GENEVA, N.Y. – All great stories must come to an end and on a frigid Saturday afternoon the hottest story in college football, the past three weeks, saw the Gallaudet University football team conclude its magical season with a 34-7 loss to No. 7 Hobart College in the first round of the 2013 NCAA Division III championship.
Gallaudet wraps up a historic season with a 9-2 record, its first-ever appearance in the NCAA tournament, its first Eastern Collegiate Football Conference title and national media exposure usually reserved for larger NCAA Division I programs. The Bison tie the school record with nine wins in a season and set a program record with 11 games played in a season and an 11-game win streak set earlier this season.
Hobart senior running back Steven Webb ran for a team high 161 yards and three touchdowns, to set the Statesmen single-season rushing touchdown record (20). Webb put the game away with a 58-yard scamper on the first play of the third quarter as Hobart (10-0) increased its lead to 34-0 at Boswell Field. Webb scored the game's first touchdown at 6:28 in the first quarter and added his second midway through the second quarter.
"Hats off to Hobart College, they are a very good football team. We showed up and gave them our best effort and we fell a little bit short," said Gallaudet coach Chuck Goldstein. "The important part is our players never quit. This is a learning experience for me and for the program."
The Bison hung tough in the first half but a key turnover changed the momentum of the game. Gallaudet marched into Hobart's terriortory to the 43-yard line down one score just two minutes into the second quarter. Sophomore quarterback Quentin Williams (Chesapeake, Va.) dropped back and Hobart defensive end Tyre Coleman jarred the ball loose near midfield. Hobart linebacker Devin Worthington scooped up the fumble and rumbled 48 yards into the end zone as the Statesmen led 13-0 at the 12:49 mark.
On the ensuing possession, the Bison ran seven plays and moved 19 yards but their drive stalled at their own 31-yard line. GU went for it on 4th and 1 and Williams was stuffed for no gain. Three straight handoffs to Webb ended with another Hobart touchdown as the Statesmen led 20-0 with eight minutes left in the half.
Hobart back-up quarterback Kyle Bayly (2-for-8, 17 yards), who came in with 3:01 left in the second quarter when starter Patrick Conlan got knocked out, threw a 1 yard pass to Mike Berkowitz with 34 seconds left in the quarter. The Statesmen took a 27-0 lead into intermission.
Gallaudet history was made with 12:13 left in regulation when sophomore running back BJ Flores (Raymondville, Texas) scored the first-ever Bison postseason touchdown on a 1 yard run. The score capped a 16 play, 93-yard drive that took six minutes and 23 seconds as snow squalls blew through on the blustery day. Flores, Gallaudet's 1,000 yard rusher this season, finished with a career-high 176 yards on 38 carries. This was Flores' sixth 100-yard rushing game of the season as he finished with 1,227 rushing yards in 11 games.
The Bison had a chance for more points late in the fourth quarter but Flores was stuffed at the Hobart 2 on fourth and goal with three minutes left.
Williams, starting in-place of sophomore quarterback Todd Bonheyo (Frederick, Md.) who got injured last week, finished with 36 yards on 15 carries. Senior Ryan Bonheyo (Frederick, Md.) tallied 63 rushing yards on 10 carries as Gallaudet racked up 276 yards on the ground. GU, the nation's leader in time of possession, held the ball for 32:56 and made 10 of 17 third down possessions but was 0-for-3 on fourth down conversions.
Gallaudet's defense was led by senior Nicholas Elstad (Colorado Springs, Colo.) who made nine tackles along with junior Gregg McConville (Frederick, Md.) and Chris Richardson (Mobile, Ala.). Senior Adham Talaat (Springfield, Va.), who got thrust into offensive line work during the game as well as his normal defensive end spot, finished his Bison career with eight tackles.
Hobart racked up 251 yards on the ground and had 304 total yards of offense. The Statesmen only converted 4 of 12 third down attempts but made 4 of 6 fourth down opportunities. Hobart also made 3 of 4 red zone chances in the game.
The Statesmen will face St. John Fisher in the NCAA second round next Saturday, Nov. 30, at noon.
The Bison bid farewell to the largest senior class, 12 players, since the program returned to NCAA Division III status in 2007. The playoff game marked the final game for Ryan Bonheyo, Ryan Brubaker (Baltimore, Md.), Elstad, Darius Flowers (Birmingham, Ala.), Josh Hanna (Burrell, Pa.), Mike Hantge (Hutchinson, Minn.), Chris Langan (Burtonsville, Md.), Angelo Leccese (North Bellmore, N.Y.), Peter Leccese (North Bellmore, N.Y.), Ken Montanez (Brentwood, Tenn.), Talaat and Derrick Wakefield (Mt. Pleasant, Mich.).
"We [seniors] have left Gallaudet in a better place. Gallaudet is going to be okay in the future. We will always be a part of Gallaudet and Gallaudet will always be a part of us. It is something that stays with you for the rest of your life and will never forget," said Talaat.
The GU senior class leaves with a 26-15 record (.634 winning percentage) in four seasons (24-15 against NCAA competition). The win total (24) against NCAA competition is a new program record for a senior class. The 1986-89 GU senior class went 29-11 (.725) overall and 23-9 (.719) agaiinst NCAA competition.
"It has been an amazing year," said Goldstein. "Our players worked hard, they committed to the program and again the reason for our success is due to our senior class. This has been the best group of leaders we have ever had. We are going to miss them next year no question but we have a strong foundation built because of our senior group."