Rowan Football drops season opener to Stevenson

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Eric Bryant runs up to make a tackle. Bryant recorded a pick six in the loss to Stevenson. - Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. - Photographer / Lee Kotzen

Last season, Rowan Football dominated in their season opener, beating Widener University by a score of 42-20. This year’s opener went differently, as the out-of-conference Stevenson Mustangs came into Richard Wackar Stadium and edged out the Profs with a final score of 20-17. 

“Too many mistakes were made out there that put us in really tough positions throughout the game,” said Head Coach Jay Accorsi, who’s entering his 22nd season with the Profs. “When you’re playing a team that was a bowl team last year in the MAC conference…you can’t afford to make those mistakes.” 

One of those mistakes happened after the opening kickoff when Justin Rutkowski of Stevenson fumbled the kick, which was then recovered by junior linebacker Nick Cerulli and gave the Profs excellent starting field position at Stevenson’s nine-yard line. 

The ensuing drive for Rowan led to a three-and-out by the offense and kicker Connor Batten uncharacteristically missed a 25-yard field goal attempt, leaving points off the board for the Profs.   

Rowan’s defense did make up for that missed opportunity when first-year starter and junior defensive back Eric Bryant intercepted a pass from Stevenson’s quarterback Nyaire Wilson and returned it 16 yards for the Profs’ first touchdown of the season.

When looking at the offense for the Profs, first-year starting quarterback Noah Brunatti completed nine of his 18 attempts for 109 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown pass caught by the 6’5 senior wide receiver, Jake Schicke, who went up on two defenders to end the first half, giving the Profs a 17-14 lead going into the break.  

The second half was a rough one for the Profs’ offense, as they only accumulated 49 yards of total offense in the second half, and ended the game with 181 yards of total offense for the game compared to 289 yards for Stevenson. 

“There’s stuff we gotta clean up, and that’s what film is for,” Brunatti said. “I was happy that I was able to go out there, read a defense, and make some plays… I know as the season goes on I’ll be able to adapt and make more plays to win games.” 

Despite Brunatti having no prior playing experience behind center, he showed plenty of flashes of being able to use his legs for designed runs, extending plays to find an open receiver or scrambling to get yards on the ground.

“It’s gonna be a work in progress,” Coach Accorsi said. “It’s us getting to him [Brunatti] so he can be comfortable with what we’re asking him to do…it’s always a learning process when you play the QB position.”  

Defensively, the Profs struggled to contain the run, as Stevenson’s offense put up 157 total rushing yards, with Elijah Marquez having 119 of those on his 30 carries. Marquez also found the end zone in the first half after a four-yard rushing touchdown.

“I honestly think that we were in shape but not the best shape in order to play all four quarters,” Bryant said. “This was only the first week, a hiccup. Once we come around next week we’re gonna be more prepared.” 

After this tough loss, the Profs look to bounce back as they travel to Westminster, Maryland on Saturday, Sept. 9 to take on McDaniel College.

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