Courtesy of East Stroudsburg Athletics
EAST STROUDSBURG, Pa. â€“ East Stroudsburg University rallied from a 35-16 deficit with two fourth-quarter touchdowns, but the Warriorsâ€™ bid for the go-ahead score ended at the seven-yard line as West Chester held on for a 35-31 win in the PSAC East opener for both schools on Saturday afternoon at Eiler-Martin Stadium.
Redshirt senior quarterback Matt Marshall was 30-for-44 for 302 yards and three touchdowns and pulled the Warriors within 35-29 on a 13-yard TD pass to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Wade Williams with 5:28 remaining.
Marshall got the ball back at the 16-yard line with 3:49 left after a three-and-out and put together a 77-yard drive that included a third-and-10 conversion with a 16-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Bryan Ogden down to the 14-yard line. Marshall hit Ogden for seven yards on the next play before his next three passes fell incomplete, turning the ball over on downs to West Chester with 1:00 left.
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the incompletion gave West Chester the ball at the 22, and the Warriors defense forced the Golden Rams into a fourth-and-19 from the 13 after a delay of game penalty with five seconds remaining. West Chester quarterback Mike Mattei took the shotgun snap and ran out of the back of the end zone to take the safety as time expired.
West Chester, the PSAC East preseason favorite, picked up its first win of the season after losses to Delaware (31-0), Edinboro (16-14) and Slippery Rock (33-27, OT) to open the year. ESU has lost three straight, with non-conference losses to IUP (23-17) and California (45-20) after a 57-0 win at Pace to start its campaign.
Saturdayâ€™s game marked the 75th meeting between the long-time rivals, with West Chester holding a 54-21 advantage. ESUâ€™s 21-20 win on the road last season broke a six-game losing streak. Next Saturdayâ€™s game at Bloomsburg will be the 75th between the Warriors and Huskies.
The Warriors twice attempted to come back from double-figure deficits, falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter before storming back to take a 16-14 lead at halftime. The second half brought much of the same, as West Chester scored 21 straight points â€“ a three play, 75-yard drive on its second drive of the half, a 55-yard interception return for a touchdown by safety John Oâ€™Donnell, and a 16-yard run by Dâ€™Andre Webb on the first play of the fourth quarter following a 76-yard drive which gave the Golden Rams their 35-16 advantage.
ESUâ€™s fourth-quarter comeback began with a 14 play, 56-yard march following a 35-yard kick return by redshirt freshman tailback Joe Klebon. West Chester forced the Warriors to take 6:59 off the clock, but Marshall eventually capitalized with a four-yard TD pass to redshirt senior fullback Brent Jones with just under eight minutes left. Trailing 35-22, ESU elected to go for the two-point conversion to pull within 11, but Marshallâ€™s pass to redshirt senior wide receiver Ed Kiser fell incomplete.
West Chester scored touchdowns on its first two possessions of both halves, but didnâ€™t pick up a first down on any of its three possessions in the final quarter. The Warriors forced a three-and-out after a touchback by freshman kicker Taylor Groff that set the offense up with a short field at the 43-yard line, and Marshall took advantage. He hit Klebon for 16 yards on the first snap, scrambled 14 yards for a first down, and threw a strike to Williams in the corner of the end zone for the touchdown. Groffâ€™s extra point made the score 35-29.
The Warriors came up with another strop to get the ball back as redshirt junior cornerback Shawnte Carroll and freshman outside linebacker Derek Brown combined to stop Jackson Fagan a yard short of the first-down marker on a third down pass. Chris Hillâ€™s 47-yard punt pinned ESU inside its 20 before Marshall completed passes to Williams for 22 yards, freshman tailback Dusty Reed for 12 yards and Kiser for 16 yards to move the Warriors to the 30-yard line, but the drive ultimately came up just short.
West Chester took its 14-0 lead in the first quarter on a pair of one-yard TD runs, by fullback Brian McDermott and Webb, after a pair of 60-plus yard drives. ESU got on the board with a 25-yard screen pass from Marshall to Klebon with 13:01 left in the opening half, but Groffâ€™s PAT was wide of the uprights.
Jones picked up a one-yard TD run of his own, the sixth of his career, to bring the Warriors within 14-13 at the midpoint of the second quarter, with Reed catching three passes for 32 yards on the drive.
Groff hit a 31-yard field goal with 37 seconds left in the first half, capping an 11 play, 66-yard drive and a 181-yard second quarter for the Warriorsâ€™ offense. ESU held the ball for more than nine minutes in the period and Marshall was 13-for-14 for 159 yards and a touchdown.
Marshall spread his career-high 30 completions around to eight receivers, which included several career-best efforts from a young receiving corps. Williams caught seven passes for 66 yards and a TD, Reed had six catches for 71 yards and Klebon had four catches for 59 yards and a score. Kiser, ESUâ€™s leading receiver with 14 catches entering the game, had four receptions for 38 yards.
Marshallâ€™s 59 rushing yards tied his career-high, and freshman tailback Kendrick Williams ran 15 times for 58 yards. ESU ran 76 offensive plays for 440 yards and had 138 yards rushing and 302 yards passing.
Klebon sparked the Warriorsâ€™ special teams, averaging 33 yards on four kick returns. He had a 47-yard return to set ESU up in West Chester territory before Oâ€™Donnellâ€™s interception return for a TD made the score 28-16 with 7:00 left in the third quarter.
West Chester ran for 182 net yards on 39 carries and had 204 rushing yards before its final possession. Fagan ran for 94 yards on 12 carries, including a 73-yard run to set up the Golden Ramsâ€™ first touchdown of the second half. Webb had 80 yards on 14 carries and McDermott had 22 yards on seven carries and had two one-yard TD runs.
Mattei threw just 14 times for the Golden Rams, completing 10 passes for 160 yards. Dan DePalma had four catches for 106 yards, with plays of 45, 24, 22 and 13 yards.