A pair of big passing plays had The College of Wooster football team chasing Allegheny College for most of the afternoon, and the Gators struck for the go-ahead touchdown with 1:26 remaining prior to recovering a Fighting Scots' fumble in the final minute, which clinched a 27-20 win for the visitors on a rainy Saturday afternoon at John P. Papp Stadium, in what marked the teams' North Coast Athletic Conference opener.
Wooster (1-1, 0-1 NCAC) appeared to be on the verge of being an extra point away from tying the score at 20 with 8:29 remaining after senior Antonio Bailey broke free up the middle and was off to the races. However, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty wiped out the touchdown, and moved the ball back to the Allegheny (1-1, 1-0 NCAC) 17-yard line.
Four plays later, the Gators' Bryan Lopez stepped in front of a pass attempt by sophomore Caden Croft just outside the end zone giving the ball back to Allegheny with 7:07 remaining.
|Sophomore Kea'Shaun Phillips' interception in the fourth quarter gave the Scots' the ball back on the Gators' 11-yard line. Wooster's offense responded by tying the score at 20.|
Sophomore Kea'Shaun Phillips intercepted a deflected ball five plays later, and that gave Wooster the pigskin on Allegheny's 11-yard line.
Croft responded by finding junior Nick Strausbaugh on a 9-yard completion, and Bailey inched the ball down to the 1-yard line while picking up a first down in the process.
Wooster nearly coughed up the ball, but was able to recover a pair of fumbles before Croft stepped up under center, took the snap, and followed the Scots' experienced line in for a 1-yard score with 3:26 remaining. Sophomore Henry Whyte knocked through the extra point to tie the game at 20.
Wooster's lead didn't hold, as Logan Lee, on in relief of Nazareth Greer, floated up a pass to 6-5 Ben Bachik, who made the play in the corner of the end zone in what went down as the game-winning 30-yard strike with 1:26 remaining.
The Scots were driving on the next possession, thanks to a 22-yard Croft-to-Strausbaugh completion that moved the chains past midfield, but a fumble recovered by Allegheny on the ensuing play sealed Wooster's fate.
Earlier in the game, Allegheny opened up a 14-0 lead in the second quarter behind the speed of its receivers. Alex Victor found space in the middle of the field for a 91-yard touchdown reception on the first play of the second quarter, and a 36-yard Greer-to-Jared Shaw touchdown strike upped the lead to two scores with 9:47 to go before halftime.
Wooster's offense started to find its footing from there, and a 59-yard strike from Croft to Strausbaugh capped a 4-play, 75-yard drive.
Allegheny was on the verge of pulling ahead by two touchdowns with about 5:30 to go in the opening half, but first-year Dexter Lewis made a touchdown-saving tackle on Wooster's 2-yard line after a 48-yard Greer-to-Victor connection. The Scots' dug in with their backs to the wall, starting with junior Robert Alvarez and senior Cornelius Gyamfi driving Allegheny ball carrier Tyler Balla back two yards. Two plays later, Phillips was waiting to greet Balla at the line of scrimmage, and the Gators then settled for a 21-yard field goal that made it 17-7.
Both teams had prime chances offensively in the third quarter, but wound up settling for field goals.
First, Wooster was up to Allegheny's 3-yard line after a 21-yard reception by junior Jacob Lewis, but the Scots couldn't convert on third down and elected to kick, with Whyte chipping the 20-yarder through the uprights.
Then, Allegheny was inside Wooster's 10-yard line, when sophomore Cam Pollard broke up what would've been a 6-yard touchdown, and that forced the Gators to kick from 23 yards out, with the score making it a 20-10 game.
Wooster shot out of the gate on its opening drive of the fourth quarter with a 56-yard reception by Strausbaugh. Four plays later, the Scots elected to trust Whyte to make it a one-possession game, and the sophomore responded with a 24-yard field goal.
Turning to the final stats, Saturday's contest featured two of Div. III's premier wide receivers, and neither disappointed. Allegheny's Victor hauled in six receptions for 199 yards and a touchdown, while Wooster's Strausbaugh turned seven receptions into 179 yards and a score.
Croft completed 21-of-34 passes for 376 yards, while Bailey surpassed the century mark with 114 yards on 20 carries. Lewis continued to rate as one of the Scots' go-to targets in the passing game, and logged five receptions for 92 stripes.
Noteworthy, Strausbaugh and Croft turned in top-10 days in the program annals in receiving and passing yards, respectively.
Defensively, sophomore Mark Herron led the troops with seven tackles and a forced fumbled, while Gyamfi had a sack among his six stops.
Greer completed 14-of-25 passes for 285 yards and two scores for Allegheny, while Balla toted the ball 26 times for 116 yards.
Defensively, Quinten Hunt logged 11 tackles and forced a fumble.
Next, Wooster travels to Ohio Wesleyan University (0-1, 0-0 NCAC) for a 1 p.m. contest on Saturday, Sept. 15.