November 16, 2014

Delaware Valley Football - Aggies falls to Widener 44-28 in battle of the unbeatens

Photo courtesy of Delaware Valley Sports Information
CHESTER (PA) – With the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) championship and automatic berth to the NCAA Division III playoffs on the line, it was host Widener University that won the clash of the unbeaten as the Pride forced six turnovers and outscored Delaware Valley College, 30-14, in the second half for the 44-28 victory.

There was not an empty seat in the house as well as rows of people standing all around Leslie C. Quick, Jr. Stadium

Widener improved to 10-0 overall and captured its 20th conference title and 14th trip to the NCAAs. The Pride also captured the Keystone Cup, an award that is handed out annually to the winning team in the series with the Aggies.

For Delaware Valley, it finished the regular season with a 9-1 mark. The team was number one in the last NCAA East Regional rankings and now the Aggies must wait until Sunday night to find out whether or not they receive one of the six at-large berths to the 32-team NCAA Division III championship field. The NCAA will announce the field on a webcast show starting at 6:00 p.m. at Delaware Valley will gather as a team to watch the webcast in the auditorium of its new Life Sciences Building.

There was not an empty seat in the house as well as rows of people standing all around Leslie C. Quick, Jr. Stadium for the undefeated battle of archrivals who are less than an hour away from each other. The anticipation built for the game as each week passed and both teams plowed through its fellow MAC schools.

One of the big match-ups of the game was a Delaware Valley offense that averaged 45.1 points (eighth in Division III) and 512.3 yards (seventh) per game against a Widener defense that allowed just 10.1 points (sixth) and 251.9 yards (15th) per contest. The Aggies were also 13th in the country with just 10 turnovers on the year.

Delaware Valley racked up the yardage against the Pride with 527 yards, including 158 on the ground against the nation's top rushing defense (42.9 yards per game). However Widener was a plus-five on the turnover battle thanks to five interceptions and one fumble recovery (Delaware Valley forced one interception of its own) and it held the Aggie offense to 21 points as another seven came on defense.

Widener attempted an onsides kick on the opening kickoff, but Delaware Valley's Chris Chioffe recovered it at the Pride 47. The Aggies picked up a first down after the first two plays and Chris Smallwood then dragged defenders, en route to a 28-yard run and a first-and-goal from the Widener three-yard line. Smallwood was dropped for a three-yard loss on first down. Quarterback Aaron Wilmer kept the ball and lost a yard to bring up third-and-goal from the seven. Wilmer then hit Bobby Marterella on a short slant in the end zone for the touchdown. Brandon Snyder added the extra point for a 7-0 Delaware Valley just 2:39 in, the first time all season that Pride trailed in a game.

The teams combined for five punts on the next five drives with the Aggies eventually taking over at its own 36-yard line after the fifth boot. However, on first down, Wilmer was picked off by Jarard Stewart and the Pride took over at the Delaware Valley 33. Three plays later, they were in the end zone thanks to an eight-yard run by Terrant Morrison. Ryan O'Hara's extra-point tied the game at 7-7 with 2:39 left in the first quarter.

Delaware Valley moved into Widener territory on the ensuing possession and faced a fourth-and-one at the 36. Wilmer's pass fell incomplete but the Pride were called for a holding for an automatic first down at the Widener 27-yard line. Wilmer was intercepted by Shawn Titus inside the 15 and he returned it 51 yards to the Aggie 35. Titus fumbled the ball back to Delaware Valley, but the officials ruled that Titus had stepped out of bounds before the fumble. The Aggie defense held, thanks in part to an open field tackle by Danny Wynne on a screen pass.

A tipped ball at the line of scrimmage resulted in Wilmer's third interception, matching his season total coming into the contest. But,once again, the Aggie defense kept the Pride off the scoreboard, including a key pass breakup by Brian Carter on All-American receiver Anthony Davis.

