Nov. 22, 2008

Courtesy Monmouth (Ill.) Athletics

The Fighting Scots enjoyed hosting their first-ever NCAA playoff football game so much that they’re going to do it again next week. With both gridiron teams looking for their first-ever NCAA win, Monmouth defeated Aurora on the strength of five touchdown passes by Alex Tanney and a defense that forced four turnovers from a Spartan team that led the nation in turnover margin entering the game. The Scots were up 35-0 at one point, but if a second-quarter play had gone the Spartans’ way, the game could have been close for a lot longer. Monmouth had opened the scoring by going 66 yards on 14 plays on its second drive. A 4-yard pass from Tanney to Mike Blodgett gave the Scots a 6-0 lead with 4:31 left in the first quarter. Aurora responded with a solid drive and had moved just outside the red zone early in the second quarter when a pass by Nate Peterson was tipped by linebacker Danny Weiden and intercepted by Kyle Harmon, who returned it 34 yards. The Scots then drove 62 yards for a touchdown, with Blodgett catching two balls for 49 yards, including a 17-yard scoring strike on a fourth-down play. The Spartans’ fumbled the ensuing kickoff and, after the teams traded punts, Monmouth scored again on an 11-yard slant from Tanney to Kyle Weyeneth for a 20-0 lead with 4:02 left in the first half. The Scots received the kickoff to start the second half and were at their absolute peak efficiency, taking just four pass plays to four different receivers to complete a 60-yard scoring drive. The final 15 were covered by Steve Zidow, who topped Monmouth with 107 receiving yards. On Aurora’s first drive of the half, Anthony Goranson sacked Peterson and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Marc Wozniak in the Spartans’ territory. A 39-yard pass to Zidow put the ball on the 1-yard line, and Caleb Pratt punched it in for a 35-0 lead. Peterson had a 1-yard TD run in the third quarter and a 4-yard scoring pass to Cory Cowan in the fourth. In between was Blodgett’s third TD catch of the day from Tanney, who completed a collegiate-best 31 passes in 45 attempts for 366 yards. Matt Shepherd caught eight balls for 74 yards and Blodgett added six catches for 68. Marc Artozqui had a team-high 12 stops and Weiden added 10. Both of Goranson’s tackles came in the backfield.