Yellowjackets slip by Tomcats, 28-27
GREENVILLE, Pa. – It was a photo finish Saturday at Alumni Stadium between the Thiel Tomcats and University of Rochester Yellowjackets. Unfortunately it was the Tomcats who came up a fraction short in a 28-27 non-conference loss.
The Yellowjackets drew first blood in the contest when Nick Perpignan capped off a 6-play, 76-yard drive with a 29-yard touchdown run. Matthew Pasternak added the extra point.
Thiel came right back and tied up the game, 7-7, on its next drive when Andrew Smith (Williamsfield, Ohio/Pymatuning Valley) connected with Nate Blazevich (Munhall, Pa./Steel Valley) on a 4-yard touchdown pass that was set up on a long 94-yard kickoff return by Tim Canady (Baltimore, Md./Baltimore City College).
Thiel took its first lead in the game, 10-7, with 9:42 remaining before halftime when Jon Fennick (New Castle, Pa./Neshannock ) booted a 30-yard field goal. Rochester responded with a touchdown of its own on the ensuing possession when senior quarterback Dean Kennedy threw a 4-yard TD pass to Derek Wager. The extra point attempt was no good, however, leaving the Tomcats behind by just three points, 13-10.
The Yellowjackets were marching toward another score until Kennedy was intercepted by senior corner back Rob Edwards (Poland, Ohio/Struthers), who picked up 18 yards on the return to the Thiel 31-yard line.
The Tomcats scored on the very next play after Edwards' pick when Andrew Smith (Williamsfield, Ohio/Pymatuning Valley) connected on a wide receiver screen pass to Matt Fedzen (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Catholic), who ran 54 yards to pay dirt with 15 seconds left in the half. Fennick tacked on the extra point and the Tomcats held a 17-13 lead.
After closing the first half with a touchdown, the Tomcats opened the second half with another touchdown to extend their lead to 24-13 when Andrew Smith (Williamsfield, Ohio/Pymatuning Valley) capped off a 10-play, 62-yard drive with a 10-yard TD run.
On their next drive, Rochester cut into Thiel's lead when Perpignan scored on a 3-yard plunge to put the finishing touches on a 12-play, 69-yard march to put his team within four points, 24-20.
The Tomcats counterpunched, retaliating with a Fennick field goal from 21 yards out to claim a 27-20 lead early in the fourth quarter. Fennick had a good day for the Tomcats. He made a 30-yard field goal in the second quarter, the 21-yarder in the fourth quarter and made all three of his point after attempts.
Later in the fourth quarter, the Yellowjackets mounted a potential game-tying touchdown drive, but Greenville native R.J. Malson forced Perpignan to fumble and recovered the ball at the Thiel 8-yard line.
The game was decided on the Yellowjackets' final offensive possession, which began on their 43-yard line with 3:02 remaining in regulation. Kennedy engineered what turned out to be the game-winning drive, connecting on five passes, including a 3-yard lob pass to Thomas Hayes in the near corner of the end zone with 15 seconds left in the game.
Rochester still trailed 27-26 after Hayes' TD grab and elected to go for the win with a 2-point conversion attempt. With the game on the line, Kennedy scored on the 2-point conversion on a naked bootleg, diving just inside of the far pylon.
On Thiel's final possession, Ron Howard (Sharon, Pa./Sharon) caught a 28-yard hook-and-lateral that advanced the ball to the Thiel 48-yard line, but Smith's Hail Mary pass for Howard on the last play of the game fell incomplete near the Rochester 10-yard line.
Josh Potter (Chipley, Fla./Chipley) led Thiel's ground game with 58 yards on 20 carries while freshman tailback Josh Wannamaker (Derry, Pa./Derry) carried the ball 16 times for 47 yards. Kennedy was Rochester's top runner, carrying 10 times for 97 yards.
Smith, who received good pass protection, completed 14-of-24 passes for 181 yards. He threw two touchdown passes without an interception. Kennedy completed 23 of the 39 passes he threw for 228 yards. He threw two touchdown passes and one interception.
Fedzen was Smith's favorite target with three receptions for 71 yards and one TD grab. Kennedy threw eight passes to Hayes for 64 yards and one TD and five passes to Farid Adenuga for 73 yards.
Safety Brandon Wolfe (Greenville, Pa./Reynolds) led the Tomcats with 10 tackles and two pass breakups while Julian McLean (Clairton, Pa./Clairton) made eight stops with one breakup. Linebacker/defensive end R.J. Malson recorded seven tackles while forcing a fumble and recovering a fumble. Thomas Marone led the Yellowjackets with 12 tackles.
The Tomcats (0-2) will open Presidents' Athletic Conference play Saturday when they travel to Beaver Falls, Pa., to take on Geneva at 7 p.m.