Turnovers Help Presidents Record 32-19 Homecoming Victory
WASHINGTON, Pa. - The Washington & Jefferson College defense forced three key turnovers which led to 14 points and helped the Presidents earn a 32-19 Homecoming Day victory over Thiel Saturday afternoon at Cameron Stadium. The game marked the Presidents’ 2013 home opener.
Seniors cornerback Sam Comly (Littlestown, Pa./Delone Catholic) and safety B.J. Monacelli (Cassadaga, N.Y./Cassadaga Valley) intercepted passes by Thiel quarterback Andrew Smith, while sophomore linebacker Shane Smith (Fredonia, N.Y./Fredonia) forced and recovered a fumble before racing 47 yards to set up W&J inside the TC 5-yard line.
The Presidents (3-1, 2-0 PAC), who did not commit a turnover for a second-straight week, started the scoring on their first series. Freshman quarterback Pete Coughlin (Pittsburgh, Pa./Upper St. Clair), who started in place of injured senior Matt Bliss (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park), completed three passes on the drive which culminated on a 32-yard field goal by senior Eric Eberle (Mifflintown, Pa./Juniata).
Comly intercepted a Smith pass three plays after the kickoff and nearly took it to the end zone before being tripped up at the TC 2 following a 29-yard return. Two plays later, senior running back Dion Wiegand (Pittsburgh, Pa./Keystone Oaks), NCAA Division III’s leading scorer, rushed one yard for his 10th touchdown of the year and a 10-0 W&J advantage.
The teams traded punts during the next four possessions, but Thiel appeared ready to get on the scoreboard before Monacelli stepped in front of Smith pass near the goal line and returned it 37 yards. The Thiel defense forced a quick punt and then used a trick play, a 30-yard halfback option pass from Josh Potter to Bill Frizzi on a 4th-and-1 situation, to trim the deficit to 10-6 (missed extra point).
W&J regrouped and drove 56 yards in 10 plays to set up Eberle for a 21-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. Only 67 seconds into the third quarter, Coughlin found Baroffio open for a 28-yard scoring pass and a 19-6 advantage (missed extra point).
The lead swelled to 25-6 at the 8:40 mark of the third quarter when Coughlin darted through the middle of the Thiel defense for a seven-yard touchdown run. the big play on the drive came on an acrobatic 30-yard reception by Baroffio.
A Smith-to-Josh Wannamaker 10-yard scoring pass late in the third quarter drew the Tomcats (0-4, 0-2 PAC) to within 25-12, but Shane Smith’s strip and return on the second play of the fourth quarter swung any momentum the Tomcats had gained. Wiegand rushed two yards for a score two plays later and W&J led 32-12.
Potter rushed for a 10-yard score with 5:11 remaining, but that’s as close as the Tomcats would get. Thiel outgained W&J 409-321 and held nearly a 12-minute edge in time of possession (35:52-24:08), but was ultimately undone by the miscues.
Coughlin completed 16-of-23 passes for 169 yards and was sacked three times. He also rushed for 54 yards. Wiegand gained 99 yards on the ground and scored twice (11 on the season), while Baroffio led all receivers with seven grabs for 104 yards.
Defensively, junior linebacker Jared Pratt (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park) posted 12 tackles and a pass breakup, while sophomore safety Anthony Tutino (Stahlstown, Pa./Ligonier) notched eight stops, including a pair for a loss.
W&J returns to the road and the lights next week to play at PAC game at Bethany (7:00 pm) in West Virginia.