By Pete Chiodo
For the first time in six games, the Allegheny College football team had itself a lead. A win, however, is still proving to be elusive for the Gators, as visiting North Coast Athletic Conference opponent Wooster battled back from a 10-0 deficit to defeat the Blue and Gold 33-16 on Saturday.
Wooster improved to 3-2 overall and 3-1 in the NCAC with the win. Allegheny’s record drops to 0-6 overall and 0-4 in the conference.
Ultimately, it ended up being Allegheny’s most productive game on offense. The Gators racked up their most points of the season (16) and the most total offensive yardage (299).
“The thing I’m proud about is the kids competed,” said Allegheny head coach Mark Matlak. “Our compete level is a lot higher than the first five weeks. I was proud of them, and I told them that.”
Quarterback Jon Nigro had his best game passing of the season, going 19-for-30 for 203 yards and a touchdown.
“Jon got better today,” Matlak said. “He showed flashes of what we can do if we pass protect. We showed flashes, I think, of what can happen in the future.”
However, Wooster countered with an even bigger day on offense, gaining 478 total yards, including 299 on the ground.
The Fighting Scots’ wiley quarterback Richard Barnes led his team with 20 carries for 139 yards and carried in three touchdowns. He also completed 19 of 33 passes for 179 yards.
“I thought they played (Barnes) pretty well,” said Wooster coach Frank Colaprete. “They bottled him up a little bit and made him do some different things. But he’s a good player.”
Barnes got his team out of some tough predicaments. He scrambled for three of his team’s four fourth-down conversions, and was responsible for six of their eight third-down conversions.
It was mainly due to Barnes’ efforts that Wooster was able to steal momentum away from the Gators.
Allegheny opened the contest looking as sharp as it has all season long. The Gators began the first quarter with a 13-play drive that got down to Wooster’s 10, setting up Ben Ziolkowski’s 27-yard field goal that put the Gators up 3-0.
Wooster attempted to answer later in the first, but Zack Moore’s 32-yard field goal attempt was wide to the left.
Allegheny’s offense took over and marched 80 yards on 11 plays for a touchdown. A brilliant catch by Derrick Emigh from Nigro set the Gators up on the Scots’ 5. On the next play, Tyler Smith found a hole through the left side for the score, putting Allegheny ahead 10-0.
After that, however, the tide turned quickly in Wooster’s favor. The Scots followed up Allegheny’s touchdown with a scoring drive of their own. They went 74 yards on 13 plays, and capitalized with a 39-yard field goal by Tyler Gerwig.
On the kickoff, Allegheny was penalized for an illegal block in the back, which had the Gators starting at their own 8. After three plays, the Gators had to punt out of their own end zone. The snap flew high through the hands of Allegheny punter Chris Bourne and out the back of the end zone for a safety, cutting Allegheny’s lead to 10-5.
After the free kick, Wooster needed just six plays to get into the end zone. Chase Ullman scored on a one-yard run. Wooster now led 12-10, getting three scores in a matter of four minutes.
Wooster maintained that momentum in the third quarter. Barnes rushed for a pair of touchdowns — a 2-yarder and a 15-yarder — expanding his team’s lead to 26-10.
Meanwhile, Allegheny’s offense was spinning its wheels. It gained just 11 total yards on four possessions in the quarter. Two things were going against Allegheny. First, Smith, who had 66 yards and a TD in the first half, was out of commission by the second half due to an injury. And secondly, the Scots defense was getting to Nigro in the backfield. He would end up getting sacked six times for a net loss of 55 yards in the game.
Allegheny showed a little life in the fourth quarter, however. The Gators enjoyed an eight-play, 73-yard drive that was capped by a 7-yard touchdown pass from Nigro to Emigh, making it 26-16.
However, Wooster answered with a clock-draining, 18-play drive that went 96 yards and ended with a 12-yard touchdown run by Barnes, putting the final points on the board.
Allegheny got the ball back, but ran out of downs. Nigro was sacked on the final play, and came up holding his shoulder, potentially joining an already crowded injury report for the Gators.
“We had 15 guys on (the injured) list before the game started,” said Matlak. “We have a lot of knee injuries, concussions. We’re a banged up team.
“But that’s why I was proud of them. We really played hard. You’ve got to give the boys a lot of credit. Their effort level was very high.”