By Ronald Hanaki
The Mercyhurst University Lakers defeated ESU Football 25-20 at Eiler-Martin Stadium last Saturday. It was the second straight loss for the Warriors.
This game was a tale of two halves. The Warriors jumped out to a 13-0 lead behind the rushing of redshirt-junior tailback Jaymar Anderson.
Anderson was as advertised as he ran 17 times for 121 yards and one touchdown in the first half alone. That enabled the Warriors to dominate the line of scrimmage and the time of possession.
However, with just over five minutes left in the first half, Anderson suffered an apparent ankle injury. He would return to the game, but he would only rush for ten more yards in the second half.
That play changed the complexion of the game as the Warriors were no longer able to rely on Anderson’s powerrunning to control the game.
Mercyhurst would score 25 unanswered points in the second half.
The Lakers went on an 11-play, 72-yard drive that resulted in their first touchdown. But Mercyhurst’s extra point attempt was blocked, and ESU led the game 13-6.
Mercyhurst would score its second touchdown on a 53-yard touchdown run by junior running back E’Andre Smith. But the Warriors would block Mercyhurst’s extra point kick again. So ESU clung to a slim 13-12 lead.
In the fourth quarter, the Lakers would try a trick play. Mercyhurst senior wide receiver Brad Novak threw a touchdown pass to redshirt-sophomore quarterback Doug Altavilla who was wide open near the sideline. Altavilla ran into the end zone for Mercyhurst’s third touchdown.
Their two-point conversion failed. But with the score 18-13, Mercyhurst claimed its first lead.
The Lakers added another touchdown late in the fourth quarter to make the score 25-13.
With just under three minutes left in the game, the Warriors scored a touchdown on a 36-yard pass from redshirt-freshman quarterback Ben Moser to sophomore wide receiver Elijah Rehm.
ESU trailed by five points and still had all three of their timeouts, but time was running out. The question was whether or not the Warriors would kick it away and try to get a defensive stop or go for the onside kick.
When ESU came out to kick the ball, Mercyhurst elected not to put their “hands team” on the field. In football, the “hands team” is the unit that is made up of players who are good at catching and handling the ball. This unit is used to stop the onside kick from succeeding.
When ESU saw that the Lakers did not have their “hands team” on the field, the Warriors decided to use the element of surprise and go for the onside kick. The kick got a good bounce off the grass, but the ball was recovered by Mercyhurst. The Lakers then ran the clock out to preserve the victory.
Moser made his first career start in relief of redshirt-senior Tim DiGiorgio. Moser went 13-for-31 for 196 yards including the touchdown pass to Rehm.
Rehm had three catches for 50 yards. Senior wide receiver Tim Wilson made six catches for 98 yards.
The key statistic from this game was the turnover differential. In total, the Warriors forced five turnovers and only gave up one turnover on a fumble by redshirt-junior tailback Marquis Fells for a plus four turnover differential.
But ESU scored only 10 points off the turnovers compared to six points for Mercyhurst. So the Warriors left some points on the field. ESU’s inability to capitalize on Mercyhurst’s mistakes contributed to the team’s demise.
ESU (1-2) remains at home to play Shippensburg (3-0) on Saturday afternoon for Family Weekend.
Email Ronald at: