a leaping reception at the one-yard line. Schuberth did not get in on the first two runs and Wilmer ran a naked bootleg on third down. He had an open lane to the end zone, but cramped up and fell to the turf at the three. Freshman Mike Anusky came in to run the wildcat and was stopped for no gain to turn the ball over on downs.
Delaware Valley stopped Widener again and, following the punt, took over possession at the Pride 48. Wilmer came back into the game and drove the ball down to the six where Waller scored his touchdown. The Aggies quickly followed with Ferrell's touchdown catch, but the Pride made the big plays down the stretch for the win.
Delaware Valley outgained Widener, 396-329, in the contest. Wilmer was 13-for-38 for 172 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He also ran for 62 yards and a score. Schuberth netted 110 yards on 24 carries.
Meanwhile, the Aggie defense held the Pride's prolific offense to just 14 points over the first three and half quarters of play (Widener's other 14 points during that time was notched by its defense). Cory Armstrong led the way with eight tackles while Robinson had six stops and one interception.
Haupt completed 19 of 30 passes for 232 yards. He threw two touchdowns and was picked off three times. Davis led all receivers with seven catches for 90 yards and a score. Dylan Ditmer had 10 tackles and a sack while DiBiase finished with seven tackles, two fumble recoveries (one for a touchdown) and a forced fumble.