Delaware Valley, behind two big passes from Wilmer to Rasheed Bailey, drove the ball to the Pride 32 where it faced a third-and-seven. Wilmer threw a screen pass out to Smallwood who ran over a defender and picked up a key first down at the 19-yard line. The Aggies then had a third-and-four from the 13, when Wilmer was stripped of the ball and Widener's Stacey Sunnerville recovered at his own 19 for the fourth Delaware Valley turnover.

However, the Aggie defense followed with a turnover of its own and it was for points as junior linebacker Rashaad Lighty stepped right in front of Seth Klein pass and raced 25 yards for a touchdown. Snyder's extra-point made it 14-7 Delaware Valley with just 2:39 left in the first half.

Widener tied it up just 36 seconds later as Klein threw a swing pass to Morrison and he went 25 yards for a touchdown. It was set up by a roughing the passer penalty on the Aggies. Delaware Valley came back and reached the Pride 29 for a fourth-and-nine. Max Stella nearly hauled in a spectacular catch, but he was hit by a defender and the ball hit the ground for an incomplete pass. And the teams went into the locker room tied at 14-14.

The tide changed in the third quarter as Widener scored three touchdowns in a six-minute span for a 35-14 lead. The Pride first took the opening kickoff of the half drove to the Aggie 20 where they had a fourth-and-four. Klein had all day to throw and found Davis for the touchdown for the go-ahead score with 11:57 left in the third.

Delaware Valley was trapped at its own three-yard line on the ensuing kickoff. They were forced to punt and the Pride took over at the Delaware Valley 44.They moved the ball five yards on three plays and then lined up for a punt on fourth down. However, the Pride ran a fake and Max Kutler took the snap and ran 39 yards for a touchdown and a 28-14 Widener lead with 9:10 to go in the quarter. The Pride struck again just four minutes later as they went play action and Davis got behind the secondary and Klein hit him for a 55-yard touchdown pass.

Delaware Valley did not go away as it converted a fourth down shortly before Wilmer and Bailey teamed up for a 43-yard scoring strike and a 35-21 ballgame with 1:34 left in the third. The Aggies attempted an onsides kick, but Widener recovered it. The Aggie defense forced a fourth down play and Ethan Snyder came through for the sack to give the ball back to the Aggie offense.

However, Delaware Valley was forced to punt and a 41-yard strike from Klein to Davis put the ball in the red zone. The Aggies held and O'Hara's 34-yard field goal was nearly blocked, but it went through the upright to up the Pride's lead to 38-21 less than three minutes into the fourth quarter.

Delaware Valley, behind big passes to Bailey, Marteralla and Mike Jensen, drove deep into Widener territory. Wilmer then went for Bailey in the end zone, but it was intercepted by Ameer Sorrell. Five plays later, Klein found Montrell Hicks-Taylor for a 16-yard touchdown and a 44-21 lead.

Delaware Valley drove down the field on the ensuing kickoff and Wilmer hit Bailey for a 12-yard touchdown, the 19th touchdown catch on the year by Bailey and the record-breaking 30th scoring toss of the season for Wilmer. Snyder's extra-point made it a 44-28 game with 4:43 to go.

Delaware Valley got a stop and drove down with still an outside chance, but Sunnerville intercepted a desperation pass to seal the game.

Wilmer completed 24 of 54 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns but was intercepted five times. He also rushed for 53 yards despite being sacked just four times. If Wilmer gets another game next week, the senior will need just seven passing yards to become the 26th player in NCAA college football history (all divisions) to pass for 10,000 yards and rush for 1,000-yards in a career.

Bailey, the Division III leader in receiving yards, receiving yards per game and receiving touchdowns, had nine catches for 152 yards and two scores. Jensen had five catches for 99 yards and Marterella added five grabs for 71 yards and a touchdown.

Smallwood became the first running back to rush for more than 100 yards on Widener this season as he had 104 yards on 24 carries. He also caught five passes for another 47 yards.

On the defensive side of the ball, Wynne led Delaware Valley with 12 tackles while Frank Law added nine stops. Snyder and Luke Boonstra had sacks on the afternoon.

For Widener, Klein was 15-for-31 for 287 yards and four touchdowns. Morrison rushed for 83 yards and a score while Davis finished with six catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns.