By Dominick DiRienzo
Special to the Meadville Tribune
October 14, 2012 7:00 a.m. MEADVILLE —
Tim Werley tried to upstage his teammates on a stout Allegheny defense. The 5-foot-10, 210-pound senior set career-highs in rush attempts and yards as Allegheny held on for a 22-20 win over DePauw in North Coast Athletic Conference football at Frank B. Fuhrer Field Saturday.
“All I want to do is be able to look my teammates in the eye and know I held up my end of the bargain,” Werley said.
While Werley was pounding DePauw on the ground, it was the defense that shined by standing tall on two crucial fourth downs, sacking Tiger quarterback Justin Murray on a key third down early in the last quarter, returning an interception 72 yards to set up a field goal and clinching the game with an interception in the end zone on a two-point conversion with 37 seconds left in the game.
“The defense bailed us out,” Werley said. “They turned the momentum for us.”
Werley was an Antelope when he was a three-sport athlete at Avonworth High School in suburban Pittsburgh, but Saturday he was a bull in blue and gold. He pounded out 96 yards and a score on 23 carries (both those totals were individual game highs this season for Allegheny) and salvaged an injury ravaged Gator backfield that saw its fourth back this season get injured. Many of Werley’s yards came after contact as he put his head down, kept his legs churning and bounced off defenders.
“I’m not the fancy guy. I’m not the speed guy,” Werley said. “I have to be the tough, hard-nosed runner.”
Allegheny turned to Werley, who had been prepped for a possible expanded role due to the Gators’ other injuries, after Brandon Ginazo broke his leg on the Gators’ second possession and was lost for the season. Ginazo joins Ben Perko and Taylor O’Brien as Gator backs to suffer season-ending injuries. Freshman Tyler Smith, who earned NCAC Offensive Player of the Week honors last month, has an ankle injury and Matlak said he is unsure of his status going forward. Coming into the season, Werley’s career-best single-game total was 15 yards. He beat that on Sept. 29 with 10 carries for 56 yards in Allegheny’s 15-3 win over Oberlin. And he opened a new chapter Saturday.
Allegheny (4-2, 3-0 NCAC) remained a half-game behind first-place Ohio Wesleyan (6-0, 4-0). The Battling Bishops beat the Kenyon Lords, 33-14, Saturday. Next Saturday, Allegheny hosts Wittenberg (6-1, 2-1), which beat the University of Chicago, 41-17, yesterday. The Gators lost last week, 10-0, to Chicago.
It took nearly eight minutes against DePauw to end the four-quarter scoreless streak that started in last week’s loss to the University of Chicago.
The Gators took a 3-0 with 7:17 left in the first quarter. Derrick Emigh set the drive up with 30-yard return that gave the Gators first-and-10 at the DePauw 33. Allegheny quarterback Mike Person hit Andrew Niklaus for a 13-yard gain and a pass interference covered the bulk of the drive, before Ryan Mong converted a 22-yard kick. Allegheny’s Brad Burkley delivered a key special teams play late in the first quarter. He recovered a bouncing loose ball that DePauw punt returner Taylor Wagner misplayed. Three plays later Derrick Emigh made a sweet catch on the endzone right sideline for a 10-0 lead with 1:01 left in the first quarter.
The Gators controlled the game early, adding another Mong kick for a 13-0 lead and holding DePauw to minus-9 yards of offense with 5:23 left in the half. The Gators also held on a fourth-and-goal from the 2 with 7:49 left in the third quarter. But in between things got a little dicey. With 5:23 left in the first half, the Tigers (1-5, 0-3 NCAC) went no huddle and freshman quarterback Justin Murray bounced back from his early struggles. The 6-foot-1, 214-pounder from Jonesboro, GA rushed for 19 yards on a keeper and completed his next five passes, including an 11-yard scoring pass to a wide open Bobby Coburn.
“That was a blown assignement,” Matlak said. “That touchdown really let them back in the game.”
The drive covered 71 yards in just under four minutes.
