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Lafayette's Bid for Championship Ends on Hail Mary
6 seconds left: Holy Cross stuns home team with late TD.
The forecasted thunder never came to Fisher Stadium Saturday afternoon, but a couple of lightning bolts by Dominic Randolph did.
Set back by a sack and a holding penalty in the final minutes, Holy Cross’ record-setting quarterback tossed up what no one wanted to call a Hail Mary pass – but really was because he never even saw the result.
And when converted quarterback Rob Koster gathered it in on the other end, Lafayette’s championship season came to a thud of a finish 27-26.
Oh, the Leopards (7-3) still have lots to play for, but the 144th Lehigh game would have had even bigger implications if Holy Cross had not beaten Lafayette’s cover-3 prevent defense with six seconds left.
Here was the play: first-and-10 at the Lafayette 37 following a holding penalty. Less than 20 seconds on the clock. It was, Holy Cross coach Tom Gilmore said, a play on which Randolph had to go for the end zone or throw the ball out of bounds.
Receivers streaked down the field. Koster, who was moved to wide receiver two weeks ago to take advantage of his 6-foot-5 frame and his speed, went down the sidelines toward Lafayette cornerback Marvin Clecidor.
Randolph was hit by charging Leopard linebacker Neil Goldsmith as he threw the ball. At the same time, Gilmore admitted later, ‘’I couldn’t believe it when I saw Rob get by the corner.'’ The pass was perfect, and Koster used his height to make the play.
‘’I was on the ground and I heard the cheers,'’ said Randolph, who was 28-for-49 passing for 422 yards and three touchdowns. But he didn’t get the decisive point. That went to placekicker Matt Partain, who booted the PAT.
Lafayette, just as two weeks ago at Colgate, seemed in command of the game when Eric McGovern intercepted a Randolph pass in the end zone and the Leopards drove 80 yards for a third-quarter score that made it 20-7.
It still looked good when the defense stiffened twice in the red zone and forced the Crusaders to settle for field goals.
And when DeAndre’ Morrow scored his second touchdown with 2:51 remaining to break a 20-20 tie, Lafayette was OK. But, it left the door ajar when steady Davis Rodriguez missed his first extra-point try of the season.
‘’We came back and battled; we drove down there and put what you think put you in place to win the game,'’ Lafayette coach Frank Tavani said. ‘’It’s unthinkable that we miss an extra point, but you always see it late in the season. Everybody takes those things for granted like it’s 1-2-3 kick and it’s not.'’
Randolph pounced. Faced with fourth-and-4, he ran a quarterback draw for a first down. Later, faced with fourth-and-2 after Lafayette called two time outs (one when it did not have enough men on the field), he ran for five yards and a first down. He hit Jon Brock for 19 yards, and Brock managed to get out of bounds. The holding penalty followed – and finally, the season-killer.
Tavani refused to blame the loss on the missed PAT. He talked about two critical third-and-1 plays that failed to produce first downs, one around midfield in the fourth quarter. He mentioned two trips into the red zone – one was a first down at the Crusader 6 – that wound up as Rodriguez field goals rather than touchdowns.
Lafayette’s bid for championship ends on Hail Mary
By Paul Reinhard, Special to The Morning Call