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Zwann Leads Rams through Quagmire to edge Warriors, 18-17
West Chester, PA - About two and one-half hours after the conclusion of the Delaware-James Madison game, CFF found its way to West Chester University to see a key PSAC contest between two teams undefeated in Eastern Division play as #6-ranked Division 2 East Stroudsburg visited the Rams. Second team QB Bill Zwann, Jr., son of Ram Head Coach Bill Zwann, replaced injured starter Matt Burdalski late in the second period and threw two TD passes within 27 seconds before the first half ended to put the winning points on the board for the Rams (6-2, 5-0) in a hard-fought but sloppy 18-17 Ram victory. In torrential downpours and sloppy conditions, the WCSU Rams and East Stroudsburg Warriors slugged it out in the mud and driving rainstorm in front of a few thousand die-hard, cold, wet fans. It was a night where fumbles and slips were the norm, and where a decision in the third quarter made a difference in the outcome of a game not decided until the final gun sounded. To truly appreciate the conditions, ESU fumbled nine times and lost four, while Rams players fumbled six but lost only one. CFF purchased new rain gear and fresh batteries for the camera on the way to West Chester from Newark to prepare for the game, but the vinyl kept neither us nor our papers and program from getting drenched, so few notes could be taken during this game. We got some great pictures though of something rarely seen during the era of pro turf. We saw a good, old-fashioned mud game. Check out our Action Album in a few days ( we also got some good shots from our low seat at Delaware). We used drive charts off the ESU web site to refresh our memory regarding the night's muddy action.
ESU fair-caught the opening kickoff at the 25 to begin play, but several plays later, WR Dave Fedorka fumbled a completed pass and West Chester took over at the ESU 40. The Rams took advantage as QB Burdalski connected with WR Mike Washington on a 25-yard pass play. Alex Walsh's point after was blocked, but the Rams had a quick 6-0 lead. WR Evan Prall's long kickoff return went for naught as he fumbled the return away to the Rams who had the ball once again at their own 28. Two downs later, Burdalski's pass was intercepted by ESU S Matt Crispell at his own 21 where the Warriors took over. The teams went back and forth for the remainder of the period, but CFF came away impressed by the punting of the Warriors' Ken Parrish. He boomed a 62-yarder for a touchback. Later, he placed another from 37 yards away near the WCSU goal line which could have been caught by a teammate, but was instead mishandled for another touchback.
In the second period, the Rams drove to the Warrior 13. On a fourth and four, Burdalski's pass fell incomplete, and the Warriors started their next drive from that point. Terwilliger kept the ensuing drive going on a fourth down completion to WR Tim Strenfel at the WC 41. ESU drove to the three where a screen pass to FB Anthony Carfagno put the ball into the end zone. Mark Brubaker's PAT gave the Warriors a 7-6 lead. What was expected to be a wide-open, high scoring contest was now being dictated by the elements as both teams mixed up their strong running games with mostly short passes. After an exchange of punts, WCSU found itself with good field position at the ESU 43 with only 1:38 remaining in the half. Burdalski ran off the field holding his wrist after he had thrown two consecutive incompletions. He never returned. One ESU fan was heard to say, "Here comes the second stringer." Our thought was if this kid had had a chance to take any snaps or a make any throws prior to his entry on this cold, wet night. How effective could he be? He answered that question quite quickly! His first pass was complete for eight yards to Brandon Simmons. Fifteen more were tacked on when LB John Vetter who had made the hit was flagged for a questionable, unsportsmanlike call along the West Chester sideline. After a 10 yard sack and a five yard motion penalty, Zwann dropped back on 2nd and 25 to hit streaking Mike Washington in the end zone for a 36-yard touchdown, Washington's second of the night. Up 12-7, the Rams went for two, but the pass play failed. ESU took over at their own 44 in good field position, but with only 49 seconds remaining. SS Angel Santana foiled the Warrior drive right at the start as he intercepted Terwilliger's pass on the next play and returned it 37 yards to the ESU 25. Zwann wasted no time as he completed a 20-yard pass to WR Luther Bowen who stopped the clock as he went out of bounds. Two plays later, Zwann lofted the ball to the left corner in a perfect pass over the shoulder of WR Brandon Simmons for a 5-yard score with 22 seconds left. Another two-point pass attempt failed and WCSU took an 18-7 lead into the warmth of a wet, muddy locker room.
From the memory of a game played 23 years ago when we last visited West Chester, we expected the half-time show to be pretty good. We remember the band being pretty huge the last time we were there. The WC Ram band has to be one of the best in D2. Maybe not quite as big as we remember, but they sure sound good. ESU brought their much smaller band, and both sounded clear and sharp on a night when they performed from their respective stands at the half as the field became a quagmire not fit for cleats or musicians' white shoes. The Ram band has strong horn and percussion sections that are more reminiscent of a drum corps as opposed to a marching band. Quite the opposite of UD-JMU game, the rain subsided during halftime, and the worst weather was to come in the second half.
