Rowan Football put the finishing touch on their season on Friday, Nov. 10, with a 24-14 victory over the William Paterson University Pioneers on Senior Night.
The first half was not great for the Profs, as they headed into halftime facing a 14-7 deficit with both touchdowns for the Pioneers coming from sophomore running back Isaac Cherry.
On the other hand, Rowan scored on their first drive with a six-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Nate Maiers to senior wide receiver Jake Schicke.
The second half was night-and-day difference, and head coach Jay Accorsi touched on what changed for the team coming out of halftime.
“We didn’t do all that well in the first half,” Accorsi said. “We didn’t make so many adjustments, but we capitalized on their mistakes and that’s what propelled us to this victory. We did some things defensively to compensate for their top receiver, but we just went back to who we are and what we do and played really good football.”
The Profs turned on the pressure early in the second half by getting to William Paterson’s starting quarterback Christopher Leimberg, and keeping the ball out of their best receiver’s hands in Matt Clarke. Clarke had a monster first half, totaling five catches for 106 yards, but the secondary prevented him from breaking loose as he caught just three passes for 42 yards coming out of halftime.
The Profs got back on the scoreboard thanks to a Peter Parigi 20-yard field goal to cut the Pioneers’ lead down to four. Then, after forcing William Paterson to punt, the Profs capitalized on a four-play, 40-yard drive ending in a Nunes Bukula IV four-yard touchdown run to give the Profs a 17-14 lead with 10:57 left in the fourth quarter.
“We knew we had them,” Maiers said. “We were just turning the ball over and our defense kept giving us more chances to put it in the end zone. That’s what worked on the rush by Bukula to give us the lead.”
The Profs weren’t done getting to Leimburg, as he was sacked on back-to-back plays on the following drive. Josh Ortiz, who had six total tackles with one tackle for loss, spoke about the Profs’ defense and his confidence level heading into next season.
“In the second half there were a lot of openings, and that was set up by our secondary leaving their quarterback in the pocket for too long, and we made the plays,” Ortiz said. “The whole defense is coming back next year. There will be some pieces missing on the offense, but next year we’re gonna surprise some people.”
The Profs then got the ball back with a huge interception from junior cornerback Eric Bryant, who elevated and snagged his fifth of the season to shut down any momentum that remained for the Pioneers.
Rowan quickly scored four plays later, with Bukula IV rushing for his sixth touchdown of the season and second of the night to give the Profs an emphatic 24-14 lead with 1:35 left in the fourth quarter.
Bukula IV ended the game with ten carries for 60 yards and two touchdowns, and expressed his pride in how much the Profs backfield shined throughout the season.
“Coming into the season we had a lot of young guys getting great advice and mentoring from lead back James Fara, and coach [Accorsi] implemented guys like me and Tyshawn [Bookman] and Marlon [Boston],” Bukula IV said. “During the season, it was hard for teams to adjust because we had multiple different guys in and out of the lineup.”
After a 7-3 season in 2022, the Profs showed flashes this year. Especially on the road, winning all four games. Rowan also went 4-2 in New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) games this season and managed to end the year at .500 with a 5-5 record after securing their first home win of the season on Friday. Accorsi expressed confidence in the outlook of the team for next season.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this team and what they have overcome, and we are still super young,” Accorsi said. “We have 15-17 seniors, but a lot of good, young players in the program that are gonna make us contenders for years to come.”