Division-III Football Playoffs: Round 2 Preview: Widener vs. Christopher Newport
Match-Up: On Saturday at noon Eastern Time the Widener College Pride will play host to the Christopher Newport University Captains in the second round of the NCAA Division-III Football playoffs. The Pride were ranked No. 11 in the final regular season D3Football poll. The Captains were not ranked.
How They Got Here:
I was 14-2 in my predictions for results in the first round last weekend. Christopher Newport was one of the predictions I had wrong. The Captains were trailing 26-13 entering the fourth quarter, but put up 16 unanswered points to take home the 29-26 victory.
Marcus Morrast’s 10-yard pass to Rudy Rudolph cut the deficit to seven with 10:47 left in the game. The Captains recovered the onside kick following the touchdown and on the eighth play of the drive Morrast kept the ball and scored from 1-yard out to tie it at 26. The teams exchanged possessions without any success, but CNU got the ball at their own 19 with 1:24 left in the game. Morrast moved the ball on the ground on the first four plays, gaining 32 yards. A personal foul call on the first play gave them 15 more, so they were down to the Delaware Valley 34. Storm Parker then carried the ball twice for 13 yards, putting the Captains at the 21 with two seconds left in the game. Following three timeouts Mason Studer hit a 38-yard field goal sending CNU onto the next round.
The Captains put of 475 yards of offense. Morrast recorded 108 yards and a touchdown on the ground and also threw for 216 yards and a touchdown. Daquan Davis scored twice and had 80 yards rushing.
The Widener Pride were in their own nail-biter with Muhlenberg. The Mules were leading 14-7 coming out of the first quarter, but the score was reversed in the second quarter, sending the two teams to the locker room tied at 21 at the half. Seth Klein’s pass to Blaine Price with 28 seconds left in the first half tied the score.
Each team scored in the third quarter. Seth Klein passed to Haydn Warren on fourth and goal from the 1 to give the Pride the lead. The score was setup by an interception by Ameer Sorrell who returned the ball to the 1-yard line. It looked like Widener was going to get nothing as they could not score from one yard out on the first three plays, but Klein bailed them out.
To start the fourth quarter Ryan O’Hara hit a 20-yard field goal to put Widener back on top. Nick Palladino responded with a 1-yard touchdown run to make the score 35-31. Two possessions later the Mules began their drive at their own 1-yard line. Max Cepeda was stopped trying to get out of the end zone for the safety, putting the Pride down by two.
They received the ball with 1:32 left and were at their own 39. Klein completed 3 of his first 4 passes to move the ball to the Muhlenberg 12. Three plays later O’Hara came on again, this time to attempt a 32-yard field goal. He hit it making it 36-35 with eight seconds left. Palladino completed a 47-yard pass to Michael Long to the Widener 17, but time ran out and the Pride escaped with the one point win.
Klein was 28-47 for 364 yards and 2 touchdowns. Anthony Davis had 114 yards receiving and Price added 82 more and a touchdown. The defense gave up 510 yards, but also intercepted two passes and had two fumble recoveries.
The Pride have an outstanding offense and defense. They averaged 40.1 points per game and allow 14.0 points per game. This defense is incredibly opportunistic, making 29 sacks, 23 interceptions and 17 fumbles. They are extremely deep and talented, led by Kevin Burns and Brandon Harper. Burns leads the team with 82 tackles, 3 forced fumbles and 4.5 sacks. Harper has 73 tackles and 3 sacks. Tyler Glover leads the team in sacks with 9 and Sean Titus has 9 interceptions.
Klein is the leader of this offense, throwing for 2931 yards and 31 touchdowns with a completion percentage of 61.2 percent. He also has an outstanding 169.6 passer efficiency rating. Anthony Davis leads the team in receptions by far with 61 for 1077 yards and 10 touchdowns. Terrant Morrison leads the team in rushing with 819 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Christopher Newport is an opportunistic team that takes advantage of teams’ mistakes. They have made 11 interceptions and recovered 10 fumbles, and of those 21 takeaways they have scored 152 points off of them. Cameron Barlow leads the team with 4 interceptions and Shaun Copening is first in sacks with 5.
On offense the team is led by a two-headed running attack that is brutal to try to stop. QB Marcus Morrast has run for 999 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Daquan Davis has 829 yards and 10 touchdowns. Morrast has also proven to be quite deadly in the passing game, throwing for 2462 yards and 22 touchdowns, with just 7 interceptions. He has an impressive 161.4 passer efficiency rating and has competed 58.5 percent of his passes.
Christopher Newport has shown they can battle back, and looked very good in their opening round victory. They have a dynamic quarterback who can make plays with his arm and with his legs. For Widener they did not look as impressive as a No. 11 seed should look, but they delivered when they had to, and that is what is important. They have the tools to score and to make big plays on defense. I am the least confident of this pick for this weekend, but I will go with the Pride, 31-28.
By Robert Pannier