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Rowan converts fumble into points with 1:03 left to beat Wilkes, 21-14;
Profs advance to meet St. John Fisher
Wilkes-Barre, PA - Rowan QB Mike Orihel scored on two QB sneaks in the final three minutes of play to come from behind and lead the Rowan Profs (9-2) to an exciting 21-14 victory over the Wilkes University Colonels (11-1) in a D-III second round playoff game to advance to quarterfinal play next weekend. Rowan took the early lead as both teams started out sluggishly on a slippery field, but Wilkes, champion of the Middle Atlantic Conference, tied the game in the third period, and went ahead in the fourth only to relinquish the lead after its only turnover of the day to put Rowan ,champs of the New Jersey State Athletic Conference, within scoring reach to take back the lead in the waning minutes of play. For CFF, it was the fourth comeback victory in the last five games we've attended. It was our 10th playoff game ever, and another exciting one at that! We hope to make several more over the next few weeks as opportunities allow us. Rather than wait for clueless coaches, human-programmed computers, and purchased pundits to determine who will be the top two teams to play for a national championship, three other divisions are in the throes of where that's supposed to be determined - on the playing fields. These players have classes and final exams upcoming, too. In most cases, theirs are even more important for their long-term life plans than others who play at the highest level. So cut the bologna, in D1-A, it's all about the money! Cut through the bowl game committees, use the big bowl cities to host semi-finals and finals on an annual basis to get their shares, invite six major conference champs and two at-large bids annually, keep the lesser bowls intact, and we can crown a real champion at the 1-A level like there is at every other level of college sports! Collegefootballfan.com would be glad to show the NCAA how to do it. They can check out our Playoff Proposal for starters!
Rowan had great field position throughout the first period as the Profs punted twice to Wilkes in Wilkes' territory. P-LB Aaron McCord was effective at placing punts inside the 20-yard line as the Colonels were forced to start their first two possessions from the ten and from the five respectively. Aside from Wilkes' tough D, Rowan's field good field position was held in check while playing on the slippery midfield as players from both teams had trouble with footing there. The cold night air and warm, late, November days caused the surface to thaw and soften during the day. It's good to see a game played on natural turf for a change as most have gone to Pro-turf where there's hardly a dirt spot to be found on today's players. On their third possession, Rowan's Orihel tried to isolate his 6-2 WR Emory Lester against the shorter Wilkes' defenders, but to no avail. However, the Profs were able to establish a running game as it approached the firmer turf near the end zone as RB Davon Edwards ran it in from the five. Daniel Roberts' extra point was good and the team formerly known as Glassboro State took a 7-0 lead.
In the second period, P Kevin Keller placed a punt from the Rowan 39 adroitly on the one where Rowan started its drive which was interrupted by an INT by Wilkes' DB John Darrah where the Colonels were in business at the Profs 21. A sack pushed them back to the thirty where on fourth and 19, QB Al Karaffa's pass was broken up by DB Brandon Tolbert. Rowan took over on downs from its thirty. An out-pass to the left to WR Jim Migliore brought the ball all the way to the Wilkes twenty-one. The Profs got to the Wilkes one where on fourth and goal, Orihel's sneak attempt was stopped cold by the Colonel defense. The Colonels mustered only four yards before punting. With 1:29, the Profs were in good field position at Wilkes' forty-three, but an INT by LB Tyler Henninger thwarted the last chance at a scoring drive before the half ended. The 7-0 Rowan halftime lead was positive news for the Colonels, who lost to this same Rowan program in last year's playoff, 42-3!
CFF ventured over to the concession stand with this day's Guest Game Analyst Steve Ciesla, whose daughter, Allyssa, was working the stand as part of the Wilkes University Softball team's obligation to work the stand during football games. Before halftime ended, the stand ran out of burgers, dogs, and pizza - everything but water! Good thing we weren't hungry! Wilkes evidently wasn't ready for the larger playoff crowd. Allyssa is enjoying her freshman year at Wilkes and looking forward to playing for the solid Wilkes softball program this spring. As a Frosh, she's taking required courses. One includes some local history about the area famous for its beginnings as an important coal and iron producing area. She says that she had to listen to a lecture regarding the minerals of the area at an old mine where the class "stared at a wall of Anthracite ore for twenty minutes - boring!" She didn't realize that anthracite was part of her Dad's and CFF.com's personal college football history as our Juniata College team back in the late '70's played Wilkes in a season finale in what was called the "Anthracite Bowl". It was even carried locally on TV by the ABC affiliate at the time! My grandmother, living in Towanda, PA at the time said, "It looked like a high school game!" My grandmother had no appreciation of "small school" football. Kids today have no appreciation for important history either!
