CRAWFORDSVILLE, Ind. – Ryan Mong converted a 28-yard field goal on Allegheny's first series in overtime, while Wabash's potential 38-yard equalizer sailed wide as the Gators capped a phenomenal team effort on the road with a 20-17 victory over the nationally-ranked No. 7 Little Giants. The loss marked Wabash's first defeat at home since October 17, 2009.
It has been an emotional start to the 2012 campaign for the up-start Gators. After orchestrating a tremendous rally in a season-opening win at Wooster, the Blue and Gold was humbled in front of a nationally-televised audience against Carnegie Mellon. Taking advantage of a well-timed bye week, the Gators upended Wabash for the first time in eight years, as a crowd of nearly 4,500 were silenced by Allegheny's inspiring performance.
For the second time this season, Mong provided the heroics. His 28-yard game-winning boot tied his career long set against the Fighting Scots, while he remained perfect on both PATs and field goal attempts through the early part of the slate.
While Mong should be commended for his performance in the clutch, Saturday's victory in Crawfordsville was the result of an outstanding team effort on both sides of the ball.
The Gators out-gained the Little Giants, 353-293, and boasted nearly 33 minutes of possession time. The Allegheny ground game, which was paced by the marvelous second-half output of rookie Tyler Smith, triggered a key factor in the team's upset aspirations. Smith finished with 78 yards on the ground on 13 carries, all after halftime, while the Gators churned out 177 yards of rushing on the day.
After deferring on the opening kick, Allegheny's defense set the tone by forcing a quick three-and-out. The Gators then received another huge boost as sophomore Derrick Emigh authored a 40-yard punt return to put Allegheny deep into Wabash territory. Eight plays and 26 yards later, Allegheny found the end zone. Senior Taylor O'Brien capped the outstanding start with a six-yard rush up the middle.
The Gators extended the advantage on its next possession, delivering an 11-play, 74-yard drive that ended with a 23-yard field goal by Mong.
Wabash leveled the score with 10 consecutive points in the second quarter, including a three-yard touchdown run by Chase Belton with less than two minutes left in the first half.
Because Allegheny Head Coach Mark Matlak chose direction to ensure that the Gators would be going with the 20+ MPH winds in the fourth quarter, Wabash received the ball first in the second half. After a pair of series that finished empty, the Little Giants took advantage of a poor punt to set up the go-ahead score early in the third quarter. Wabash's final scoring drive of the afternoon took just two plays as Tyler Holmes raced 27 yards unscathed into the end zone on a second-and-six.
At that point, the Little Giants appeared to have recaptured all the momentum, but a tremendous response by the Allegheny defense kept Wabash's vaunted attack at bay for the rest of the day.
The Gators entered the fourth quarter still trailing, 17-10, but a six-play, 49-yard drive turned into the equalizing score for the Blue and Gold. Taking just two minutes off the game clock, Allegheny marched down the field behind several precision passes by senior Mike Person. David Bassi hauled in a 14-yard catch to start the drive, while a 16-yard completion to Emigh put the Gators in a first-and-goal situation at the nine-yard line. On the next play, Smith dashed through the Wabash defense for his first collegiate touchdown.
Although Holmes finished with 104 yards on the ground, the Gator defense delivered a smothering stand late in the fourth quarter, and Wabash was unable to maneuver into a threatening position.
Bill Devlin and Rudy DeStefano each finished with a team-high eight tackles, while John Douglas had six stops, including two for loss and a 10-yard sack.
The Wabash defense, which entered the game allowing just 28 yards against on the ground, and had proven to be highly opportunistic with eight interceptions in two games, came up with zero turnovers and sacks.
Allegheny's offensive line was spectacular in the win, keeping Person out of trouble, while opening up enough holes to keep the Gators' rushing attack in command. Person, who was making his second career start, set career highs all-around, closing 22-of-40 for 177 yards. He completed passes to seven different receivers, highlighted by Emigh's seven-catch, 49-yard effort.