Saturday, September 30, 2017

Widener Holds Off Lebanon Valley Comeback

A File Photo
Lebanon Valley kept it close but ultimately was unable to grab the lead from Widener in the team's 28-20 loss to its Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) foe at WU's Leslie C. Quick Jr. Stadium on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 30.

Each time the Pride (3-2, 3-1 MAC) put points on the board, the Flying Dutchmen (2-3, 2-2 MAC) responded with a scoring drive of their own. But every time the visitors cut the deficit to one possession, Widener answered by pushing the lead back to double digits.

After LVC held the Pride on their opening drive, the home team got on the board first when quarterback Jespersen's 21-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Sapp capped a 14-play, 82-yard scoring possession late in the first quarter.

The Dutchmen showed the Pride they were up for the competition when they came back with a field goal following the ensuing 10-play, 43-yard drive. LVC was aided by return man Jeremy De La Cruz's 40-yard kickoff return and Marcus Brown finished it off by converting his FG attempt from 33 yards away early in the second quarter.

Both defenses made stands before Widener added its second touchdown of the day when Jespersen connected with wide receiver Gillespie from five yards out with 5:13 remaining in the second quarter.

Before the first half was through, however, Lebanon Valley put together an effective nine-play, 75-yard march that ended with the team's first touchdown of the day. Quarterback Tyler Sterner hit wide receiver Colt Baxterfor a 39-yard gain and Tim Pirrone scored the first of his two TDs when he rushed across the goal line from five yards out with 33 seconds left in the second quarter.

After the break, a big play resulted in another touchdown for Widener when Jespersen connected with Montrelle Hicks-Taylor for a 52-yard score at the 5:57 mark of the third quarter, pushing the Widener advantage to 21-10.

A pair of big plays aided the Dutchmen on their ensuing possession, as a 28-yard run by tailback Ryan Finkgot things rolling before Sterner hit Pirrone for a 23-yard touchdown to cap the eight-play drive that took more than four minutes off the clock and cut the deficit to four at the 1:42 mark.

The Pride turned to the run game when they got the ball back and gouged Lebanon Valley with three consecutive run plays that went for 17, 14, and 17 yards, respectively. The last one by Chris Randle went straight up the gut and into the end zone, pushing the home team's advantage back to 11 early in the fourth quarter.

But the Dutchmen weren't done yet. Their most impressive drive of the afternoon came midway through the fourth when the team went 93 yards in 12 plays and used Brown's 22-yard field goal to make it a one-possession game at 28-20 with 3:34 left to play. Jon Jones' 34-yard scamper provided the spark during the series.

The LVC defense had the Pride facing 3rd-and-10 on the next possession but Widener used a perfectly-timed screen pass to pick up the first down and seal the hard-fought victory.

It Was Over When…
The first key play came when Widener's defense stopped LVC tailback Ryan Fink short of the line to gain on 3rd-and-2 from the Pride's six-yard line. LVC head coach Joe Buehler '89 chose to take the points and Marcus Brown converted a 22-yard field goal, cutting the deficit to 28-20 with 3:34 left to play. When Widener got the ball back, the Dutchmen defense stuffed running back Ennis on two consecutive plays to bring up a crucial 3rd-and-10. The home team countered the Lebanon Valley rush with a screen pass that went for 16 yards and a first down. LVC never got the ball back.

Inside the Numbers
- Widener racked up 468 yards of total offense, while the Dutchmen managed 338.
- The Pride did most of their damage through the air, throwing for 317 yards and three scores.
- LVC leaned heavily on the ground game, rushing for 217 yards and a touchdown on 51 attempts.
- Lebanon Valley won the turnover battle 2-1.
- Tim Pirrone accounted for both of LVC's touchdowns, with one rushing and one receiving score.
- Ryan Fink was the team's leading rusher with 91 yards on 21 carries. Jon Jones added 81 yards on 15 attempts.
- Tyler Sterner finished 8-10 for 121 yards and a touchdown on the day.
- Widener's Jespersen had a big day, throwing for 317 yards and three touchdowns, while logging just seven incomplete passes.
- Linebacker Tyler Lutz was LVC's leading tackler with eight stops. He also recorded the game's only interception.
- Linebacker Tim Schumacher added seven tackles and forced a fumble that was recovered by defensive back Cody Davis.
- Defensive end Austin Maguire had Lebanon Valley's lone sack on the day.
- Lutz, defensive lineman Ryan Johnson, linebacker Tommy Garner, and safety Zachary Adams made tackles for loss.
- Jeremy De La Cruz again proved a weapon on special teams with three returns for 77 yards, including a 40-yard return.

Who's Next?
LVC is on the bye next week. The Dutchmen return to action on Oct. 14 when they host Stevenson at Arnold Field. The contest will serve as the program's Homecoming Game.

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