UU Holds on for 34-31 Win
URBANA, Ohio (September 8, 2012) – Twice in the season’s first two weeks, the Urbana University football team has watched a huge lead evaporate in the second half. Tusculum turned a 34-0 deficit into a one score game late in Week 1, and on Saturday, visiting Seton Hill shrank a 21-0 deficit to just three points in the fourth quarter before the Blue Knights pulled out their second straight victory. As the final horn sounded, Urbana clung to a 34-31 win over the Griffins.
Dating back to last season, the victory is the eighth straight by the Blue Knights (2-0), which extends the school record. Saturday’s three-point margin of victory is the slimmest during Urbana’s impressive streak. The closest an opponent has come to beating Urbana in their last eight contests is 19 points, which was the margin of victory over Seton Hill when these teams met in Week 10 of last season. After Saturday’s loss, the Griffins fall to 0-2 entering conference play.
Early on, Urbana’s offense appeared unstoppable. On the opening drive of the game, Urbana marched 76 yards in two and a half minutes. Quarterback D.J. Mendenhall found Nate Wilburn-Ogletree (pictured left) with a 27-yard touchdown pass to put the home team ahead 7-0 before some fans had even settled into their seats.
On Urbana’s next drive, Mendenhall marched his Blue Knights 58 yards in 10 plays. Sophomore running back David Hill (pictured right) plunged in from two yards out to give Urbana a 14-0 lead. Hill led all rushers with 82 yards on 19 carries.
Urbana’s third drive of the opening quarter also resulted in a touchdown. Mendenhall found senior tight end Matt Nowak (pictured left) wide open in the end zone for a 5-yard score, and Urbana led 21-0 before the start of the second quarter.
Seton Hill strung together a long drive on their next possession to end their scoring drought. Running back Trae Cook scampered into the end zone from six yards out to trim the lead to 21-7.
On a 71-yard hookup from Mendenhall to Joe Webb (pictured left), the Blue Knights pushed their lead back to three touchdowns. Webb’s catch and run was the fourth time in his career he’s scored from further than 70 yards out. He led all receivers with 149 yards through the air, despite missing a series late while trainers tended to a bleeding wound opened up on Webb’s second TD catch of the afternoon.
Ahead 28-7 late in the second quarter, the Blue Knights were, once again, caught off guard by an onside kick. After a Derrick Dyer 44-yard rushing touchdown, the Griffins called for the onside up the middle and the kicker, Josh Cavalier, recovered his own kick. The Griffins turned the surprise possession into three more points before the half, and SHU trailed by just 11 entering the break.
Webb’s second TD grab went for 32 yards in the third quarter. It gave Urbana a 34-17 lead with 4:44 left on the clock in the third.
Seton Hill quarterback Ryan Morris brought his squad back in the fourth. A 45-yard strike to Niko Hall-Brown brought the Griffins within ten with 10:49 to play. After a three-and-out by Urbana, the Griffins ran off a 13-play, 80-yard drive that ended with another Morris touchdown pass. This one found D.J. Carter from nine yards out as Seton Hill made it a one-score game at 34-31.
Urbana’s offense continued to sputter down the stretch. After beginning the game with 295 yards passing and 4 TDs through the air on 19 of 28 passing, Mendenhall (pictured left) completed just one of his final 6 attempts for -2 yards. On his final drop back of the ball game, he was immediately sacked for a 10-yard loss on third down with a little over two minutes remaining. The Blue Knights were forced to punt the ball back to the Griffins, who just needed to get within field goal range to tie the game at 34.
On the most important drive of the game, the Blue Knight defense put up a brick wall. On fourth-and-six, senior linebacker Drew Underwood (pictured at top of story) tackled a Griffin receiver behind the line of scrimmage to seal the victory for Urbana. Underwood finished with 9 tackles, including 2.5 for a loss. Daniel Goodrum led all tacklers with 12. Goodrum also recovered a fumble and broke up two passes. Freshman cornerback Jalen Crosby turned in another strong performance, finishing with 9 tackles, and senior defensive end and reigning GLVC Defensive Player of the Week Perry Jenkins (pictured left) tallied 7 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss, 2 sacks and 3 QB hurries.
Next Saturday, Urbana (2-0) hits the road for the first time in 2012. The Blue Knights will make the short trip south to Wilberforce for the GLVC conference opener against Central State University. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. at CSU’s McPherson Stadium. [Box Score]