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Allegheny Showcases Prolific Offense in Win over Hiram

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MEADVILLE, Pa. - Allegheny showcased a prolific offensive attack and a timely defense to shrug off an early 13-point deficit and snap a three-game losing streak with a 57-40 shootout victory over Hiram under the lights at Frank B. Fuhrer Field.

Logan Lee threw for 292 yards and five touchdowns, including three to Alex Victor, while Tyler Ballarumbled for 193 rushing yards, as the Gators (2-3, 1-3 NCAC) scored their most points in a game since 1999 to defeat Hiram (1-3, 0-3 NCAC) for the first time since 2014. 

Not to be overshadowed by the offense's performance, the Gator defense also enjoyed a strong game, led by Marcus Davenport, who tallied 13 tackles, including 4.5 for a loss, and 2.5 sacks.  Colten Buzard added nine stops and three quarterback takedowns, as the Gators totaled eight sacks while also forcing three turnovers, including a late first quarter pick six by Travis Thomas that turned the tide in favor of the hosts. 

The game got off to a sour start for the hosts, as an early special teams miscue led to seven quick points for the Terriers.  Allegheny was forced to punt on its opening possession, and after the snap was mishandled, the Terriers' JaByron Webb broke through to block the kick, and Hiram would pounce on the loose ball on the Gators' 10-yardline.  Aided by a pass interference penalty, the visitors took a 7-0 lead on a three-yard pass from Randy Tucker to Luther Fortson with just under 10 minutes left in the half.

Hiram upped the lead to 13-0 on its next drive, as Tucker found Mike Skizenta over the middle for a 14-yard touchdown pass to cap off an eight-play, 74-yard drive that saw Tucker go a perfect 5-for-5 in the air.  The extra point failed due to a botched snap/hold.

The Gators would come to life on the ensuing drive, using a pair of big plays to cut into the deficit.  On second down, Balla ripped off a 40-yard run to bring the ball into Hiram territory, before Lee found Victor through the air for a 37-yard touchdown strike.  Allegheny picked up the two-point conversion on a direct snap to Austin French, pulling to within 13-8 with 3:19 left in the quarter.

Allegheny would waste little time in gaining its first lead of the night, as on the first play of Hiram's ensuing drive, Thomas stepped in front of a Tucker pass at the Hiram 35, and meandered down the sideline and into the end zone for his second career interception return touchdown.  Zach Bednarowicz's extra point kick was good, and the Gators suddenly lead 15-13 with 3:04 to go in the first stanza.

The lead was short-lived, as the Terriers capped off the wild quarter with a 7-play, 75-yard scoring drive that ended with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Tucker to Fortson as time expired to push the visitors in front 19-15 after the extra point kick was missed.

After the back-and-forth first quarter, the Gators took control in a decisive second frame.  On the third play of the second quarter, Lee found Victor over the top for 67-yard bomb, as the speedster split the defense and raced untouched into the end zone to put the Gators back in front 22-19. 

Six minutes later, it was Allegheny's special teams unit's turn to come up with a big play.  With just over seven minutes left in the half, Cody Wendt sent a 43-yard punt to Hiram's 21-yardline.  The kick was muffed by the Hiram return man, and long snapper Jake Reidenbach raced down the field to recover the fumble on the Hiram 20.  On the very next play, Lee broke through the middle on the keeper and found paydirt, pushing Allegheny's lead to 29-19.  

The Gator defense ensured that the momentum would stay in favor of the home team, as Clarence Long forced and recovered a fumble after a pass completion on the fourth play of Hiram's ensuing drive, and the offense again made the Terriers pay for the miscue. Taking over at their own 42, another Lee keeper would move the ball onto the visitors' side of the field, and then a long pass interference penalty on Hiram advanced it inside the Terriers' 15.  Lee's eight-yard scamper set up first-and-goal at the three yardline, before he connected with Austin French on the sideline just shy of the goal line.  The rangy tight end would use every inch of his 6'5" frame to stretch through the Hiram defense and over the goal line, and give the Gators a 36-19 lead with 2:08 left in the half, which is how the score would remain at the break.

