WASHINGTON, D.C. – Gallaudet University nearly pulled off a stirring upset on the opening week for NCAA Division III football as the Bison fell a two-point conversion short of taking down Otterbein University on Saturday as the visitors escaped Hotchkiss Field with a 28-27 overtime win.
The Bison (0-1) went for the win in overtime after junior quarterback Gabriel Paulone (Fishers, Ind.) completed a nine-yard pass to junior wide receiver Ryne Worsham (Chicago, Ill.) on fourth down to set-up the game deciding play. Paulone ran up the middle on the two-point conversion but the attempt failed as Otterbein (1-0) came up with the last tackle to seal the game. The Cardinals took the lead in overtime, on its first play from the 25-yard line, when senior quarterback Austin Schlosser heaved the ball into the end zone and Fortinel Faustin came down with the tipped pass for the score.
Gallaudet forced overtime after it scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and blocked a potential game-ending field goal as time expired.
Otterbein junior kicker Aaric Milligan lined up for a 32-yard field goal attempt with three seconds left in the fourth quarter but his kick was blocked when 6-foot-6 sophomore lineman Adham Talaat (Springfield, Va.) busted through the middle of the line and swatted the ball down.
"I am really proud of our team and their effort today against a really good football team," said Gallaudet head coach Chuck Goldstein. "We have some great potential and we have nine more opportunities to compete and show what Gallaudet football is all about."
On paper this game was labeled a mismatch as D3football.com ranked Otterbein 40th overall in its 2011 preseason rankings while Gallaudet was ranked 179th out of 239 teams. To its credit Gallaudet moved up 55 spots this year from being ranked 234th last season and being stuck in the 230's since 2007.
Gallaudet used that as motivation and turned some heads on Saturday as the Bison hung with the Cardinals from Westerville, Ohio, for the entire game. The Bison finished the game with more passing yards then rushing for the first time in three years. Junior quarterbacks Anthony Palmer (Unadilla, N.Y.) and Paulone combined to complete 7-of-11 passes for 155 yards. The main target was Worsham as he hauled in the seven passes for a career-high 155 yards and two touchdowns from Paulone. Worsham's first touchdown was an 11-yard pass from Paulone early in the fourth quarter to cap a nine play, 88-yard drive that tied the game at 14.
GU ran the ball 51 times for 126 yards as sophomore running back Michael Hantge (Hutchinson, Minn.) led the way with 12 carries for 38 yards.
The Bison defense was solid in the red zone as the Cardinals only converted one time out of four chances inside the 20-yard line. The Bison picked off junior quarterback Rocco Pentello late in the second quarter as freshman linebacker Jaris Alleyne (Waldorf, Md.) stepped in front of his pass and returned it nine yards. The two teams combined for four turnovers in just under 30 seconds in the waning minutes before halftime. Each team threw an interception and lost a fumble. Gallaudet went into intermission down 14-7.
Otterbein got on the scoreboard first when they opened the game with a seven play, 63-yard drive that ended with Schlosser hitting Steve Kuzyk for an 11-yard touchdown just three minutes into the game. GU would tie the game late in the first quarter when Palmer ran in from a yard out to cap a six play, 31-yard drive.
On Otterbein's second possession in the second quarter the Cardinals were backed up to their own 7-yard line but the first play saw Schlosser find a wide-open Trey Fairchild on a busted play. Fairchild was not covered and snagged the ball around the 40-yard line and went all the way to the end zone for the 93-yard strike. Schlosser finished the game 15-for-19 for 271 yards and three touchdowns while Pentello completed 3-of-10 for 51 yards and one score. Fairchild made eight receptions for 196 yards and two touchdowns as he finished with 273 all-purpose yards.
Junior linebacker Shelby Bean (Arvada, Colo.) filled in nicely at the punter position for the Bison as he made six punts for 213 yards (35.5 average) with three landing inside the 20 and a long of 47 yards. Bean also made three tackles, one for a loss of five yards on defense.
Tom Pangia (Hammonton, N.J.) led the Bison defense as the junior linebacker came up with seven tackles and one sack for a loss of nine yards. Alleyne and sophomore corner back Charles Hamlin (Great Mills, Md.) made six tackles each followed by five tackles by junior corner back Tony Tatum (Gardendale, Ala.) and Talaat, who had 1.5 sacks for 10 yards and 2.5 tackles for a loss of 13 yards and the critical game saving block to end the fourth quarter. Senior defensive end John Van Wey (Alexandria, Va.) had four tackles, one sack for minus five yards and fumble recovery.
Otterbein linebacker Shane Centers made a game-high 15 tackles (13 solo) and three tackles for a loss nine yards in the win. The Cardinals had 412 total yards of offense to Gallaudet's 281.
The overtime game was the first for the Bison since 2008 when the Buff and Blue opened the season at home against Hiram and lost 20-14. This is the sixth straight loss Gallaudet has suffered by eight or less points dating back to last season.
Gallaudet will next host cross-town rival Catholic University of America (1-0) on Friday, September 9, at 7 p.m. under the lights at Hotchkiss Field.