Wiegand's Five TDs Lead Presidents To 40-19 PAC Opener Win
GROVE CITY, Pa. -- Senior running back Dion Wiegand (Pittsburgh, Pa./Keystone Oaks) rushed for a career-high 172 yards and five touchdowns to lead Washington & Jefferson to a 40-19 Presidents' Athletic Conference football victory over Grove City Saturday night at Robert E. Thorn Field.
Wiegand's five touchdowns were the most by a President since Ryan Mendel rushed for five against Grove City on October 21, 2006. Wiegand totaled 241 all-purpose yards (172 rush, 43 receiving, 26 kickoff return) to help the Presidents (2-1, 1-0 PAC) improve to 22-0 in night games under Head Coach Mike Sirianni.
W&J dominated from the start, racking up 475 total yards and 26 first downs. The Presidents rushed 54 times for 320 yards.
Senior quarterback Matt Bliss (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park) started the game after being listed as doubtful during the week with a knee sprain. Bliss completed a 24-yard pass on the first play of the game, but hobbled off with lingering effects of the injury suffered last week at St. John Fisher. He returned a series later, but was forced to leave later in the second quarter and did not play during the second half.
Freshman Pete Coughlin (Pittsburgh, Pa./Upper St. Clair) took over as quarterback and directed the remainder of the first drive, including a pair of 16-yard runs. Wiegand scored from a yard out for a 7-0 lead.
The Wolverines (2-1, 0-1) strung together a methodical 61-yard drive, but quarterback Brian Pell was picked off in the end zone by senior cornerback Sam Comly (Littlestown, Pa./Delone Catholic). The interception was the first of Comly's career.
Coughlin once again led the Presidents inside the Grove City 20, but Wiegand was stopped on a fourth-down run and the Wolverines took over. After a punt, Bliss returned and guided a 12-play, 75-yard drive in which Wiegand capped on a 2-yard jaunt eight plays into the second quarter for a 14-0 advantage.
Grove City used a trick play to narrow the deficit to 14-6 (extra-point attempt blocked) four plays after the kickoff. Zach Rader took a pitch from Pell, pulled up in the backfield and launched a 56-yard touchdown pass to Khalil Ervin.
The Wolverine defense forced a punt, but it was muffed by the GCC returner and sophomore linebacker Shane Smith (Fredonia, N.Y./Fredonia) dove on the loose ball. W&J was unable to convert as senior placekicker Eric Eberle (Mifflintown, Pa./Juniata) missed a 27-yard field goal.
After another GCC punt, Wiegand bolted through the defense for a 76-yard touchdown run at the 3:58 mark of the second quarter. The run was the longest by a W&J running back since Joey Nichols rushed the same distance in 2001 versus Westminster. It was also the longest offensive play (run or pass) for the Presidents since 2007.
Midway through the third quarter, Wiegand tacked on another 1-yard run for a 27-6 lead. Sophomore cornerback Marlon Brown (Munhall, Pa./Steel Valley) intercepted a pass, his second of the season, three plays later and returned it 34 yards to the Grove City 12. Wiegand's fifth touchdown, his third 1-yarder, made the score 33-6 with 5:50 left in the third quarter.
Grove City scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, sandwiched around an 11-yard scoring run from sophomore running back Ryan Ruffing (Pittsburgh, Pa./Thomas Jefferson) for the game's final points.
Ruffing added 84 yards on 11 carries for the W&J offense, while Bliss completed 11-of-15 passes for 90 yards in his limited duty. Coughlin completed 5-of-6 passes for 48 yards, while sophomore Kevin Mechas (Pittsburgh, Pa./Bishop Canevin) also saw time at quarterback and completed his lone pass attempt. Senior wide receiver Alex Baroffio (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park) caught seven passes for 46 yards.
Defensively, senior linebacker Erik Espe (Johnstown, Pa./Central Cambria) had a team-high seven tackles, while senior defensive tackle Chris Heim (Jefferson Hills, Pa./Thomas Jefferson) had two tackles for a loss and a sack.
Pell completed 21-of-35 passes for 214 yards. Steve Maskrey rushed for 48 yards and two touchdowns.
The Presidents open their 2013 home schedule on Homecoming Day at Cameron Stadium Saturday versus Thiel (2:00 pm).