Late drive key to Cap­tains’ vic­tory

Daily Press (Sunday) - - Sports - By Dave John­son Staff writer

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.”

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