WASHINGTON - After stumbling out of the gate, Gallaudet University picked itself up and scored three consecutive touchdowns against Union (N.Y.) College to take its first lead of the game on a warm Saturday afternoon before 604 at Hotchkiss Field. The visiting Dutchmen answered with back-to-back touchdown drives to survive, 31-21, in the first meeting between these non-conference football foes.
Gallaudet sophomore quarterback Timel Benton (Columbia, S.C.) had a career game as he completed 12 of 23 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns, all career-high totals. Benton's favorite target was senior slot Joell Dixon (Brandywine, Md.) who caught three passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Benton connected with Dixon on a 72-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter to cut the Union lead to three, 17-14, right before the half.
In the third quarter, Benton and Dixon connected again on a 40-yard pass, down the left side of the field, as Dixon kept his eye on the ball and hauled it in for the score at the 3:55 mark. That gave Gallaudet (0-3) its first lead of the game at 21-17.
Union (2-1) started the ensuing drive at midfield after a strong return by Derek Khnaizir (three returns, 98 yards) that set-up a six-play, 50-yard drive. Dutchmen quarterback Nick Cascione (13 of 20, 169 yards) hit Packy Brown (six receptions, 44 yards) for the second time in the game for a touchdown. The pair connected on the first drive of the game. Union took a 24-21 lead into the fourth quarter.
GU marched into Union territory on the following drive and faced a crucial 3rd and 2 from the Union 31. Freshman superback DeMichael Shelbon (Monroe, La.) ran to the left of his blockers, for what would of been a first down, before Union defensive end Phil Panici dislodged the ball from Shelbon's grip. The loose ball was picked up by safety Jason Nelson (six tackles) as a large scrum of players were pushed 28 yards in the opposite direction.
The Dutchmen started the drive on the Gallaudet 42 and only needed four plays as Cascione threw his fourth touchdown pass with 10:40 left in regulation. Union ran the ball three times with Khnaizir (14 carries, 76 yards) for 40 of the 42 yards. Cascione threw a two-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Hanney as the Dutchmen led by 10.
Both teams went three-and-out on their next drives, respectively, before Gallaudet put the ball on the ground for the fourth time in the game (three fumbles lost) as Benton fumbled near midfield.
The Bison defense kept Union off the scoreboard on its final drive as the Dutchmen turned the ball over on downs at the Gallaudet 12 with 1:36 left in the game. GU tried to add one more score but time ran out as the Bison covered 62 yards and got to the Union 29 as the final seconds ticked off.
In the first quarter, Union won the coin toss and went on the attack. The Dutchmen only needed seven plays, 65 yards and less than four minutes to score. On Gallaudet's first offensive play from scrimmage, senior slot Cody Paulay-Simmons (Kailua-Kona, Hawaii) fumbled at the Gallaudet 34 as Union recovered and had a short field to work with. On the next play, Cascione hit Alex Kaplanovich (five receptions, 123 yards) for a 34-yard strike to put Union up 14-0 only four minutes into the game.
Union kicker Jonathan Schaible made a 22-yard field goal at the 2:19 mark in the first quarter as Union led 17-0.
Gallaudet began to chip away at the Union lead in the second quarter. Shelbon rumbled in from three yards out at the 5:43 mark to get Gallaudet on the scoreboard with a touchdown. After the Bison defense held Union to a three-and-out, Benton connected with Dixon on a 72-yard touchdown pass.
- Junior linebacker Louie Akuffo (Bowie, Md.) led the Bison defense with eight tackles (seven solo)
- Junior defensive end Demontrai Lewis (Trinity, Texas) added six tackles, one tackle for a loss and two quarterback hurries
- Junior defensive lineman Wayne Castle (Virginia Beach, Va.) led the team with 2.5 tackles for a loss of eight yards
- Freshman strong safety Jack Gray (Atherton, Calif.) made his second interception this season and returned it 38 yards
- Sophomore superback Canton Meadows (Yukon, Okla.) led all GU rushers with 38 yards on eight carries
- Three different Bison rushers had eight carries
- Junior wide receiver Dylan Mento (Atco, N.J.) led the team with six receptions (56 yards)
- Sophomore kicker Jacob Guertler (Staunton, Va.) was 3-for-3 on his point after attempts
- The Bison defense held Union to 3 of 12 on third down conversions and 0-for-2 on fourth down attempts
- Gallaudet held an edge in total offensive yards, 400-348
- Union edged GU on the ground by three yards, 179-176
- The Dutchmen ran for 76 yards in the fourth quarter
- Union scored 14 points off Bison turnovers
Gallaudet will enter a bye week before it begins Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) play at Mount Ida College (1-2) in Newton, Mass., on Sept. 27 at noon.
Photo Courtesy: Terrance Williams