A tale of two halves… comeback falls short on final drive

A+tale+of+two+halves...+comeback+falls+short+on+final+drive

Michael Kelley

Photo by Austin Drucker ’17

Some fans flocked for home at halftime and who could blame them? Colgate led 28-10 and showed no signs of slowing down, amassing 267 yards of offense while scoring touchdowns on each of its first four possessions.

Dominated entering the locker room at halftime, Lafayette flipped the script and controlled the second half by scoring 14 unanswered points to stage a dramatic comeback that fell short on its final drive. Inside Colgate territory with less than a minute to play, an incomplete fourth down pass from quarterback Drew Reed ‘17 ended comeback hopes as Lafayette lost 28-24.

It was the Leopards’ first league loss of the season.

“I give our kids a lot of credit for coming back in the second half and pitching a shutout,” Head Coach Frank Tavani said. “This one is going to hurt through the night but by tomorrow you have to put this behind you.”

A victory would have meant that Lafayette clinched a share of the Patriot League Championship for the first time since 2006. The Leopards (3-6, 3-1 PL) though are still very much part of the championship conversation.

If Lafayette can defeat Lehigh on November 23 in the 149th rendition of ‘The Rivalry’, it will clinch a share of the league title. If Lehigh defeats Colgate next weekend and then Lafayette defeats Lehigh, the Leopards will win the outright league title for the first time since 1994.

“We still have a lot to say about what goes on in this league. [Lafayette-Lehigh is the] best game in the country in my opinion year in year out and we can still play for a piece of this championship,” Tavani said.

The Leopards received the ball to start the second half and immediately marched 61 yards in five plays to score off a Reed touchdown pass to junior running back Ross Scheuerman. The Lafayette defense then made its presence finally felt on the ensuing Colgate (4-6, 3-1 PL) possession. Cornerback Matt Smalley ‘16 intercepted Gavin McCarney ‘14 deep inside Lafayette territory and was tackled on the three-yard line.

It made no difference to Reed and company as Lafayette drove 97 yards in seven minutes to cut the deficit to four. Again, Reed found Scheuerman for a receiving touchdown. Senior wide receiver Mark Ross, quiet beforehand, caught four passes for 56 yards on the drive, including a 29-yard reception to convert on third down.

Scheuerman was wide open on both of his touchdown receptions.

“We saw it watching film and we took advantage of it down in the red zone,” Scheuerman said.

Lafayette had three chances for a go-ahead score in the final quarter. The first attempt ended when the Colgate defensive line blew up a rush by fullback Greg Kessel ‘14 on fourth down. Lafayette tried again with 5:31 remaining but went three-and-out and was forced to punt. Colgate attempted to run the clock out on its ensuing possession but defensive lineman Jake McTighe ‘14 tackled McCarney on third down and the Raiders were forced to punt.

The punt set up a potential championship winning drive. Reed and company started on the 26-yard line with 1:54 remaining and no timeouts. Two quick passes to Ross advanced the ball past midfield but several incompletions on the next set of downs forced Lafayette into fourth and six. A false start penalty by center Pat Crosby ‘14 added five yards to the fourth down attempt before the pass intended for Ross fell incomplete.

The first half proved to be especially damaging for Lafayette. Colgate running back Demetrius Russell rushed for three touchdowns and led a rushing attack that totaled 172 yards. The Raiders controlled the time of possession 20:16 to 9:44.

Lafayette responded to the opening Colgate touchdown drive when kicker Ryan Gralish ’16 converted a 36-yard field goal attempt. After two more Colgate touchdowns, Scheuerman scored from two yards out to cut the score to 21-10. Russell then scored again with 1:42 remaining in the first half.

Tavani was obviously not pleased at halftime.

“I gathered the team and obviously went after everyone,” the 14th year head coach said. “We got totally dominated on both sides of the football. I have to take a hard look at what we were attempting to do.”

Lafayette must now turn its attention to Fordham. The matchup will not have league implications and kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. next Saturday at Fisher Stadium.