“When we started going fast we started causing them some problems,” said interim DePauw coach Scott Skrna, who took over two games into the season when coach Robby Long was dismissed by the college. “We never gave up. We have played through lots of adversity this season.”
On their first possession of the second half, the Tigers went on a 14-play, 57-yard drive, before the Gators’ tightened up and stuffed the Tigers on a fourth-and-2 from the 2 with 7:49 left in the third quarter. The Gator offense couldn’t take the pressure off the defense, going three plays and punt on its next series.
DePauw started at Allegheny’s 30 after a 12-yard punt return. The bulk of the yardage covered by a Gators’ holding penalty and a roughing the passer infraction. Murray completed a 5-yard scoring pass to freshman wide receiver Connor Jeffers with 3:55 left in the third quarter to put the Tigers up 14-13. The drive was set up by the continued improved play of Murray, who hit Bobby Coburn for an 11-yard gain. Coburn was wide open just like on his TD catch. Murray was 21-for-38 for 144 yards and a touchdown and rushed for another score.
“He made some plays,” Snrka said. “He’s got so much potential, but left some things on the field.”
Murray was intercepted twice and sacked four times and started the game with nine straight incompletions, many coming on under or overthrown balls. One of those sacks snuffed DePauw’s growing momentum. The Gator defense sacked Murray at the 1-yard line on a third-and-6 from their own 12 early in the fourth. Allegheny’s Derrick Emigh fielded the punt at the DePauw 32. Emigh bobbled the ball, but he was running up field while trying to secure the ball, and once he had the ball set he hit the jets, burst through the middle and squirted out to the sidelines.
Werley said they are told to always block for Emigh because “he’s slippery and you never know when and where he is going to squirt through.”
“I’d stack (Emigh) against any return man in Division III.”
Emigh was pushed out of bounds at the 8-yard line for a 24-yard return. Two plays later Werley showed some burst when he raced to the left pylon to give the Gators a 19-14 lead.
“The offensive line opened a great hole,” Werley said. “All I had to do is break one arm tackle and if I can’t do that I’m in trouble.”
Niklaus couldn’t get in bounds on Person’s two-point conversion pass.
The Gators made another great defensive stand on DePauw’s next possession. The Tigers were stuffed for 2-yard loss a fourth-and-4 with 11:01 left at the Gators’ 30. The momentum looked to shift on the next play when Werley made his only mistake of the afternoon. He fumbled with 10:56 left in the game, and DePauw’s Jake Konovsky recovered at the 30.
Rudy DeStefano had Werley’s back. DeStefano snagged a tipped ball and the 5-foot-9, 225-pound senior linebacker rumbled 72 yards to put the Gators at the first-and-goal at the 8-yard line with 9:56 left in the game. The Gators couldn’t punch it in, but Mong nailed a 25-yard field goal, his third of the game, to put the Gators up 22-14.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” DeStefano said. “We need to get a turnover. We really needed that. That ball was tipped and just seem to float there until I grabbed it.”
But DePauw still wasn’t done. The Tigers took over on their own 34 with 3:48 left in the game and drove 66 yards, culminating in Murray’s 12-yard scoring run with 37 seconds left in the game. With the Gators clinging to a 22-20 lead, Colin Hartford intercepted the potential game-tying pass in the end zone.
DeStefano then fell on DePauw’s onside kick attempt before the offense kneeled on the ball to end the game.
Notes: Allegheny coach Mark Matlak won his 60th game Saturday. He has a 60-47 career record in 11 seasons, all at Allegheny. … Allegheny’s Bill Devlin made 13 tackles and forced a fumble. Burkley added nine tackles and a sack to go with his fumble recovery. … Emigh averaged nearly 21 yards on his four punt returns with a long run of 30 yards. … Allegheny leads the all-time series against DePauw, 2-0. … The Tigers have lost their last two games by a six combined points. … Mong is 6-for-6 on field goals this season with a long of 28 yards, but has missed one of his seven PATs.