Turnovers Doom Presidents In 35-27 Loss At Saint Vincent
LATROBE, Pa. – Saint Vincent took advantage of four Washington and Jefferson turnovers and earned a 35-27 PAC football victory on Saturday afternoon at Chuck Noll Field. The Bearcats defeated W&J for the first time since football was brought back to the Latrobe campus in 2007.
The loss overshadowed a career-best performance by W&J sophomore wide receiver Alex Baroffio (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park). His 13 receptions marked the second-best, single-game total in school history, while he also produced a career-high 187 yards receiving. He also added a 10-yard rush to amass 197 all-purpose yards.
The Presidents (3-3, 2-2 PAC) opened the scoring five minutes into the game as sophomore quarterback Matt Bliss (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park) drilled a 20-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Brett Axner (Chagrin Falls, Ohio/Chagrin Falls). The touchdown reception was the first of Axner’s career.
W&J appeared to be in position to up its lead to double digits late in the first quarter, but the SVC defense held the Presidents on four plays from the 3-yard line. On the very next play, Bearcat quarterback Aaron Smetanka launched a deep pass from the end zone which was picked off by sophomore safety B.J. Monacelli (Cassadaga, N.Y./Cassadaga Valley). The interception was Monacelli’s first as a President.
W&J was unable to convert any points off the turnover and Saint Vincent capitalized with a nine-play, 85-yard drive to begin the second quarter. Mike Kale dove into the end zone from five yards out, but Saint Vincent missed the extra point. Following another W&J punt, SVC drove 67 yards to grab its first lead 14-7 with 6:14 remaining in the first half. Huey Ehredt rushed six yards for the score and Smetanka hit Jairus Marlow for the two-point conversion pass. SVC took the 14-7 lead into the locker rooms.
The Presidents tied the game on the opening possession of the second half. The scoring drive covered 55 yards and sophomore running back Dion Wiegand (Pittsburgh, Pa./Keystone Oaks) rushed five yards for the tying touchdown.
The W&J defense forced a turnover on the next possession as senior linebacker Neil Sorice (Youngstown, Ohio/Canfield) stripped the ball loose and Monacelli recovered. The Presidents was held off the scoreboard on the possession, but then find the end zone again at the 4:38 mark as Bliss lofted a 37-yard touchdown pass to Baroffio for a 21-14 advantage.
Saint Vincent took control from that point; however, as the next three W&J drives ended in interceptions. Dan Wirkowski’s 61-yard interception return set up Joe Yezovich’s 1-yard score that tied the game. Two plays later, a Bliss pass went in and out of the hands of a W&J receiver and was intercepted by Drew Owusu. Just over a minute later, Smetanka connected with Jake Smith for a 19-yard touchdown pass that put SVC ahead 28-21.
Bliss was picked off by Darius Brown three plays later on the final play of the third quarter. Saint Vincent once again capitalized with a seven-play, 40-yard drive to claim a 35-21 lead. Smetanka used a quarterback sneak from a yard out for the insurance touchdown.
Midway through the fourth quarter, W&J drove inside the SVC 10, but was forced to turn the ball over on downs. The Presidents got the ball back and Bliss completed five consecutive passes, including a five-yard touchdown pass to junior Hunter Creel (Industry, Pa./Western Beaver). However, the extra-point attempt was blocked and SVC held an eight-point lead.
The Presidents’ defense allowed one Bearcat first down before SVC punted and W&J took over with 16 seconds left on its own 23-yard line. Bliss’ desperation heave towards the end zone with 1.8 seconds left was knocked down and SVC came away with its signature win.
The two-headed rushing duo of Kale (16-92) and Ehredt (16-83) helped the Bearcats gain 395 total yards, including 195 on the ground. Smetanka completed 13-of-20 passes for 200 yards, while Anthony Johnson paced the Bearcat defense with 11 tackles.
Bliss completed 30-of-48 passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns and junior running back Tim McNerney (Butler, Pa./Knoch) added 95 yards on 19 carries, but was held out of the end zone for the first time in his last 11 games. Bliss also rushed for 43 yards for the Presidents, who produced 458 yards and 24 first downs.
W&J is idle next week and returns to action on Oct. 22 when it hosts Geneva on Homecoming Day at Cameron Stadium (2:00 pm).