By Pat Coleman
ASHLAND, Va. — Within the span of a few minutes in Saturday's Washington and Jefferson/Randolph-Macon game the Yellow Jackets went from also-rans to contenders. Unfortunately, they followed that with a U-turn.
Trailing 14-7, Randolph-Macon cornerback Trey Henderson intercepted a Brian Dawson pass in W&J territory. But then the Yellow Jackets started going backwards. Brian Partlow lost 28 yards in two plays to set up a third-and-38 back at his own 41.
Certainly some were thinking a quick kick was in order. But Partlow found Sean Eaton streaking up the left sideline and hit him in stride for a 59-yard touchdown. Randolph-Macon's defense held W&J to one first down, and on their next possession, Partlow passed three times for 77 yards and a 21-14 lead.
"We gave up a fade on third-and-38, a senior just blows the coverage," said Presidents head coach John Banaszak. "I thought we were in jeopardy. But the kids weren't going to let that affect us."
From there, Washington & Jefferson turned it on, scoring 28 unanswered points to take a 42-21 lead and outscoring Randolph-Macon (1-2) 29-7 in the second half for a 55-28 win. Partlow finished with a school-record 396 yards passing, going 25-for-51 with four touchdowns.
"We went in at halftime and made some adjustments," said Presidents free safety Owen George. "We talked about some of our coverages and ran some different defenses."
Offensively, Washington & Jefferson (3-0) went back to its ground game. "We were just trying to keep their offense off the field as best we could," said sophomore tailback Jon Pons. The Presidents were evenly split between the run and pass in the first half (23 plays apiece) but ran the ball 24 times in the second half compared to 13 passes.
Pons finished with 109 yards on only 17 carries. "The offensive line got a great push, we got almost five yards a carry."
(The guy knows his stuff — the stats weren't even out yet but Washington & Jefferson ended up with 232 yards on 47 carries, for 4.9 yards.)
Meanwhile, Randolph-Macon coach Scott Boone gathered his players in the end zone and told them to take a good look at the scoreboard on their way to the locker room. It was the second consecutive Yellow Jackets loss to a Top 10 team.
What to do? Well, first of all, Macon's defense allowed 50 points for the first time since a 50-50 tie with Catholic in 1995. After that game, the Cardinals made some defensive personnel changes that resulted in them giving up 16.6 points per game the rest of the way.
"Our secondary's hurting," said linebacker Steve Lawhun. "We need to start making some changes.
"I commend their offensive line. They did a good job. He (Dawson) had all day. You can only ask the DBs to cover for so long."
Well, maybe this is a bit early to make the call, but history is on our side. Not one time in the league's 16-year history has a team lost its opening conference game and gone on to win the title.
That means Dickinson, Franklin and Marshall, Gettysburg and Swarthmore won't be winning the conference title this year. But you probably knew that already, didn't you?
The third-year Greensboro Pride ended their second season by winning three out of four games. Now they come into their third game of 1999 on a roll. It's four wins in their last six games, two of them against Guilford (last season) and Ferrum. But Greensboro is down two starters now.
Offensive tackle Tyler Sonnenberg and defensive back Mitchell Jenkins were declared ineligible the day before the Ferrum win. Jenkins had six tackles, all solo, in the Pride opener.
“I am extremely proud of this football team,” said coach Marion Kirby. “Our guys ... showed real character after two of their teammates had to leave the team.”
After playing one of the best games in all of college football in 1998, Widener and Lycoming couldn't live up to their billing. Last year's 15-13 game featured a spectacular Lycoming comeback in the final minutes. This year — a 30-0 Lycoming win. The last time a Widener/Lycoming game was decided by more than six points was 1992.
Despite losing 22-20, Washington and Lee played a solid contest that included no turnovers and no penalties. The no-flag day marked the first time in the 1990s that W&L has made it through a game without a flag. That was after committing only three penalties for 40 yards in their opener. But it's not like the officials forgot to pack their flags — W&L opponents have committed 14 penalties for 117 yards.