Sun, Sep. 4, 2011 - [Football]
It was a fast start under first year head coach Paul Mierkiewicz in suburban Chicago, and it was a long second half.
After opening a 14-0 first quarter lead, the Duhawks sputtered to the finish line with 10 points over the final three quarters while the Elmhurst College Blue Jays mounted their second half surge.
On the Blue Jays' third play on offense after returning the opening kick to the 33-yard line, Brandon Ronan forced a fumble near midfield where Aaron Strong picked it up and took care of the rest. Strong rumbled 45 yards with two blockers in front of him to give Loras an early 7-0 lead.
A three-and-out forced by the Loras defense gave the Duhawks the ball back quickly, and Vaughn Gesing went to the air twice to Gavin Kaiser, the first for 45 yards, the second for 42. The second came off a play action pass - and Kaiser ran under the Gesing toss after beating his defender near the sideline.
Elmhurst's next drive lasted over five minutes and a dozen plays, but stalled on a fourth and goal when Ben Coleman tracked down Joe Furco outside the pocket.
Andrew Tubek put the Blue Jays on the board early in the second quarter for the first of the three touchdowns by Elmhurst capping a 12 play, 61 yard drive.
Loras took four minutes off the clock before a sloppy drive came to an end, leading to a Nicholas Nunley punt.
Furco needed just one play to tie the score at 14-14, hooking up with Joe St. Peter on a 52-yard pass.
Loras answered quickly, using Devin Kass in the running game to cover 61 of the 66 yards to reclaim the lead at 21-14. Kass ran off a 40 yard effort early in the drive and then added runs of 5, 3, and eventually a 13-yard scamper into the end zone.
With things moving more smoothly for the Elmhurst offense, it was just 2:34 later when Furco orchestrated a 59-yard drive. This one, courtesy of a 2-yard pass to tight end Josh Schmidt, didn't end with a clean extra point. Trevor Spaulding failed to convert, sending the teams to the locker room for halftime with Loras out front, 21-20.
The Duhawks received the ball to start the second half and Bryce Ewan was quickly involved when Gesing found him for an 18-yard gain. The drive stalled after a sack and Nunley punted the Blue Jays back inside their own 20.
After Nunley's punt, the officials stopped the game upon the sight of lightning after five plays of the second half. Just over an hour later after the severe weather was out of the area, the teams resumed play.
A mix of runs by Scottie Williams and another long Furco-to-St. Peter hookup led to an Elmhurst touchdown – when the Blue Jays took their first lead of the game, 27-20 – a lead they wouldn't surrender.
Furco and his offense began clicking and registered a Spaulding field goal and Williams 3-yard run to extend their lead to 37-20 after three quarters. They quickly made it 44-21 early in the fourth.
Tyler Wilker, who was 3-for-3 on extra points on the afternoon, then added his first field goal of the year, knocking down a 36-yard kick on a drive that started with three completions by Gesing to three different receivers.
A quick back-and-forth of punts setup the final score of the game, a 2-yard run by Tubek to pay dirt that featured a total of seven handoffs to the sophomore.
The Blue Jays logged 547 yards of total offense, 31 first downs, went 8-for-12 on third down, sacked Gesing six times on their way to the win.
Gesing went 14-for-28 for 237 yards, one touchdown, and a late interception on a tipped pass. Four of those 14 completions went to Gavin Kaiser, who caught Gesing's touchdown pass and averaged 34 yards per catch. On the ground for Loras, Kass ran it 20 times for 92 yards – an average of 4.6 yards per carry.
Defensively, four Duhawks registered double digit tackles – Eric Meyer, Jasper Henderson, Brandon Ronan, and David Zoeckler. Ronan also broke up one pass and had one tackle for a loss.
Loras was 2-for-2 in the red zone and won the time of possession battle, 32 minutes to 28 minutes.
Hundreds of the purple and gold faithful turned out to the pre-game tailgate in Elmhurst to kick off the 2011 season.
The Duhawks will be back in action next Saturday when they host Rockford College in the Rock Bowl at 1:00 PM. The game will also include a halftime ceremony for the Loras College Hall of Fame class of 2011.