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Holy Cross to play for PL title After Last-Minute TD from Randolph
EASTON, Pa.— For the fifth time in his already-storied Holy Cross career, Dominic Randolph passed for more than 400 yards.
Luckily for the Crusaders yesterday, he didn’t settle for what would have been a seventh straight 300-yard game because HC needed every one of Randolph’s 422 passing yards to sneak past Lafayette, 27-26, and keep alive its hopes for its first Patriot League championship since 1991.
Take away Randolph’s last completion, a 37-yard touchdown strike to sophomore Rob Koster with 6 seconds left, and not only does the quarterback settle for 387 yards, but the Crusaders’ hopes of an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoff berth would have been reduced to praying for a three-way tie and a favorable tiebreaker vote by the league’s athletic directors.
But Randolph hit Koster in stride streaking down the right sideline, three steps beyond the Lafayette cornerback trying to cover him, and now the Crusaders (7-3, 5-0) control their own fate when they travel to No. 23 Colgate for Saturday’s regular-season finale. Colgate, which had a bye yesterday, is 8-2, 4-0 in the league.
“This was our biggest game since 1991,” HC coach Tom Gilmore said. “Now that we won this game, next week is the biggest.”
It almost didn’t happen. Turning the ball over three times — twice on red-zone interceptions and once on a muffed punt that gave Lafayette (7-3, 3-2) the ball at the HC 19 — the Crusaders squandered much of the offense they generated early. Despite 173 yards and a 12-6 edge in first downs in the first half, Holy Cross trailed, 13-7, at intermission.
The Purple entered the fourth quarter down, 20-10, even though Randolph had thrown for 260 yards already.
“We weren’t quite in sync,” Gilmore said. “We were making a lot of mistakes.”
Matt Partain’s second field goal of the game and a 22-yard Randolph-to-Nick Cole TD strike pulled the Crusaders even at 20-20. But it looked like the rally might be for naught when Lafayette drove 64 yards on six plays and regained the lead with 2:45 to play on DeAndre Morrow’s second touchdown run of the game.
But Lafayette kicker Davis Rodriguez, perfect on 31 straight point-after attempts this season, blew the kick wide left, opening the door for Randolph and the HC offense.
With just one timeout remaining, Randolph went to work at his own 28 and methodically moved Holy Cross down the field in 10 plays. Twice, Randolph used his legs to convert fourth-down plays, sprinting up the middle for 7 yards on a fourth-and-4 quarterback draw from his own 34, and scrambling for 5 yards and another first down on a fourth-and-2 from the HC 49 after burning his last timeout.
After a 19-yard completion to Jon Brock put the ball on the Lafayette 27, a holding call wiped out what would have been a 15-yard completion. That set up the winning strike, the league-record 80th TD pass of Randolph’s career. It was the first receiving TD for Koster, who moved to wideout only two weeks ago from his backup quarterback spot.
“One of the coaches said to me, ‘You are 6-5 and you can run a little. Let’s try you at wide receiver,’ ” said Koster, who last lined up away from the center when he played receiver as a high school sophomore. “I guess it worked out.”
“He ran a good route. He’s a big target. He is hard to miss,” said Randolph, who was hit as he let go of the ball and never saw the catch.
Koster had two other catches, including a nearly-as-clutch 35-yarder on third-and-18, leading to a third-quarter field goal. But despite his size and speed, Koster probably would not have been Randolph’s target had Holy Cross had any timeouts remaining. He might not even have been on the field.
“That personnel group was on the field and we were out of timeouts,” Gilmore said. “We didn’t have the luxury of deliberating where the ball was going to. We wanted to go to the wide side of the field. It just so happened Rob was on that side.”
Randolph, who broke Phil Stambaugh’s (Lehigh) career league touchdown record that had stood since 1999, finished the day 28 of 49 for three touchdowns with two interceptions. Nine HC receivers had at least one catch, including Brett McDermott, who hauled in eight receptions for 107 yards and a score, and Brock, who had a game-high 122 receiving yards on six catches.
While the Holy Cross offense was busy putting up 490 yards, the defense did a fine job of keeping the Crusaders in the game in the first half when offensive and special-teams miscues threatened to let Lafayette turn it into a blowout. The defense gave up a 44-yard touchdown strike from Marc Quilling to Shaun Adair on Lafayette’s first offensive play after Randolph was picked off in the red zone on HC’s first drive.
But the defense came up huge on two second-quarter drives that could have given Lafayette a comfortable lead. The Crusaders held the Leopards to field goals on a pair of possessions that started in the Holy Cross end, including a drive that began after Josh Jenkins muffed a punt at the HC 19.
Instead of possibly trailing, 21-7, at intermission, the Crusaders still were within a touchdown to start the second half.
“We made just enough plays to make it happen,” Gilmore said.
Dom again to the rescue
By Chris A. Courogen, Special to The Worcester Telegram & Gazette