December 6, 2014

MAC Football Proud - Widener Season Ends but Pride Remains

Image: John Green
Chester, PA – A great season for No. 10 Widener that featured the school’s league-record 20th Middle Atlantic Conference title ended with a 45-7 loss to No. 10 Linfield in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals at Leslie C. Quick Jr. Stadium.

Season ends for Widener football with 45-7 loss to Linfield in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals

Widener Proud! Nice Season Pride!
The loss culminated what was an outstanding and memorable campaign for the Pride (12-1, 9-0 MAC), who played in the NCAA Tournament for the 14th year in school history and completed their 12th undefeated season in team annals. Widener fell to 19-12 in the NCAA Tournament, was dealt its first such loss at Quick Stadium in eight tries and was handed its first home NCAA Tournament loss since falling to Dayton in the 1980 semifinals at the since-razed Memorial Stadium.

Widener, which was playing its first home NCAA Tournament quarterfinal since 1979, had started 12-0 for just the third time in school history.

The Pride have their No. 10 ranking according to the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and the Wildcats have their ranking according to D3Football.com. This was the first meeting between the schools.

The Wildcats (11-1) caught the first big break when on fourth down, Widener senior punter Michael Bennett (Maple Glen, PA) saw a snap go over his head. He elected to kick the ball out of the end zone, but the ball at first was on the one yard line and Linfield got possession there.

The Pride, who entered the game first in the country in fewest rushing yards allowed per contest, buckled down and stopped the Wildcats. The fourth-down play saw quarterback Sam Riddle forced out of bounds by senior middle linebackerKevin Burns (Collingdale, PA) to give the Pride momentum.

That jolt was lost when sophomore quarterback Seth Klein (Wernersville, PA) saw his deflected pass intercepted by Kennedy Johnson, who was lying on his back at the 11 yard line. Linfield three plays later cashed in as Riddle hit Spencer Payne on an 11-yard scoring toss with 11:19 to go in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead.

Linfield forced another turnover on the next drive when Keanu Yamamoto stepped in front of Klein’s pass and returned it to midfield. Three plays later, Riddle found Evan Peterson on a 22-yard touchdown pass with 8:45 remaining in the period for a 14-0 margin.

The Wildcats in the first quarter owned a 129-31 edge in total offense with six first downs.

Widener’s offense began to click at the start of the second quarter after senior Ameer Sorrell (Port Norris, NJ) intercepted Riddle and raced 63 yards to the 33 yard line. Senior Terrant Morrison (Smyrna, DE) dominated the ensuing drive with 30 rushing yards and capped it on a two-yard scoring burst for a 14-7 deficit with 12:06 to go.

The teams traded punts before Linfield restored the 14-point margin. Riddle continued his dissection of Widener’s defense and ended the march with a 44-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Poppen with 6:54 left in the half.

The Wildcats then got the ball late in the half and went 58 yards as Riddle found Peterson for a five-yard scoring toss with 53 seconds to go for a 28-7 contest. This culminated a half in which Linfield recorded a 256-131 edge in total offense and Riddle completing 14-of-27 passes for 185 and four touchdowns.

Michael Metter kicked a 44-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, Riddle hit Colin Nelson on a 40-yard touchdown pass and backup quarterback Matt Yarborough found the end zone from nine yards to end the scoring.

Morrison rushed 18 times for 90 yards, Klein completed just 11-of-31 passes for 97 yards and Burns amassed 10 tackles.

The loss ends an immaculate career for senior All-America and four-time first team All-MAC pick Anthony Davis (Upland, PA/Chester). The dynamic receiver/returner ends first in school history with 6,767 all-purpose yards, 264 receptions, 3,958 receiving yards 83 kickoff returns and 1,859 kickoff return yards. He also is second in team history with 41 touchdown catches and third with 45 touchdowns.

Riddle simply was spectacular, completing 18-of-36 passes for 261 yards and five touchdowns for the Wildcats, who owned a 409-173 advantage in total offense and was 11-of-21 on third-down conversions.

Alex Hoff had nine tackles and an amazing 4 1/2 sacks for Linfield, which closed with seven sacks and 10 tackles for a loss.

This was just the Pride’s second home loss in the last four years. The squad fell to 87-27 at the 21-year-old Quick Stadium.