Wilkes drove the ball on its first possession of the second half from its thirty-five to the Rowan twenty-five where a FG attempt fell short. Rowan's next drive was stopped by the Colonel's third INT of the day as DB Mike Ferriero started Wilkes at their own thirty-six. Karaffa didn't waste any time as he heaved a long pass to WR Jim Jordan to get down to the Rowan eleven-yard line. The Colonels got to the six from where RB Tim Andreopoulos ran a sweep around right end for Wilkes' first TD. PK Ryan Yurewicz converted the extra point to tie the score, 7-7. Tthe score got Wilkes fired up as they found that they could compete with the team that had overwhelmed them last year. The defensive front led by Keith Cavalotti and Anthony Serafin sacked Orihel twice on the next series and forced the Profs to punt from their own nineteen. Jordan returned the punt to the Profs' thirty-seven. Wilkes was able to get to the Rowan eight where Kevin Keller missed his second FG. The Wilkes D was still strong as they forced Rowan to set up to punt from their own seven as the third period came to an end with the score still 7-7.
WU started the final period at Rowan's thirty-seven. Karaffa completed two consecutive passes to get close to the goal line. From the five, Andreopoulos took it up the middle for his second TD on the day. The PAT was good, and Wilkes had its first lead, 14-7, with 13:52 left to play. Rowan drove to the Wilkes' twenty-seven on its next possession, but on a fourth and nine, DB David Grega broke up the pass attempt to take over for Wilkes. Three punts later, Rowan took over at Wilkes' forty-nine. Rowan spread the Wilkes D with four wide-outs. On two consecutive carries followed by a pass completion, Orihel was able to get the Profs to the Wilkes' fourteen. Matching up taller receivers with the Wilkes' DBs, an interference call gave Rowan a first-and-goal at the two. On third and one, Orihel snuck it in from the two. The snap on the PAT was high, the holder got off a pass, but Wilkes stopped the attempt at the one. With 3:00 remaining, Wilkes held a one-point lead, 14-13. However, on the first play of the ensuing series, the exchange between center an QB was fumbled, and Rowan recovered at the Wilkes' twenty-two! With 1:03 left, Orihel took it over from the two to re-take the lead for the Profs. His two-point conversion pass to Lester was good for the 21-14 Rowan lead. The Colonels had nothing left, and Rowan finished a tough, hard-fought game victorious. Wilkes finished its season 11-1 while the Profs head off next weekend to play St. John Fisher. 27-21 winner over Springfield, in Rochester, NY.
Extra points: The Colonels have a nice complex at Artillery Park across the Susquehanna River from its campus. The school runs shuttles back and forth for the athletes for practice and games. The field needs a scoreboard on each end of the field. The current one is nearly impossible to read from the home stands when the sun shines right on it.
The game program is very generic as it contains rosters of all 32 teams playing in the tourney. There is no information about the schools playing or any specific game notes. It has the brackets, championship history, and tournament records. Some interesting stats about Division Three: 1.) 420 active members of which 80% are private schools. 2.) Average undergrad enrollments = 2,057. 3.) Average number of Men's sports per school: 7.8/ Women: 8.6. 4.) Avg. Operating expense per School: With football = $1.6MM/ Without football = $900,000.
Defending champ Mt. Union goes for its ninth national championship in the last 14 years. Current Head Coach Larry Kehres has been there for every one. In the first eight championship seasons, the Purple Raiders had identical records of 14-0. Last year was their first with a blemish as they finished 14-1. 2003 was the only year that they came up short in the final when the lost to St. John's of Minnesota, 24-6. If Mt. Union is there or not, CFF.com plans to go to Salem to see our first D-3 National Championship game. Mt. Union (12-0), St. John's (11-1) , and Wisconsin-Whitewater (12-0), last year's runner-up, all remain active in the tourney. Rowan has reached the final five times, but lost them all. Mary Hardin - Baylor of Texas (10-2), runner-up two years ago, Capital of Ohio (11-1), and Wesley of Delaware (12-0) also play in this weekend's quarterfinals. Capital's loss earlier was to Mt. Union, 38-12. Mary Hardin-Baylor lost to Wisc-Whitewater, 7-3. Mt. Union averages 49.3 points per game and allows only 7.7. Whitewater averages 40.1 and allows 9.5. Imagine if we were looking at brackets with Ohio State, Michigan, USC, Florida, Boise State...as well!