Late drive key to Captains’ victory
Defense dominant despite sluggish offensive output
NEWPORT NEWS — In each of its previous two home games, Christopher Newport University had lost in overtime. Late in the third quarter, it looked like the Captains might be headed there again.
Instead, CNU's defense made back-to-back stops in the red zone, and its offense finally came alive for one possession. That turned out to be just enough as the Captains defeated Kean University 13-3 Saturday afternoon at Pomoco Stadium.
CNU (5-2, 4-2 New Jersey Athletic Conference) held the Cougars to 111 total yards, 26 of which came on their final possession. The Captains gave up 1.7 yards per play, forced three turnovers, and blocked a field goal.
“I've never experienced a combined defensive effort like that,” defensive end Ben James said. “It was some of the best football I've ever felt in my life.”
Offensively, CNU finished with 182 total yards, its fewest in a win since 2006. Of that, 88 came on the Captains' lone touchdown drive, which came after Torin Prentice blocked a field goal.
With a pair of field goals by Dylan Curran, CNU led 6-3 and took over at its 7-yard line midway through the third quarter. But on second down, tailback C.J. Donaldson fumbled the handoff, and Kean's Dante Capozzoli recovered at the Captains' 3-yard line.
Cougars quarterback Jayson Bryant, a surprise starter, nearly scored on the first play but was ruled down a half yard short of the goal line. On second down, tailback GioVanni Shine looked to have a path to the end zone, but linebacker Ben Carroll tackled him behind the line of scrimmage.
After an incompletion on third down, Kean coach Dan Garrett decided to go for it on fourth-andgoal from the 2. In the shotgun, Bryant tried to escape the pocket, but James was able to trip him up despite being on the ground.
“I kind of slipped in the mud,” James said, “and I glory dove as far as I could so I could make it.”
But when CNU quarterback Jack Anderson was intercepted on the first play, Kean had a first down at the Captains' 13. Again, the defense didn't budge, and Garrett sent out Marcin Zadlo for a 33-yard field goal attempt.
Prentice came from the left side and blocked the kick. Two consecutive tries in the red zone — and no points allowed.
“The cornerstone of our defense is the ability to stop the run,” Carroll said. “We take a lot of pride in that, especially in a goal-line situation.”
CNU's offense, which had only 89 yards to that point, finally moved the ball. Anderson completed 6-of-8 passes on the drive, the final being a 11-yard touchdown throw to Cole Blais to make it 13-3.
“It wasn't a great offensive performance per se, but we did have that one drive,” CNU coach Art Link said. “We got a win and we needed it.”
After spraining his knee the previous week at William Paterson, Anderson was held out in the first half. Brock Carnes started, and Link also tried Walker Venable for a possession in the first half.
But it was clear CNU would need Anderson.
“We came in at halftime, and I grabbed him and said, ‘Do you want to play?'” Link said. “He said, ‘Yes, I can go.' That was a spark we got out of him in the third quarter.”
CNU's defensive performance came despite a curve ball thrown by Kean's coaching staff. The Cougars' usual starting quarterback is Rylan Pangborn, a pocket passer who isn't particularly mobile. But Bryant, a better runner, made his first start.
Bryant led Kean with 32 rushing yards, although that looks worse with the 31 yards he lost on six sacks (2 ½ by linebacker Conner Ryan).
“(Garrett) didn't say what it was, but he said, ‘We're going to try to give some young guys chances,'” Link said. “We thought we'd get a guy less mobile. They had never shown QB designed plays, and that was something we had to adjust to.”