Presidents hope balance equals title

More news about: Washington and Jefferson
W&J running back Jordan West
Jordan West has been a big part of the W&J offense the first two weeks of the season, and the Presidents aim to keep it that way.
W&J athletics photo

By Joe Sager

Washington & Jefferson wanted to find some balance with its offense this season.

The Presidents think they are on the right track.

After airing the ball out with all-everything quarterback Pete Coughlin the last four years, the team wanted a better mix for new starting quarterback Alex Rowse.

It’s not that Rowse can’t throw the ball – the senior has passed for 575 yards and six touchdowns in the team’s first two games. The Presidents, who sat atop the Presidents’ Athletic Conference passing list the past three seasons, want to return to the top of the overall standings for the first time since 2014. The way to do that, they think, is to become a threat on the ground, too.

“It’s huge to have that balance. We didn’t do that last year,” W&J coach Mike Sirianni said.

The lack of a ground game hurt the squad last season in its only two losses. The Presidents mustered 34 yards on 26 attempts in a 35-9 loss at Thomas More and 71 yards on 29 carries in a 16-10 setback at Westminster (Pa.).

“We couldn’t establish the run against Thomas More and we couldn’t really run well against Westminster,” Sirianni said. “We want to continue to run the ball this year. It makes our passing game a little more dangerous, too.”

The Presidents rushed for 160 yards and passed for 259 more in a 37-27 win over St. John Fisher to open the year. They added another 152 on the ground and 453 through the air in a 47-7 win at Grove City in Week 2. So, it’s not like the Presidents are abandoning the forward pass or anything.

“It’s going to be very beneficial for us if we can run the ball. It makes it a lot harder for teams to stop us and do well defensively,” Rowse said. “We got away from it last year. We seem to be getting back to it this year, which is nice.”

Jordan West energized W&J’s rushing game this season. The sophomore Washington, Pa., native burst onto the scene with 154 yards rushing and two TDs in his first start in the opener.

“He did a great job in the opener. It was neat to see, especially being from Wash High. We had a big crowd, a lot of people there and it was a good atmosphere,” Sirianni said. “He has a burst that we haven’t had in a while. We had Ryan Ruffing a couple years ago, but he was more of a bruiser. Jordan is only going to continue to get better as the season goes. He got hot during the course of that game and we let him go. We need to get others involved, too.”

West added 51 yards and two touchdowns in the blowout against Grove City.

“I have known how good he was,” Rowse said. “It was nice for everyone to see him perform.”

Rowse has been happy to step into the starting role under center this season after backing up Coughlin the past three years.

“Pete was a great player. I had no problems being behind him because he was a great player and had so much success,” he said. “I waited patiently and I am excited to have my opportunity now.”

It benefits both West and Rowse that the team has All-America wide receiver Jesse Zubik back. The senior has caught 13 passes for 232 yards and three scores so far.

“There are so many times where we call a screen pass and he can take it all the way down the field and I am getting the stats for that,” Rowse said with a laugh. “He is an explosive player and great all around to have on the team.”

The No. 18 Presidents hope all three – and the rest of their players – elevate their games Saturday when they take on Thomas More in a key PAC showdown.

“We know it’s going to be a good game,” Rowse said. “It’s always good to get a couple games in before conference play. We want to win every game. We want to go 1-0 every week. That’s what we plan on doing.”

Upset alert

Speaking of Thomas More, the Saints are going to be extra fired up going on the road to face W&J after dropping a 25-23 decision at home to Bridgewater (Va.).

Thomas More trailed, 15-0, after the first quarter and faced a 25-14 deficit heading into the fourth frame. The Saints scored an early touchdown in the fourth and Cole Mathias drilled a 23-yard field goal with 5:54 to go. Thomas More’s defense held Bridgewater and the Saints got themselves into a position to snag the win, but a Mathias 52-yard field goal attempt fell just short as time expired.

Hiram fireworks

Hiram racked up the points in a 63-41 win vs. Earlham. The Terriers piled up a program-best 628 yards of total offense.

Quarterback Randy Tucker made the most of the outing. He had a hand in 48 of the squad’s 63 points and passed for a program-record six touchdowns, one short of the NCAC mark. Tucker finished with 369 yards through the air and another 52 yards and two scores on the ground.

Points were aplenty for NCAC teams last week. Wooster upended Allegheny, 49-35, DePauw beat Mount St. Joseph, 41-30, and Oberlin knocked off Kenyon, 31-10.

In the polls

No. 2 Mount Union (2-0) had an off week. The Purple Raiders open OAC action at Marietta.

No. 9 John Carroll (0-1) had an off week. The Blue Streaks begin OAC play at Baldwin Wallace.

No. 15 Wittenberg (1-0) had an off week. The Tigers start NCAC play against Oberlin.

No. 17 Case Western Reserve (1-0) had an off week. The Spartans open PAC against Grove City.

No. 18 Washington & Jefferson (2-0) beat Grove City, 47-7. The Presidents open PAC play against Thomas More.

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Joe Sager

Joe Sager is a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh. He has written about sports since 1996 for a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites. He first covered D-III football in 2000 with the New Castle (Pa.) News.

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