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  • Rock Hoffman

STEVENSON EDGES ROWAN IN SEASON OPENER

BY ROCK HOFFMAN

College Football Editor


Glassboro, NJ – It was a great night to open the 2023 college football season under the rising super blue moon, there was good weather and a nice crowd at Coach Richard Wackar Stadium on the Rowan University campus. There was only one problem, one team had to lose, and, in this case, it was the home team. The Profs fell 20-17 to Stevenson University.


The Mustangs didn’t run wild but from the second quarter on, they controlled the contest with their running game, gaining 148 yards on 39 attempts as a team. Elijah Marquez hauled the ball 30 times for 112 yards and a touchdown while quarterback Nyaire Wilson went for 36 yards on the ground and effectively used the RPO game to keep the Profs' defense off balance. He threw for 141 yards and a touchdown.


"I asked the team at the end," said Rowan head coach Jay Accorsi. "'Did they beat us or did we beat ourselves?' and they were saying it before I even asked them. That's what happens in early games. You just can't make a lot of mistakes."


The Profs were breaking in a pair of sophomore quarterbacks, neither of whom had ever seen any game action. They did so behind an offensive line that had to replace three starters from a year ago. Early in the fourth quarter, one of those young quarterbacks – Thomas Goldsborough – was hit by Demetrius Salley as he threw, and the pass was intercepted by Clarence Travis. The Profs only turnover of the night led to a 30-yard field goal by Brody Campbell, who accounted for all the scoring in the second half with a pair of three-pointers. The Mustangs had the lead, and they would keep it.


ROWAN RUNNING BACK JAMES FARA (Photo by Chris Taylor, courtesy of Rowan University)

The game started with a range of emotions, especially for Rowan. They recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff, but they couldn’t punch it in from the Mustangs’ seven-yard line and missed the subsequent field goal try. However, they were lifted right back up as Eric Bryant intercepted Wilson on Stevenson’s third play from scrimmage and took it 18 yards for the pick-six.


When Stevenson had the ball, it was back into the valley for the Profs when junior linebacker Brad Small had to be carted off and taken to the hospital. (“He’s going to be fine,” reported Accorsi after the game).


On the next possession, the Profs started at their own 45 and they turned that into a 26-yard field goal by Connor Batten and a 10-0 lead as the game moved to the second quarter.


On the first play of the second quarter, the Mustangs started a drive on their 19-yard line. They would matriculate the ball down the field and at one point, converted a third-and-13 with a 25-yard completion from Wilson to Makhi Walker. Tylor Blake was on the receiving end of a 3-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to wrap up the drive which took nearly six minutes.


On their next possession, the Mustangs went 69 yards with Marquez doing the bulk of the work. He carried five times for 35 yards including a 4-yard touchdown run.


Now trailing 14-10, the Profs put together a two-minute drive, to take the lead at halftime. A key play was a 13-yard run by James Fara on third-and-8 at the Rowan 27. Later, he added a 12-yard. Noah Brunatti, who started at quarterback for the Profs had a 30-yard competition on the drive to Kevin Degnan then as the seconds ticked off, he made a mistake a lot of young quarterbacks make, he took a sack but he overcame that error. With zeroes showing on the clock, he connected with Jake Schicke for a 26-yard touchdown.


In the second half, the Mustangs used nearly half the third quarter on the series that led to the game-tying field goal. Meanwhile, Rowan gained just 52 yards in the half and recorded just five first downs.


“Realistically,” said Fara, who finished with 76 all-purpose yards, “it’s the first game of the year. You’re still putting things together. We left some plays out on the field.”


Email Rock Hoffman at rock@footballstories.com

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