Riding the momentum from their electric, 23-21 win over New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) opponent The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), Rowan football turned right around and faced another one of their rivals, William Paterson University, on Saturday, Oct. 15.
It was a bloodbath on both sides of the ball, which resulted in a low-scoring 14-9 win for the Profs.
Mike Husni and the offense got the scoring started in the first quarter when the star quarterback hit paydirt with a one-yard touchdown to cap a 13-play drive.
William Paterson responded in the second quarter, completing a 13-play drive of their own which ended with a one-yard touchdown run by Nazir Dale.
In what was the final touchdown of the day for both sides, Husni found gold once again, entering the end zone for his second one-yard touchdown run of the game.
With only three touchdowns to speak of in this one, the defense was the main headline. The Profs’ defense showed up, as they have in recent weeks, allowing a season-low 250 yards of offense.
“We’re getting better each week defensively,” Head Coach Jay Accorsi said. “It’s just like any type of sport. The defense struggles early on, and then the defense catches up to the offense. We’re just trying to get more mature, we’re getting more experience. We’re just playing better as a cohesive unit, which is what you wanna see.”
The offense, specifically the passing game, has slowed down as of late following a hot start to the season. When talking about the rough stretch for the offense, Coach Accorsi points to one main reason why.
“We’re playing some better defenses,” Coach Accorsi said. “They’re keying in on our key players offensively, but I also think we’re making some mistakes. It’s a combination of a variety of different things, but once you get into conference play, all the defenses are pretty good. They’re different from Widener, Springfield, and those out-of-conference teams. Once you get into conference play, it’s a little bit different.”
One of the main reasons for the Profs’ offensive struggles of late is the fact that their leading receiver, John Maldonado, hasn’t been as involved. However, Husni sees brighter days ahead for his top target.
“We just gotta get him touches, whether it’s short passes or other ways,” Husni said. “Just trying to get creative, maybe use a little bit of motion. We just gotta find ways to get him the ball … He needs to be a guy that’s touching the ball eight to twelve times a game. He’s one of those guys that’s gonna make a play when he has the ball. We just have to get him the ball the way we were in the first couple weeks.”
The Profs’ offense committed heavily to the run in this game, the most they have all season. James Fara got his usual workload, handling 18 carries for 55 yards. However, Jajuan Hayes mixed in for 15 carries of his own for 54 yards.
In addition, Husni’s passing volume has lowered significantly in recent weeks. Husni attempted just 13 passes against William Paterson.
Coach Accorsi believes the team is beginning to find its identity, similar to what we saw this week.
“When you get into a tight ballgame, you don’t want to throw the ball all over the place,” Coach Accorsi said. “If you turn it over, that’s not a good thing. It’s complementary football. I think as we run the ball better, we’re going to be more effective, but you have to look at what teams are taking away. Now, more teams are doubling John [Maldonado]. That opens up the run game.”
Even with the Profs sticking to a more run-heavy approach, Husni doesn’t mind as long as the team is collecting wins.
“Historically, Rowan is known for running the ball,” Husni said. “I knew that when I came here, that’s definitely our identity. If we have to make changes to that we will, but it’s been working for us so far.”
Defensive back Jason Blanks helped seal up the win late in the fourth quarter. Blanks, who recorded six total tackles and forced a fumble that he recovered as the clock hit triple zeroes, sucked all the life out of William Paterson. His performance earned him NJAC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
“I don’t want to sit here and put it all on myself,” Blanks said. “The defense played well, we battled. And I feel like this week, we played a game for all four quarters and stood tall.”
The Profs’ string of NJAC matchups continues this Saturday, Oct. 22, against Kean University, where Coach Accorsi and company will look for their third straight conference victory on homecoming day.
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