Rowan Football Unable to Defeat First NJAC Opponent of the Season

James Fara runs the ball up field. Fara ran for 99 yards and two touchdowns against Christopher Newport. Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. - Staff Photographer / Tyrese Williams

Rowan football entered their game against New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) opponent Christopher Newport University looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss to Salve Regina University in week four.

Unfortunately, more heartbreak would be in store for the Profs, taking a 20-14 loss to the chin on Saturday, Oct. 1.

The Profs offense picked up where it left off in the second half against Salve Regina. Rowan got shut out in the first half, entering the break in a 20-0 hole. Running back James Fara had just six carries for 14 yards at halftime, and wide receiver John Maldonado had just four catches for 36 yards, both season lows for the two offensive weapons at the break. 

“I think it was more offensively, I thought we played really well defensively,” Head Coach Jay Accorsi said. “I just don’t know why we made so many mistakes offensively. The offense carried us throughout the first three games, and then uncharacteristically, we made a lot of mistakes offensively. I don’t know if it was a carry over from the previous game, I thought the offense played really well in that game. I don’t know if it was the trip, but again, when you look back at it we just didn’t play the way we’ve normally played offensively.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the Profs bounced back after a rough start. The defense allowed 20 first half points to the Captains compared to zero in the second half.

Defensive lineman Ahmad Gantt led the way for the defense with seven tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble. He spoke about the defense’s ability to stay resilient despite the less than ideal start.

“We just had to go out there and focus,” Gantt said. “We already knew what we had to do. It just all came down to executing, going 100% each drive, and just knowing that we’re the better team and that we have to do what we have to do to win no matter what.”

Christopher Newport’s quarterback Mike Dzierski, the reigning NJAC Offensive Player of the Year, put on a show. Although his passing numbers were mediocre, completing just 50% of his passes for 184 yards; he was a beast on the ground, rushing 25 times for 156 yards and two touchdowns. Gantt spoke on how tough it was to contain Dzierski in the run game.

“It was all about containing,” Gantt said. “When we contained him there was nowhere for him to go. But obviously, he did have those big runs. It just all came down to mistakes. We know what mistakes we made, we know how to fix them now, and we’re gonna fix them in practice.”

The first and second half was a night and day difference for the Profs offense. Fara was able to get going, finishing with 22 carries for 100 yards and two touchdowns. He led the Profs on a second half comeback attempt that came up just short.

“We cleaned up what they were doing, they were bringing a lot of twists, a lot of pressure, a lot of different things,” Coach Accorsi said. “I thought we did a great job of adjusting at halftime. They were trying to take away the pass game, they were spying Michael [quarterback Mike Husni] a little bit. They were trying to blitz and pressure him. Anytime you do that, you’re gonna get some big gaps. I thought James [Fara] played great from start to finish, and I thought that’s what helped us in the game, being able to run the ball, which was different than what we’ve been all year long.”

The Profs have now suffered two consecutive gut-wrenching losses. This is all the more reason for Coach Accorsi to rally the troops ahead of a big conference matchup this weekend.

“Don’t pressure ourselves offensively, don’t worry about things, just play the way we did the first couple weeks,” Coach Accorsi said. “As the week goes on, just remember it’s a short week. Friday game, coming off a long trip down in Virginia. So we just have to be very careful in practice and try to make it crisp and clean. TCNJ [The College of New Jersey] is coming off two bye weeks, so who knows what we’re gonna see. In two weeks, you can quickly change your whole offense and defense. We’re just gonna have to do what we do, clean up the mistakes that we made and play really good football.”

A Friday night lights matchup against TCNJ is on tap for Accorsi and company on Oct. 7. They’ll be able to see how they’re able to respond in front of their home crowd.

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