Late Comeback Falls Short As Wilkes Beats FDU, 28-23

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MADISON, NJ - Down 28-9 in the late stages of the third quarter, the College at Florham Devils rallied to make it 28-23 but Wilkes stopped a potential game-winning FDU drive in the final minute to escape with the victory in Middle Atlantic Conference action on Saturday afternoon.

With the loss, the Devils dropped to 3-4 (0-4 MAC) while the Colonels improved to 4-3 (3-1 MAC).

After each team stalled on their first possession of the game, but then Wilkes went 66 yards in 11 plays to take a 7-0 lead on a one-yard touchdown run by sophomore quarterback Tyler Berntsen (Long Valley, NJ/West Morris) with 7:36 left in the first quarter.  The Devils stormed right back though, as senior running back Bayshawn Wells (Lawrence, NJ/Lawrence) returned the ensuing kick 68 yards to set the Devils up on the Wilkes 25 yard line.  The return was the fifth longest kickoff return in FDU history.  The Devils then drove down to the Wilkes six where they faced a fourth-and-one.  Senior quarterback Matt Jeffers (Burlington, NJ/Burlington Twp.) converted not only the first down but he stretched in for the touchdown to close the gap to 7-6 with 4:46 remaining in the first.  The extra point however, was blocked.

On the first drive of the second quarter, the Devils went 66 yards in nine plays capped by a 27-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Travis Mullen (Palm Harbor, FL/East Lake) to make it 9-7 with 10:14 to go in the first half.  The big play in the drive was a 32-yard run from Wells that took the ball from the FDU 37 to the Wilkes 31.  The Colonels responded immediately with an 80 yard drive in seven plays to grab a 14-9 edge with 7:35 left on a one-yard touchdown run by junior running back Zach Tivald (Edison, NJ/Edison).  After a three-and-out by FDU, Wilkes started with the ball on their own 19 yard line.  Four plays later, freshman running back Auxence Wogou (Hackettstown, NJ/Hackettstown) raced 58 yards for a touchdown to give Wilkes a 21-9 lead with 3:54 to play in the half.  The Devils pushed the ball down to the Colonels 35 on their next series but had to punt and Wilkes took a knee to end the first half.

FDU got the ball to begin the third quarter and senior running back Sean Norton (Lincoln Park, NJ/Boonton) returned the opening kickoff 53 yards to the Wilkes 35 yard line.  After Norton carried for 15 yards to set up first-and-goal from the six, a botched option attempt pushed the ball back to the 27.  Jeffers hit senior running back Brendon Griffin (Riverside, NJ/Riverside) for 15 yards on third down to put the ball on the 12 but Mullen missed wide right from 29 yards out allowing Wilkes to escape without giving up any points.  The Colonels then took advantage as they drove 80 yards in 12 plays to grab a 28-9 lead with 7:32 left in the third on a seven-yard touchdown run by Berntsen.  Two possessions later, FDU marched 64 yards in six plays, capped by a 16-yard touchdown pass from Jeffers to sophomore wide receiver Jon Bennett (Howell, NJ/Freehold Twp.), to pull the Devils to within 28-16 with 2:18 to go in the quarter.

Neither offense accomplished much until the Devils took over on their own nine yard line with 5:49 left to play in the game.  Jeffers then led FDU on a 14-play 91 drive, all 14 plays were pass plays, that culminated in an 18-yard scoring strike to senior wide receiver Andrew Scamporino (Secaucus, NJ/Secaucus) to narrow the Wilkes lead to 28-23 with 2:37 remaining.  On the drive, Jeffers had five completions of 10 yards or more with the longest being a 23-yard gain to sophomore wide receiver Doug Van Orden (Madison, NJ/Madison) on third-and-four from his own 30 yard line.  The Devils elected to on-side kick on the ensuing kickoff but the Colonels recovered on the FDU 48.  The Devil defense rose up though, forcing a three-and-out, and after FDU called all three of their timeouts, the offense got the ball on their own 15 with 2:05 to go.  Jeffers completed two passes to Van Orden for 15 total yards to push the ball out to the 30.  He then completed to senior tight end Beau Reed (Ocean, NJ/Rumson) for five yards, but on second-and-five from the FDU 35, Jeffers was intercepted by freshman linebacker Tate Moore-Jacobs (New Cumberland, PA/Cedar Cliff) as he was trying to throw it away.  Wilkes was then able to take a knee and run out the rest of the clock to hold on for the win.

Jeffers finished the game 25-of-40 for 252 yards to go along with two touchdowns and two interceptions.  Van Orden caught eight passes for 74 yards while Griffin ran 10 times for 46 yards and added five catches for 36 yards.  On defense, senior safety Gino Abbate (Port Reading, PA/Woodbridge) led the way with a game-high 10 tackles.  Junior linebacker Steve Hoverson (Middletown, NJ/Middletown North) made eight stops and had a sack while sophomore safety Joe Mancini (Miller Place, NY/Miller Place) also had eight tackles.  Senior defensive end George Gibson (Hazlet, NJ/Raritan) had five tackles, two for loss, while junior defensive back Sean McPherson (Brick, NJ/Brick) and freshman linebacker Michael Mancino (Weston, FL/Cypress Bay) split a sack.

The Devils return to action on Saturday, October 30, 2010, at home against Albright beginning at 1 pm.