The frenetic scoring pace slowed throughout the opening stages of the third quarter.  Looking to cut into the deficit, the Terriers forced a pair of Gator turnovers, but were unable to turn the miscues into points.  Hiram finally broke its long scoring drought with just over three minutes left in the frame on a 49-yard touchdown pass from Randy Myers Jr. to Moe Yarbrough.  The successful two-point conversion made the score 36-27 in favor of the Gators.

Allegheny answered right back on the first play of the ensuing drive, as Lee and Victor hooked up for a touchdown for the third time, this one a 65-yard bomb over the middle, to push the Gator lead to 43-27, which is where it would stand as the game entered its final frame. 

Hiram fired the opening salvo in the fourth quarter, with Myers finding Fortson for a four-yard touchdown pass in the opening minute to again make it a 10-point game, 43-33.  Again, the Gators would waste little time in answering back, as on the second play of the ensuing drive, Lee connected with Tristan Rhoades for a pass on the sideline near midfield.  The junior co-captain then broke through a series of tackles, and zigged his way into the end zone for a 57-yard touchdown that put the Gators on top 50-33, ensuing the first 50-point game for the hosts since week three of the 2006 campaign. 

The Terriers refused to go away, as a 54-yard return on the ensuing kickoff by Yarbrough eventually led to an 11-yard touchdown run from Myers to make the score 50-40 with just over 12 minutes remaining in regulation.

The two teams would then trade punts, before the Gators rode Balla to add some insurance.  With just over seven minutes left, Balla broke through a host of tacklers to rumble up the middle for a 10-yard touchdown, capping off a six-play scoring drive that covered 77 yards - 48 of which belonged to Balla on the ground - and take a 57-40 lead.

Hiram would advance to midfield on its next possession, before the Gator defense sealed the win.  On second-and-12 at the 50, Buzard and Thomas teamed up to take down Myers for a seven-yard sack.  Two plays later, Thomas and Davenport would take down Myers in the backfield and give their team the ball at their own 46 yardline with 3:57 left.

Allegheny then went back to Balla to chew up the rest of the clock, as the junior workhorse ran the ball seven straight times for 42 yards before the Gators took the knee to end it.

Lee's 15 completions went to six different receivers.  Victor led the way, with four grabs for 169 yards and three touchdowns, while Rhoades made two catches for 62 yards, highlighted by the 57-yard score.  Lee, who also tallied a season-high 47 rushing yards, tied for the second most touchdown passes in a game in program history, behind only Bubba Smith's six TD passes in 2001.  The last Gator to throw for five scores in a game was Allegheny Hall of Famer Mike Ganey, who did so in an October 1969 victory over Carnegie Mellon. 

Balla's 193 rushing yards were the Gators' most since Mario Tarquinio ran for 213 on Sept. 16, 2006, also against Hiram, while the 539 yards of total offense marked Allegheny's highest output since the Gators gained 563 on Sept. 26, 2009 against Oberlin.

McGee made a season-high eight tackles, including 2.0 behind the line of scrimmage, while Thomas made six stops and broke up a pair of passes to go with his touchdown return and two assisted sacks.  Corey Laskey also added six tackles for the Gators, and Long was credited with five stops to go with three passes defended.

Tucker completed seven passes for 111 yards and three touchdowns before being forced from the game due to injury and giving way to Myers, who completed eight passes for 118 yards and two scores.  Danny Robinson ran for 98 yards to pace the Terriers, while Fortson finished with five receptions for 68 yards.

Allegheny will now enter its bye week, and will return to action on Oct. 14, when they travel to Springfield, Ohio to take on defending NCAC-champ Wittenberg in a 1 p.m. bout.

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