The rain came down hard, and all those inconsiderate people who brought umbrellas put them up. A Ram punt at the end of the first series put ESU back on their own 12. Terwilliger fumbled away to the Rams on a tackle by Jimmy Lewis (no relation to the same named player we knew at BHS on Sept. 1 35 years ago). The Rams were in striking distance at the Warrior 21. They got as close as the ESU seven where the defense stiffened and sacked Zwann for a nine-yard loss to take the ball back on downs. Four Terwilliger completions, two Terwilliger rushes, and a pass interference call put the Warriors at the two where the QB completed the drive with a two-yard TD pass to WR Evan Prall. With 5:15 remaining in Q3, ESU coach Denny Douds made a decision on what we thought at the time was a critical decision. On a night as the field conditions worsened by the minute, the footing became more and more difficult and the ball became more difficult to hold on to, reducing the opportunities to score many more times on the evening. Down by five, 18-13, why go for one when two can put you in reach by a FG could give you a tie? Fail, and you still need a TD either way to take a lead. The coach with 195 wins over 31 years must have decided that there was plenty of time left. Brubaker put up the extra point, and the Warriors were down 18-14, still out of reach by more than a FG. ESU halted the next Ram drive and the subsequent punt went for only 12 yards putting the Warriors in business at their own 49.
To start the final period, the Warriors drove to the five where the Rams held them to a 22-yard Brubaker FG. Instead of a possible tie, the Warriors trailed 18-17 with 13:30 left in the game. The two teams exchanged punts and the exchanged fumbles on the next four series. Zwann's fumble was a classic where the ball popped out high above the pile of muddied players where it was recovered by OLB John Glenn at his own teams 26. The Warriors seemed to have life with 3:00 left. However, with one time-out remaining things didn't go well for the Warriors. After a completed pass for four yards, an incompletion and sack occurred before Terwilliger completed a 13-yard pass to Prall for a first down. The long passing game was ineffective due to the conditions of the field. The QB ran for seven yards. Then on the next play, he recovered his own fumble as the ball slipped when he went back to pass. ESU fans screamed at the refs to stop the clock, but that's not what happens when you recover your own fumble. Terwilliger called his final time-out with 24 seconds remaining. A sack followed, and on the final play of the game, Terwilliger's pass fell incomplete. The West Chester stands and sideline exploded. The teams met at midfield, and the WC band played the alma mater after the victory march while I sloshed as quickly as I could to my car listening to the abuse the refs were taking for not stopping the clock on Terwilliger's fumble as they passed closely by. The win means that next week's game for West Chester at Bloomsburg is for the PSAC East championship and an NCAA D2 bid. ESU finishes up at Cheyney and then home to Mansfield. Two wins may get them into the tourney as well with an 8-2 mark overall with losses to Bloomsburg and West Chester. We may think about returning for a rematch if the two teams face off again on our designated playoff weekend.
CFF's thoughts to go for two after the last ESU TD seemed that it would have been the right decision. If successful, the score could have been tied. If not, ESU would have lost by two instead of one, and would have still have been in position to win with another FG just as it was in the final out come. It was an exciting, hard fought game under the extreme weather conditions it was played in. Both teams gave it their all right to the end. CFF was glad to have been there for a classic D2, PSAC battle. A much different game was expected under better conditions, but it was still intense none the less. However, we bolted back to the car where we luckily had dry socks, shorts and sweat pants awaiting. Luckily no one was around to witness everything coming off in the front seat of the car, but we didn't care! The sopping jeans and socks came off and the dry stuff went on while the heater blasted to give some comforting, dry heat. The wet stuff all went back into the trunk and the wet program was unraveled to dry as much a possible. A pit stop and hot chocolate were what was needed on the late night drive home. Though we now plan to see six new 1A teams toward our Goal over the next four weeks, it's games like these seen today that keep us enjoying college football no matter who we see!
Extra Points: CFF has to go into the record books somewhere for this one. Who has ever attended two college games on the same day where neither winning team kicked an extra point despite scoring 52 points?
There was a Juniata College (our alma mater) connection at West Chester. The offensive line at West Chester is coached by Nick Sama, fellow Juniata "Indian" whom I practiced with during our days on The Hill. We knew Nick was formerly at Widener. When Bill Zwann,SR came from Widener in 2003, Nick must have come with him. Good job, Nick!
Ban the umbrellas! Ridiculous! People come to these games and unlike the bigger stadiums where they ban them, fans plop down in front of others and inconsiderably pop them up obstructing others' views. In places where they're banned, people wear rain gear and they should do the same at these venues. I changed views several times to see better around others who have no consideration for others even after they arrived later for the game! Ban umbrellas at John A. Farrell Stadium!
"Over-rated" has become a popular and over-used chant in recent games. We heard both home crowds extolling the chant as the two home teams defeated higher ranked visitors. We believe it degrades the efforts of the team springing the upset. In neither case on this day was either team over-rated. They met talented teams and had the disadvantage of being on the road, and the talented home teams were no slouches themselves.