Rowan Football has their prayers answered, defeats TCNJ on last-second Hail Mary

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Shane Martin hauls in the Hail Mary that sent the Profs home with a victory over TCNJ. - Photo from Rowan Athletics via TCNJ

Head Coach Jay Accorsi and the Rowan football team has experienced a rough start to the 2023 season.

Offensive inconsistencies and defensive miscues led to back-to-back losses and a 1-3 start. However, an unlikely hero had a miracle play in his back pocket that capped a late fourth-quarter comeback for the Profs to secure a win against The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) on Saturday, Oct. 7 by a final score of 9-7.

The game-winning play was a 30-yard Hail Mary with seven seconds left on the clock thrown by freshman quarterback Nate Maiers. The pass was originally tipped in the air by a TCNJ defender, but sophomore wide receiver Shane Martin made a heads-up play by catching the ball while it was still in mid-air to help the Profs escape Lions Stadium with a 9-7 win, improving their record to 2-3.

“I was just in shock,” Maiers said. “At first, I saw the ball floating in the air and it hit the TCNJ defender’s hand then popped up in the air, and immediately I’m thinking ‘Oh my God, is somebody going to catch this?’ Then Shane [Martin] jumps over the pile and catches it. It was a crazy moment because you think Hail Mary’s hardly ever work, but in that game, it is just what we needed.”

Martin described the play from his own point of view.

“I didn’t think I had any shot of getting it because I was lined up out wide and the pass was towards the middle, but I ran towards the ball to get into the mix,” Martin said. “Then I saw the ball get shot up in the air and all I saw was the ball in the blue sky. I reacted and jumped for it and I was surprised how I was untouched when I got it.”

Martin then shifted gears to his emotions after making the biggest play of the season for the Profs.

“I just went into shock,” Martin said. “I truly could not believe that happened and in the style that it happened in, it was simply crazy. And then seeing the whole team rush the field celebrating in excitement. It was a crazy feeling and a feeling I will never forget.”

As a team, you never expect to go into a game and lose your star running back and starting quarterback in the first quarter, but that’s exactly what happened to the Profs in Ewing, with James Fara breaking his hand and Thomas Goldsborough taking a hard hit that took him out for the remainder of the game. These circumstances would crush most teams’ confidence for the rest of the contest, but the Profs are a different story.

“Honestly, we were not fazed at all,” Martin said. “We are a very deep team, so when [James] Fara and [Thomas] Goldsborough went down we knew that the guys behind them would step up and do a good job despite the circumstances.”

After the injury to Goldsborough, Maiers got his numbered called on to lead the Profs’ offense for the remainder of the game. However, the unit struggled to move the ball for most of the game.

Maiers completed 16 of his 25 attempts for 163 yards and one touchdown. He was also able to drive down the field before halftime to set up a field goal for the Profs to make the score 7-3.

Rowan got major contributions from their defense and special teams unit in this game. The defense only gave up seven points, with the lone score being a one-yard touchdown run in the second quarter by opposing quarterback Trevor Bopp.

After that, Rowan’s defense shut down the Lions’ offense for the remainder of the game. The Profs were able to force six turnovers in the game; two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and two blocked field goal attempts. The defense also forced a turnover on downs.

Freshman Carter Williams stood out the most on that side of the ball, as he had nine tackles, four tackles for loss, and a forced fumble.

“Carter [Williams] has been everything that we thought he would be and more,” Accorsi said. “Carter is just deceiving. He’s not the biggest, fastest, or the strongest. But man, when you watch him play, his motor is always going and it’s always on go.”

This isn’t the only recognition that Williams has received, as he won New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Rookie of the Week for his performance against McDaniel College on Saturday, Sept. 9. But to Williams, it is not about the individual statistics.

“The awards are secondary to me because I just want to win games, I hate losing. I want to win every single game for the rest of the year and make the playoffs,” Williams said. “I believe we are one of the top defenses, and if we continue to do our jobs we’ll be in the playoffs.”

The sequel to this thriller of a game will be on Saturday, Oct. 14 when the Profs return to Coach Richard Wackar Stadium for Homecoming Weekend to take on the Christopher Newport Captains.

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