The difference of having a three win or four win season for the Rowan football team came down to a matter of seconds on Saturday afternoon.
Down 27-22, the Profs’ offense lined up at the two yard-line. Quarterback Naldy Tavarez looked around at the defense, and the ball was snapped. Tavarez gave the ball to running back John Mannion who found the end zone to give the Profs a 28-27 win over Kean University in their final game of the season.
“Their defense was overplaying our offense a bit,” said head coach Jay Accorsi. “We felt the run play was the best option and it worked.”
The bench was full of emotion, mostly happiness, as they snapped their six-game losing streak. Accorsi could not be happier with the outcome.
“The players practiced really well all week,” Accorsi said. “They threw adversity out of the window and really enjoyed playing football out on that field.”
The game was full of momentum shifts. Rowan scored the first 16 points of the game, but Kean quickly came back to make it 16-14 in favor of the Profs at halftime. To start the fourth quarter, the Cougars scored 13 unanswered to take a 27-16 lead with a little over 10 minutes left in the game. The brown and gold’s comeback didn’t spark until there was 3:24 remaining. Senior wide receiver Jamel Smith scored from four yards out to cut the Kean lead to five after a failed two-point conversion. Mannion eventually won the game for Rowan as noted earlier.
Mannion led the Profs’ running game with 19 carries for 58 yards and the touchdown. He also had four catches for 23 yards which included a receiving touchdown. Overall, the brown and gold had 125 yards rushing. It was the first time since October 21st at Wesley that the offense eclipsed 100 yards on the ground.
However, the quarterback situation was not stable again. Quinn Collins started the game going six for 14 passing for 42 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Tavarez took over in the fourth quarter going nine for 14 for 78 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, the Profs forced five turnovers including three interceptions and two fumbles as the secondary played a huge part in this. Safety Shaquille Lee and cornerback Travelle Curry each forced a fumble. Safety Joe DiBari and cornerback Nate Lanier each had an interception.
It’s important to note that Kicker Tyler Knighton finished his career with a field goal and an extra point. He locks up the school record for field goals in a career with 37.
The expectations for the 2017 season were for the brown and gold to be towards the top half of the conference standings. They were projected to finish fourth in the New Jersey Athletic Conference, but ultimately finished eighth with a 4-6 overall record and 3-6 conference record. They won the first three games of the season including two conference games against Southern Virginia University and William Paterson University. The loss to Frostburg State University started what would be a six-game losing streak, something Rowan had not done in 52 years. The win to end the season leaves the Profs on a high note.
“People have expectations,” Accorsi said. “However, you cannot judge a team on winning and losing. What is bigger is how you handle yourself and handle adversity.”
With how young this team is, there is hope that players will progress throughout the offseason. Rowan only has nine starters graduating, but they will be big shoes to fill come the 2018 season. The conference is only going to continue to be a challenge, hence two teams making the NCAA Tournament this year in Wesley College and Frostburg State University. That being said, the potential is there and how each returning player conditions and works over the time off will be key in the Profs’ success in the future.
“The offseason is very important,” Accorsi said. “We have a good base and we had good production, but we as coaches still have to develop players.”
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