NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. – The Westminster College football team matched the NCAA record with four interception returns for a touchdown and the school-record with 66 points in one game in the Titan's 66-7 victory over Capital University in the opening game for the entirety of NCAA Division III football on Thursday evening.
The Titans' four interception returns for a touchdown marks the first time an NCAA Division III team has done so since Millikin University achieved the feat against Illinois Wesleyan on November 6, 1999. The four pick-sixes also tie a NCAA Division I FCS and FBS records.
The 66 points put up by Westminster matched the school record that was set against Saint Vincent College on October 7, 2017.
Westminster (1-0) utilized two touchdowns in the first quarter courtesy of a six-yard rushing touchdown from senior Tyler Greene (Carlisle, PA / Carlisle) and a 23-yard catch-and-run for a score by senior Keano Grice (Delray Beach, FL / West Boca Raton) from sophomore Cole Konieczka (Coraopolis, PA / Moon Area) to give the Titans a 14-0 lead after the first quarter.
The Westminster offense exploded in the second quarter, reaching pay dirt four times to extend its lead to 42-0 heading into halftime. During the second quarter, senior Aaron Pierce (Fort Lauderdale, FL / Hollywood) recorded two interception returns for touchdowns on the first two drives, taking the first interception 97 yards and the second takeaway 50 yards. Last year, Pierce found the end zone twice off an interception. Greene recorded his second touchdown of the game off of a 15-yard strike from a rolling-out Konieczka for the score. Greene's two scores marked a career-high. Grice added another touchdown, breaking free off of a 31-yard carry for a score late in the second quarter.
In the third quarter, the Titans continued to excel in the secondary when sophomore Vincent Giles (Lexington Park, MD / Great Mills) recorded the third interception return for a touchdown of the game, picking off a pass from Capital quarterback Andrew Ray and returning it 40 yards. This marked Giles's second pick-six of his career.
Capital (0-1) recorded its first touchdown of the game at the 3:09 mark of the third quarter.
After a 36-yard field goal from freshman Tanner Dudek (Leechburg, PA / Leechburg Area), the Titans garnered two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter, courtesy of an 81-yard punt return by sophomore Denny Dennison (Windson, PA / Red Lion Area) and the record-tying interception return by freshman Jarred Kohl (York, PA / York Catholic). Kohl intercepted a pass from Crusader quarterback Justin McClelland and returned it 45 yards back to the end zone.
Senior Bryce Hill (Boynton Beach, FL / Boca Raton Community) led the Titans with a team-high 66 rushing yards on 11 carries. Grice carried three times for a career-high 54 yards and a touchdown, and nabbed one receiving touchdown as well, while Greene reached pay dirt twice (one rushing, one receiving). Senior Connor Cox (Ridge, MD / Leonardtown) led with five receptions for 68 yards, while sophomore Antwon Jones (Ocala, FL / Belleview) tallied the longest reception of the game for the Titans on a 40-yard catch-and-run from senior Augustus Necastro (Brookfield, OH / Brookfield). Konieczka finished with two passing touchdowns while completing eight of his 14 passing attempts and Necastro totaled 54 passing yards on two completions.
Senior Paul Gonzalez (Miami, FL / Florida Christian) led with a game-high 10 tackles, while freshman Drew Manning (St. Marys, GA / Camden County) and junior Nino Itri (Allison Park, PA / Deer Lakes) notched six tackles each – both career-highs. Manning also registered a game- and career-high two sacks.
Westminster will return to the field next weekend when it opens up the Presidents' Athletic Conference (PAC) schedule at home against Waynesburg University on Saturday, September 14. Kickoff is scheduled 1 p.m.
*Written by Mike Boucher