Aurora Rallies to Down Eagles, 36-30
LISLE, IL – The Benedictine University football team dropped a spirited 36-30 contest with Aurora decided late despite a career day from Blake Davis on defense.
Aurora, a high powered offense, needed less than a minute to take an early lead. The visitors marched 87 yards on just three plays, striking on a 68-yard touchdown pass to lead 7-0. Davis recorded his first interception of the day to set up the first Benedictine points, reeling in a tipped pass at midfield. Tyler Jarnagin took advantage, connecting with Deandre Holliday on a 55-yard score to tie the game with 6:27 left in the first quarter.
Aurora answered with a 10-play drive to move ahead 14-7 with an even three minutes left in the first. Following a punt, Aurora moved the ball deep onto the Benedictine side before Davis recorded his second pick at the two-yardline to stall the drive. Backed up to their own eight-yardline, Benedictine marched 92 yards on 12 plays to draw within 14-13 late in the first half. The drive was a strong mix of pass and run featuring a 29-yard pass to Alex Lopez and completions of 18 and 20 yards to Calin Gurau. Darries Rainey dove in from a yard out to account for the score with 4:40 left in the half. With Aurora on the move again, Davis pounced on a fumble forced by Cy Taylor at the six-yardline.
After failing to convert on a fourth down to start the second half, the Benedictine defense put the clamps on Aurora at the 11-yardline, taking over at the 8:02 mark of the third. The offense proceeded to hold the ball for almost the entire remainder of the quarter, utilizing 13 plays to march 89 yards and take the lead for the first time. Jarnagin completed a 17-yard pass to Holliday with three seconds to play in the quarter to make the score 20-14.
Aurora took advantage of a short field to answer early in the fourth and lead 21-20. Tanner Mateus booted a 29-yard field goal to put Benedictine back in front at 23-21 with 9:51 left. Jordan Wilkins forced a fumble on the next Aurora play that was recovered by Denzel Simmon, setting up a short field. Lopez snared a nine-yard touchdown from Jarnagin with 7:43 left to put Benedictine ahead 30-21. Davis recorded a third interception, but the Aurora defense forced a three-and-out.
A 53-yard passing play set up an Aurora touchdown with 4:17 left, making the score 30-28. Aurora then recovered a squib kick and marched down for the go-ahead touchdown with 1:09 left, capping a dramatic fourth quarter comeback. Benedictine was able to move the ball to the Aurora 42-yardline before stalling and ending the game with an interception.
The defense forced five turnovers in the game and Benedictine held the ball for 37:21 of the game. The offense accumulated 455 yards with 317 through the air and 138 on the ground. Jarnagin completed 26 passes for 317 yards and three touchdowns while adding 40 yards rushing. Lopez added to his conference leading yardage total with 10 catches for 122 yards. Gurau caught seven passes with Holliday totaling 93 yards and two touchdowns on six grabs. Gregory Hoard ran the ball 19 times for 90 yards.
Davis recorded three interceptions and added a fumble recovery. Simmon totaled 13 tackles to lead the defense while Wilkins added 11 and Joel Nanni notched nine.
Benedictine (2-1, 2-1 NACC) will play at Lakeland, who won the North Division, next Saturday in the opener of the conference ‘tournament’.
By Tim Calderwood, Benedictine Athletic Staff