Nov. 21, 2009

Courtesy of Delaware Valley Athletics

After falling behind 7-0 just 13 seconds in, Delaware Valley College exploded for a school-record 66 points as the Aggies downed visiting Susquehanna University, 66-7, in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs.

Delaware Valley, making its first trip to the national tournament since 2005, improved to 10-1 on the season and will host fellow Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) school Albright College in the second round next Saturday, November 28 (12:00 p.m.). Albright went on the road and posted a 35-25 victory over Alfred College. Delaware Valley and the Lions met just two weeks ago with the Aggies notching a 45-16 home victory.

Susquehanna, which went 4-6 just a season ago, finished its 2009 campaign with an 8-3 overall record, a Liberty League championship and its first trip to the NCAA playoffs since 1991.

The Aggies’ point total eclipsed the previous record of 58 set in 2005 victory over Juniata College (58-27), while the 642 yards of total offense fell short of the 687 yards amassed in that ’05 contest. Meanwhile, the Delaware Valley defense held the Crusaders to 186 total yards and forced six turnovers.

However, it was an Aggie turnover on the opening kickoff that got the game started right for Susquehanna as Isaiah Hall was stripped of the ball by J.J. Moran and Jim Cavanaugh recovered it at the Delaware Valley 29-yard line. On their first play from scrimmage, Crusader quarterback Rich Palazzi hit Keith Howell in the end zone for the quick score. Bobby Eppleman added the extra point for a 7-0 Susquehanna lead with just 13 ticks off the clock.

It was all Delaware Valley from there, beginning with the ensuing kickoff as Hall returned it 40 yards to the Aggie 44. They drove to the Susquehanna six-yard line and settled for a 23-yard field goal by Jake Sobchak with 10:47 remaining in the quarter.

The Delaware Valley defense held on the next Crusaders drive and a punt was downed at the Aggie 22. The offense needed just eight plays to find the end zone with quarterback Mike Isgro taking care of the final 15 yards on the ground. Sobchak added the extra-point for a 10-7 advantage with 4:37 to go in the quarter.

A short kick was fielded by Susquehanna at its own 47 and the Crusaders drove to the Aggie 16-yard line. However, a Palazzi pass was intercepted by linebacker Mike Jaskowski at the seven after cornerback Charles Squitere jarred the ball out of the hands of a Crusader receiver.

The Aggies went on a 16-play drive, but turned the ball over on downs at the Susquehanna 28. Just three plays later, they got the ball back as Palazzi was picked off by Ryan McCullough at the Crusader 43. Delaware Valley tailback Matt Cook took care of all 43 yards as he got the ball four straight times, including a 17-yard run into the end zone. Sobchak’s boot made it 17-7 with 4:45 remaining in the first half.

Delaware Valley then took full command of the game by scoring two touchdowns in a 51-second span at the end of the half. The defense picked off a third pass as Troy Green came up with one at the Aggie 35-yard line. Delaware Valley moved to midfield and then Isgro hit Brandon Fox for a 48-yard reception down to the two. Cook found the end zone on the next play with 1:10 to go. After a Susquehanna punt, Isgro found a wide-open Fox for a 52-yard touchdown and a 31-7 lead with just 32 seconds left in the half.

The second stanza saw more of the same as Delaware Valley went 61 yards on eight plays on its first possession with Isgro capping it with a 15-yard touchdown run. The Aggies were stopped on their next drive but a punt hit a helmet of a Susquehanna players and Squitiere recovered it at the Crusader 46-yard line. On the next play, Isgro lined up as a wideout, came back to take a pitch on an apparent reverse, but instead threw to Chris Ruiz for a 48-yard touchdown and a 45-7 score with 5:12 left in the third.

Delaware Valley’s reserves racked up three touchdowns in the final quarter for the 66-7 final. Tailback Tyler Neal had a 23-yard touchdown run 34 seconds into the quarter and, following a Susquehanna fumble, added a 12-yard score with 11:46 on the clock. Tailback Anthony Denny capped the day with a 58-yard sprint to the end zone with 3:34 remaining.

Isgro completed 17 of 22 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns and added 49 yards and two scores on seven rushes. Cook finished with 156 yards and two scores on 20 carries, including a 133-yard effort in the first half alone. Neal netted a career-high 73 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. Fox hauled in three passes for 108 yards and a score. Junior linebacker and MAC Defensive Player of the Year Kyle Gesswein paced the Aggies with 12 tackles and one sack. Sobchak was a perfect 8-for-8 on extra-points to give him the school record for a single game.

Palazzi was 12-for-23 for 104 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. Keith Howell had four grabs for 52 yards and the team’s lone score. Senior tailback Dave Paveletz carried the ball 24 times for 67 yards and concluded his career with team records of 4,731 yards and 47 touchdowns.