JACKSONVILLE, Ill. – They say timing is everything. Chris Blanchard proved it.
Through 238:63 minutes of football, the MacMurray College football team had not picked off a pass all season. With 1:37 on the clock and Westminster College threatening, Blanchard – a senior -- intercepted Trent White's pass near midfield to help the Highlanders seal a 19-14 win over the Blue Jays.
MacMurray stays perfect in conference play, improving to 3-1 overall, 3-0 in the UMAC. The Blue Jays drop their third straight, falling to 1-4, 1-3.
Quarterback Nathan Randall was 11 of 26 for 277 yards and two touchdowns. With a talented arsenal of receivers, Randall completed four passes over 30 yards.
Javon Muhammad continued his dominant senior campaign on the defensive line, recording nine total tackles, 4.5 for loss. Muhammad added three pass breakups and two sacks.
Classmate CJ O'Rourke also tallied a team-high nine tackles. Corben Edwards contributed eight tackles, while Trenton Harrelson picked up two TFLs.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Randall and the Highlanders wasted no time, scoring on the second play from scrimmage. Randall hurled a pass to Nick Valentine for a 64-yard touchdown. Noah Sandoval's PAT was good, pushing the hosts ahead by seven after just 40 seconds.
A 9-play, 80-yard Highlander drive was capped off by a 24-yard field goal by Sandoval early in the second quarter. Mac broke into Blue Jay territory after a 58-yard catch-and-run by sophomore Derrick Derr.
After forcing a Blue Jay three-and-out, MacMurray was poised to extend their lead. In jeopardy of being sacked, Randall lobbed what appeared to be a miraculous touchdown completion. The score was whistled back for an ineligible man downfield, setting up another Sandoval field goal – this one from 21 yards.
Stepping up yet again, the Highlander defense worked to get their offense back on the field, forcing another Westminster three-and-out. On a 4th and 1 from the WC 46, Asa Donaldson exploded through the Blue Jay defense, keeping the MacMurray drive alive.
Three plays later, Randall connected with Demetrius Curry for a 40-yard touchdown reception. The score came on a critical 3rd and 22. A failed PAT gave the Highlanders a 19-0 lead at the half.
The Blue Jays scored on their first possession of the third quarter, cutting the Mac lead to 19-7. Holding MacMurray scoreless for the entire second half, Westminster shaved the home lead to single digits with just four minutes remaining.
A MacMurray three-and-out allowed the visitors to get the ball back, eventually setting up Blanchard's pick.
Despite a MacMurray turnover on the ensuing possession, the Highlander defense stepped up on the final Blue Jay possession with sacks by Muhammad and Harrelson. On WC's final desperation throw, Blanchard was able to knock the ball down and secure the victory.
INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
The Highlanders dominated the running game with 180 yards compared to WC's 88. Senior Marquez Ellison led Mac with 74 yards on the afternoon.
MacMurray was an efficient 3 of 4 on fourth downs. The visitors were a mere 1 for 5.
With 4.5 TFLs, Muhammad brings his season total to 15.5, averaging 3.9 TFLs/game.
Due to torrential thunderstorms in pregame, the start was delayed until 2 p.m.
QUOTES FROM THE COACH
"Every time we play Westminster, it's a dogfight," said head coach Chris Douglas. "Throw out the records, who's injured, it doesn't matter, it's an extremely tough game."
"I'm proud of our guys, they hung in there today against a really good team," said Douglas.
Douglas on the defense: "Westminster had all the momentum driving and Chris [Blanchard] did an awesome job to pick off that pass … The late plays we made defensively were huge, especially the sacks at the end and Blanchard's breakup."
MacMurray visits Crown (0-6, 0-5) next weekend for another UMAC matchup. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.