ALLENTOWN (PA) – Delaware Valley College captured a championship for the fifth year in a row as the Aggies rallied from a four-point halftime deficit and defeated host Muhlenberg College, 24-14, in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) South Atlantic Bowl.
Delaware Valley, which had its run of four consecutive Middle Atlantic Conference titles snapped this year, finished the 2012 campaign with an 8-3 record. It was the third ECAC crown in Aggie football history as it also came away with bowl victories in 2003 and 2008.
Muhlenberg, which dropped a game to Delaware Valley for the third straight year (season-opening losses in 2010 and 2011), also ended its year with an 8-3 mark.
Delaware Valley sophomore quarterback Aaron Wilmer was selected as the game's Most Outstanding Player as he ran for a game-high 138 yards and a touchdown while also throwing for 106 yards and a score. He did so despite the fact that his leading receiver, Chris Ruiz, was out with an injury and his second-leading receiver, Lewis Vincent, saw limited action due to his injury.
Wilmer put Delaware Valley on the scoreboard just 4:12 into the contest as he called his own number and sprinted for a 38-yard touchdown. It was just the third offensive play of the day for the Aggies, who took over at their own 48-yard line following a short punt by the Mules. Brandon Snyder added the extra-point for a 7-0 advantage.
However, the momentum was short-lived as Muhlenberg's Isaiah Vaughn returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. John Gruver's point-after tied it up just 17 seconds after Wilmer's score.
Later in the first quarter and early in the second, Delaware Valley converted a pair of fourth-down plays to move the ball inside the Mule 20. The Aggies had a touchdown called back because of a penalty, but they picked up three points on the drive as Snyder booted a 34-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead with 11:46 remaining in the first half.
Midway through the second, a partially-blocked punt gave Muhlenberg excellent field position on a drive as it took over on its own 43. On the first play, quarterback Joe Carlucci found Vaughn behind the Delaware Valley secondary for a 57-yard touchdown and a 14-10 advantage with 8:07 to go in the half.
The Mules tried an onsides kick, but Mike Anusky fell on it for the Aggies at the Muhlenberg44-yard line. A five-yard offside on the kick gave Delaware Valley extra yardage, but the offense then faced a fourth-and-eight and a Wilmer pass fell incomplete. Late in the half, Aggie linebacker Cory Armstrong intercepted a Carlucci pass to end a Muhlenberg threat and the half ended with the Mules holding a four-point lead.
Early in the second half, Delaware Valley had a 53-yard touchdown run by Alquann Jones erased because of an illegal procedure call, the second score negated by a penalty in the contest. However, the Aggies continued that drive thanks to a 32-yard leaping reception by Vincent inside the Mule 30-yard line. Two plays later, Kyle Schuberth went up the middle for a 12-yard touchdown and a 17-14 Delaware Valley advantage with 7:07 left in the third. The run also made Schuberth just the third back in school history to go over the 1,00-yard mark in multiple seasons (Matt Cook three times, Steve Cook two times).
Muhlenberg was stopped on the ensuing drive and then attempted a pass on a fake punt. However, senior John Robinson prevented the receiver from getting the first down and the Aggies took over on the Mule 30. Delaware Valley managed just two yards over its next three plays to bring up fourth down. Wilmer hit Dashown Waller to move the sticks and keep the drive going. Another fourth down came up and another conversion as Wilmer found tight end James Norton for seven yards and a first-and-goal from the six. They managed just one yard over the next two plays as the third quarter came to an end. On the first play of the fourth, Wilmer found enior wide receiver Danny Fierro in the end zone for the five-yard score. Snyder added the extra-point for the 10-point lead.
Muhlenberg did not get its first, first down of the second half until the clock ticked near the four-minute mark remaining in the fourth. The Mules picked up another first down to get into Aggie territory, and Carlucci then hit a streaking Vaughn for a 40-yard touchdown to get Muhlenberg to within three, 24-21, with 3:24 remaining.
The Mules attempted another onsides kick and they recovered this one at midfield. Carlucci went deep for Vaughn again, but preseason All-American cornerback Terrance Osborne intercepted it for the Aggies at their own four-yard line.
Schuberth got a yard on first down and the Mules called timeout, hoping to stop Delaware Valley and get another shot at the tie or the lead. That went out the window as Wilmer took a keeper and raced 72 yards to the Mule 23-yard line. Delaware Valley picked up another first down and then took a knee twice to wrap up the ECAC title.
The Aggies finished with 431 yards of total offense, including 325 yards on the ground. They entered the game ranked 15th in the country in rushing with an average of 260.4 yards per contest. Schuberth went over the 100-yard mark as he carried the ball 25 times for 126 yards and a score. It was the third time this season that Delaware Valley had two or more players reached the century mark in rushing in the same game.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Aggies held Muhlenberg to just 229 total yards, including just 49 yards on 26 running plays. Only 75 of the yards came in the second half, including 40 on the one touchdown catch by Vaughn. Dwayne Shaw had seven tackles and a sack while Chad Wisniewski added six stops and one sack.
Vaughn finished with 218 all-purpose yards on the afternoon as he caught three passes for 106 yards and two scores and returned two kickoffs for 112 yards and a touchdown. Carlucci was 10-for-24 for 180 yards, two touchdown and two interceptions. Ian Gimbar led the defensive charge with 13 tackles and 1.5 sacks.