Story and photo courtesy of Widener Athletics
Junior Jermaine Quattlebaum (Upper Marlboro, MD) hauled in a critical over-the-shoulder touchdown catch on fourth down with 7:58 left that help propel ninth-ranked Widener to a 42-23 over Delaware Valley at Leslie C. Quick Jr. Stadium and its 19th Middle Atlantic Conference title.
Widener (9-0, 8-0 MAC) extended its league record for most conference titles and completed its first undefeated regular season since 2001. The Pride also won their 12th straight home contest on this the 100th college football game at Quick Stadium.
Widener is headed to the NCAA Tournament for the 13th time in school history and is 15-10 overall with two national championships (1977, 2001). The selection show is Sunday at 6:00 pm on NCAA.com.
It is the Pride’s first league title and first NCAA Tournament berth since 2007, when they also went undefeated in the conference (7-0).
Today also was the 1,100th football game in school history as Widener joined Mount Union, Franklin & Marshall and Washington & Jefferson as the only teams to reach this mark.
This looks dicey early for the Pride when a low snap on a punt was covered at the Widener five yard line. Three plays later, quarterback Aaron Wilmer ran one in from three yards for a 7-0 Aggies lead.
The breaks then went Widener’s way on Del Val’s next possession. Wilmer dropped back to pass in the shadow of his goal line and had the ball slip out of his hand. Sophomore tackle John DiBiase (Mount Laurel, NJ) was there for the recovery in the end zone and a 7-7 tie.
The Pride’s next drive saw them take the lead for good. Senior Chris Haupt (Bloomsburg, PA) looked over the middle and found sophomore Anthony Davis (Upland, PA) on a 14-yard touchdown pass with 4:59 left in the first quarter for a 14-7 contest.
After missing an earlier field goal, Aggies kicker Brandon Snyder redeemed himself on a 34-yard boot with 9:42 remaining in the half for a 14-10 contest. Widener responded on the next drive as a 74-yard march ended when sophomore Couve LaFate (Wilmington, DE) scored on a five-yard burst for a 21-10 margin.
Widener’s defense has more than made a statement all season and it came up with another on Del Val’s next possession. Wilmer looked to throw a screen pass and instead found senior outside linebacker Jamal Dorsey (Mount Holly, NJ), who picked it off and ran 58 yards for the score and a 28-10 lead with 4:20 left in the half.
The Aggies began to make things interesting late in the third quarter when Dashown Waller ran one in from six yards with 17 seconds left for a 28-17 contest. Following an interception from John Robinson, Wilmer found Ed Ferrell on a 14-yard strike with 10:50 to play to make it 28-23.
Widener on its next possession drove to the 29 yard line and was faced with fourth down and 13. The call was for a fade down the left sideline to Quattlebaum, who made a great catch for a 35-23 Widener lead that took away all of Del Val’s momentum.
The Aggies on their next drive were stymied after four plays when Wilmer was intercepted by sophomore Jarard Stewart (Bowie, MD) at the Pride’s 16 yard line. The visitors next drive ended after just two plays when DiBiase forced a fumble and got his second recovery of the day at the Del Val 46.
Widener sophomore Tyler Rank (Wyomissing, PA) bulldozed his way in from one yard with 2:26 left for the final.
Haupt furthered his case for national recognition by completing 19-of-30 passes for 232 yards and two scores. The touchdown passes give him 33 this year, breaking the school’s single-season mark of 32 held by Mike Warker (2001).
Davis had seven catches for 90 yards to go with 68 yards on kick-off returns for 158 all-purpose yards for the Pride, who converted 50 percent (8-of-16) of their third downs to move their season mark to a standout 41 percent.
Junior Dylan Ditmer (Exton, PA) had 10 tackles to go with one sack and DiBiase amassed seven tackles for the Pride, who forced the Aggies to go 2-for-5 on fourth down.
Wilmer completed 13-of-38 passes for 172 yards and two interceptions with Kyle Schuberth getting 24 carries for 110 yards. Cory Armstrong closed with eight tackles and Chris Vega had seven solos for the Aggies, who saw their four-year run as MAC champs come to an end.