Not so sharp: Rowan defeats #8 Wesley Wolverines on Homecoming Weekend, host Salisbury on Saturday

Rowan University beats nationally ranked Wesley College 28-27, in their homecoming football game on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018 -Multimedia Editor/Jaryd Leady

A week after putting a 54-6 beating on Kean University, Wesley College took a trip into Glassboro looking to spoil Rowan’s Homecoming Weekend.

They left supplying the hosts with more fuel to their fire.

The Profs came back from 13 down to upset the number 8 ranked Wolverines 28-27 on Saturday in a packed Richard Wackar Stadium, improving to 5-2 and tallying their first win against Wesley since 2013. Rowan also now stands at 4-2 in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC). 

Senior running back John Mannion scored the game-winning touchdown on a four-yard carry thanks to a hole in the gap given from left tackle Jeff DeJean, with just over eight minutes remaining in the third quarter. Mannion also had a 77-yard touchdown earlier that quarter led by more great blocking by fellow back Anthony Diorio in a two-back set. On the day, Mannion racked up 156 rushing yards, three touchdowns and over eight yards per-carry.

The defense would hold Wesley on their own side of the field until the last play of the third, when the Wolverines found themselves at Rowan’s 39. This alone should serve as a testament to the fourth quarter defense that later followed from both teams.

The brown and gold were able to limit the Wolverines to just four minutes and 48 seconds of offense in the fourth. On the flip side, the Wesley defense gave them a chance to come back after picking off Nick Couzzi’s pass on 4th and eight from the Wolverine’s 22 for a touchback. Fortunately for Rowan, their defense would hold.

-Photos by Multimedia Editor/Jaryd Leady

Profs starting quarterback Riley Giles was replaced by freshman transfer Nick Couzzi, due to a fumble committed by Giles on Rowan’s one-yard line nearly five minutes into the first quarter. Giles also was intercepted on Rowan’s first drive of the game on an overthrew to tight end Cody Madden.

Not only did he earn the victory, Couzzi was solid in relief. On his first drive, Couzzi lobbed a perfect spiral to wide receiver Elijah Rehm from the slot despite being in double coverage. It was the first time in 60 passing plays that a Rowan quarterback threw a touchdown.

Head coach Jay Accorsi was happy with with Couzzi’s performance, but gave the running back unit’s collective effort on the day two thumbs up. 

“Nick played well, but that all goes back to the running game,” Accorsi said. “I think it helps anytime you can run the football; keep ‘em off-balance. You’re going to have a better chance of moving the ball around and playing well.”

A huge factor in this one was the third-down play from both sides. All season long, Rowan’s offense has battled with being efficient on third down, only converting 22 percent of chances prior to Saturday. In the game, the Profs converted eight of 15 attempts while Wesley couldn’t convert one of their seven third downs. It was the first time in nearly nine years that the brown and gold held the opposition to zero third-down conversions at home.

Also, Wesley quarterback Khaaliq Burroughs’ 11-yard TD pass to Corterris Simpson in the beginning phases of the third quarter was overshadowed by kicker Nick Bruhn’s failure to make the PAT, which ended up being the difference in the game.

Wesley running back E.J. Lee scored two touchdowns on the ground despite only averaging 3.6 yards per-carry. Burroughs, who is first in the NJAC in passing yardage, passing touchdowns and passing yards per-game had another strong contest, successfully evading the Rowan blitz for most of the day. Burroughs had two touchdowns, including a 33-yarder to Ruhann Peele on 4th down that gave Wesley a 14-7 lead in the first.

Burroughs wasn’t able to escape the Profs defensive line in the fourth quarter, though. In their final drive, the Rowan defensive line, led by David Gajderowicz and freshman Sunny Tapp, sacked him twice.

Starting middle linebacker Chris Henchy was out for the first half, due to a continuation of his suspension from the second half of last week’s game. Outside linebacker Godwin Asamoah had a solid game, with two tackles-for-loss and seven total tackles. Strong safety Malachi Winters tied Asamoah for the team lead in tackles, had a pass breakup and a fumble recovery.

Asamoah was named to the Team of the Week on Tuesday.

“It was definitely just a whole team effort,” said senior co-captain defensive end Kevin Stokes. “Everybody from the defensive line, to the linebackers, to the secondary, to the starters [and] to the reserves. Everybody came in really for a full, collective effort.”

Despite the strong offensive output and defense’s turnaround, the team’s perseverance and inability to quit when down drew Accorsi’s eye the most.

“I think how we overcame the obstacles that we had, fumbling down on the one and then letting them score and then coming out at half and they drive right down and score,” Accorsi said. “But it never fazed the players. They stuck with it, they believed in one another.”

Mannion was named the NJAC Offensive Player of the Week. Meanwhile, Couzzi was named NJAC Offensive Rookie of the Week. Couzzi had 10 completions, 164 passing yards, a touchdown and a 139.3 passer rating.

Rowan will host another tough opponent again at home this Saturday as undefeated NJAC rival and 25th-ranked Salisbury comes to town. An offensive kickstart will be needed from the Profs, as the Sea Gulls have outscored opponents 55-14 in the first quarter combined this season. Giles will resume starting quarterback duties for Saturday’s game.

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