GREENVILLE, Pa. – Thiel place kicker Cody McClelland (Sarver, Pa./Freeport) had no idea what was about to transpire. Neither did tight end Berend Grube (Venetia, Pa./Peters Twp.). The snapper-to-holder exchange for a potential go-ahead field goal in overtime against Geneva College did not go smoothly, and the football bounced gently at the Geneva 12-yard line.
It seemed like an unfortunate missed opportunity, but Thiel's luck was about to change.
Grube heard the call, "fire, fire, fire," and abandoned his blocking assignment in favor of a short passing route in the Geneva end zone. McClelland picked up the ball, spotted No. 82 and, under heavy pressure lobbed what would count as the game-winning touchdown pass to Grube.
Geneva's offense still had an opportunity to tie the score up, but Thiel's defense kept the Golden Tornadoes out of the end zone to put the finishing touches on a 21-14 overtime win Saturday at Alumni Stadium, which broke the team's 24-game losing streak.
A celebration ensued with many wiping tears of joy from their eyes as the Tomcats rang the Victory Bell for the first time since Oct. 21, 2009.
"I'm really excited for our kids because they hung in there over the course of two seasons that were really tough … this is a great win four our program," said Thiel fourth-year head coach Kurt Reiser.
The Tomcats took a 14-0 lead into halftime on second-quarter touchdown runs by Josh Potter (Huntsville, Ala./Chipley) and Andrew Smith (Williamsfield, Ohio/Pymatuning Valley) from 2- and 25-yards out, respectively.
Geneva came back in the third quarter and tied up the score, 14-14, on touchdown receptions by Corey O'Patchen (38 yards) and Rocco Colavecchia (10 yards).
The Golden Tornadoes lined up for a potential 32-yard game-winning field goal with 23 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, but Bryan Visingardi's kick sailed wide left.
Smith connected with Grube for a 16-yard completion on Thiel's first play in overtime. Taylor Fink (Kittanning, Pa./Kittanning) then got the ball down to the Geneva 5-yard line on a pair of runs before Smith's third-down pass in the far corner of the end zone for Nate Blazevich (Munhall, Pa./Steel Valley) fell incomplete.
McClelland's field goal attempt turned touchdown pass followed on fourth-and-goal from the Geneva 5-yard line.
On their ensuring drive the Golden Tornadoes picked up a first down on runs of 7- and 4-yards by Dylan Jones down to the Thiel 14-yard line, but that's where the drive stopped. Colavecchia ran for no gain on first down, and Geneva threw three straight incomplete passes to end the game.
Thiel's defense combined for nine pass break ups, six tackles for loss and five sacks on the day.
The win could be a springboard for the Tomcats (1-2, 1-0 PAC), who entered Saturday's game coming off of two tough losses.
"I think it gives us a little bit of confidence moving forward," Reiser said. "The last couple games have been pretty close, and I hope that this win will help us turn the corner."
Thiel will host PAC foe Washington & Jefferson at Alumni Stadium Saturday (Sept. 22). Kickoff is slated for 1:30 p.m.
View Saturday's game-winner here: ow.ly/dK0Y8