Rowan football came into their matchup against New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) rival TCNJ on Friday, Oct. 7, in a must-win scenario after dropping two straight games to Salve Regina and Christopher Newport.
The Profs gave their home fans what they wanted under the bright lights, staying resilient in a relentless 23-21 win.
The first half featured positive signs from the Profs’ offense after the unit was shut down in the first half last week, against Christopher Newport. Rowan struck first when they ran a play inspired by the “Philly Special,” with Eddie Jamison taking an end-around and tossing it to a wide-open Mike Husni in the end zone. This made it 7-0 in favor of the Profs.
On their very next drive, Husni fired a pass to his favorite receiver of the day, Terry Carlstrom in the end zone, for the Profs’ second touchdown that made it a two-score game at 14-0.
Unfortunately, for the second time in three games, it was a tale of two halves for Head Coach Jay Accorsi’s squad. On the offensive side of the ball, the run game was unable to get anything going, and after the defense shut out the TCNJ offense in the first half, they managed to score 21 second-half points.
“The long third down play we gave up, we just can’t do that,” Coach Accorsi said. “And then they score, and then we struggle offensively. A combination of those two things. It’s third and long, we just can’t give that up. We blew the coverage, but we’re not good enough to do that. That gives them the momentum, they score, offensively we struggle and keep them in the game, we just can’t do that.”
Overall for the offense, outside of a few notable drives, inconsistency was a theme in this game. Quarterback Mike Husni spoke about why the offense was unable to get into a rhythm throughout the night.
“You always have to tip the cap to the defense when they’re shutting us down, especially the run,” Husni said. “But at the end of the day, we have to rely on some other guys to make some plays, and they did.”
In terms of the passing game, the Profs’ leading receiver on the season, John Maldonado, got shut down for most of the night, posting a pedestrian 4-42 line. This gave Husni an opportunity to get his other weapons involved, specifically Carlstrom, who caught six passes for a career-high 70 yards and a touchdown.
“Terry Carlstrom, you’re talking about one of the hardest-working guys on the team. Obviously, John’s [Maldonado] up there, and then Terry’s [Carlstrom] right under his wing,” Husni said. “Terry [Carlstrom] has that mindset of ‘I’m not gonna give up. If Hus [Husni] is rolling out, he knows where to go.’ I tip my cap to him, gotta give him player of the game.”
Late in the second half, the Profs’ chances of winning the game were looking bleak. Trailing 21-14, Husni and the offense were able to put together a touchdown drive that was set up by a 49-yard, James Fara run on third and six, followed by a five-yard touchdown run by Husni. Unfortunately, the drive ended in a sour way after the extra point was blocked, keeping TCNJ in the lead 21-20.
Rowan retained life when an onside kick attempt was recovered by Nick Cerulli. Husni then led the offense into field goal range on perhaps the biggest drive of his career, highlighted by a 25-yard run of his own and a 20-yard strike to Carlstrom on fourth and ten.
Despite the offense’s inconsistencies throughout the night, Husni and the offense never flinched on one of their biggest drives of the season.
“We know when our offense is moving on all gears, no one can stop us,” Husni said. “We just relied on our guys to make some plays. I had to use my legs a little bit which I’m okay with. But Terry [Carlstrom] came up with the biggest play of the game, catching the ball and getting out of bounds to give Jake Hurler a shot. We knew we just needed to give Hurler a shot, he had that look in his eye saying ‘I’m not missing this kick. This is going in and we’re gonna have a night.’”
The offense’s big drive set the stage for kicker Jake Hurler to potentially win the game. He did just that, knocking a 36-yard field goal straight through the uprights, bouncing back from a missed kick earlier in the contest.
“It means everything, you never want to go out there and miss a kick,” Hurler said. “I just kept my memory short, and went out and did my job.”
“I’m just so proud of them,” Coach Accorsi added. “They didn’t give up. They fought all the way through. What just happened, that never happens – in any game. They just believed and worked at it and stayed the course. Man oh man gotta give them a lot of credit.”
Coach Accorsi has not been shy to credit his special teams unit for the work they’ve done this season. Friday night’s game was no different, as the special teams came through multiple times to keep the Profs’ chances alive.
“Kurt Kingett and our special team’s coordinators have done a great job,” Coach Accorsi said. “To get an onside kick is really hard, we work on it, he did it, it worked. To block kicks is hard, to come back from a blocked kick to kick a game-winner like that, that’s hard. It’s just staying the course. I couldn’t be more proud of the coaches and players, they stayed the course and fought all the way through the end.”
The Profs will now enter another important conference matchup this weekend, this time against William Paterson University on the road as Coach Accorsi and company look to ride the momentum of Friday night’s frenzy.
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