Smothering Defensive Effort Fuels Big Comeback as Allegheny Stuns Wooster, 17-14
WOOSTER, Ohio – Wooster, which entered the season on Saturday with high expectations, jumped out to a 14-0 lead at home against Allegheny and appeared poised to run away with a non-conference win against its North Coast Athletic Conference rival. However, the Gators stunned a capacity crowd at John P. Papp Stadium by scoring 17 straight points, including a game-winning field goal by first-year kicker Ryan Mong with 1:30 left in regulation.
The win was predicated by a dominating second-half stand by the Allegheny defense, although the Gator attack proved to be opportunistic, especially late, where a key third-down penalty moved Allegheny into position for the eventual 28-yard field goal attempt.
Mong made both extra point attempts on Saturday before capping an outstanding 15-play, 59-yard drive that chewed up over six minutes of clock toward the end of the fourth quarter.
After giving up two scores in the second quarter, the Allegheny defense completely locked down the Fighting Scots. The Gators surrendered just 38 yards of offense after halftime, while limiting the Wooster attack to just 1.1 yards per play.
Senior Bill Devlin was tremendous anchoring the middle of the defensive unit. The 2011 First Team All-NCAC selection collected a game-high 10 tackles, including two stops for loss. Ryan Vietmeier, Rudy DeStefano, and Chad Brinkman each totaled seven tackles, while Vietmeier also had three of the Gators' nine pass break-ups.
Allegheny players racked up 10 tackles for a loss of 41 yards and pounced on two fumbles.
Trailing 14-0 with just over two minutes remaining in the first half, Allegheny forced its first in a series of key plays as senior defensive end John Douglas recovered a fumble at the Wooster 35-yard line on a third-down rush that went nowhere.
A nine-yard completion by senior Mike Person to second-year standout Derrick Emigh moved the Gators close to the red zone, while an ensuing penalty against Wooster for sideline interference put Allegheny in prime position for several shots at the end zone. On a third-and-four from the eight-yard line, Person connected with senior tight end David Bassi for the Gators' first score of the campaign, while slicing the deficit to 14-7 at the break.
Neither team was able to generate a sustained attack in the third quarter, but another opportunistic play by Allegheny's swarming defense set up the tying score.
On a third-and-one from its own 39, Wooster attempted to run through the middle to extend the drive, but a tremendous surge by Allegheny's front line pushed back the line of scrimmage and an unforced fumble was recovered by Ryan Sherry at the 35.
Three plays later on a fourth-and-eight at the Scots' 32-yard line, Person capitalized on blown coverage in the secondary to hook up with speedster Isaac Gittens, who sprinted unscathed into the end zone with just three minutes remaining in the third.
Wooster was able to piece together a 10-play drive midway through the final stanza, but an incompletion on fourth-and-three from the Allegheny 19 gave the ball back to the Blue and Gold on downs. Each team followed with a three-play series, before Allegheny orchestrated the game's best drive of the day en route to the win.
Person was efficient in his first career start, completing 13-of-25 passes for 122 yards, two touchdowns, and one pick. With the victory, Person became just the second Allegheny quarterback since 2000 to win his first career start. His top targets on the day were Andrew Nicklaus and Bassi, who each hauled in three passes for 38 and 28 yards, respectively.
One of the game's biggest heroes was senior Ryan Schroth. Converting to punter after starting at safety in 2011, Schroth had been given the dubious assignment of replacing Andrew DeJong, who ranked among the national leaders most of his career. In his first test as Allegheny's punter, Schroth was outstanding. He punted 10 times for an average of 40.4 yards and authored a game-best 57-yard boot midway through the second quarter.