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Dink-dunk Drive Comes up Big for Spiders
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - Down six, with 1:44 left. No timeouts. No leading receiver. Sixty-two yards from the goal line.
Eric Ward took a wide-angle view.
“We weren’t going to win it with one throw. I knew that,” he said.
That level-headedness helped get Ward the job as the University of Richmond’s starting quarterback three years ago. He and Levi Brown were competing as freshmen. Dave Clawson, UR’s coach at the time, liked Brown’s strong arm but loved Ward’s maturity.
When Ward erred and was corrected, he looked Clawson in the eye, nodded and moved on as an improved player. Clawson named Ward starter then watched him grow.
And that brings us back to the UNI-Dome, where Northern Iowa yesterday was ahead 20-14 in great shape to put a lid on Richmond’s season. UNI needed one stop.
“They were in prevent,” Ward said of the Panthers. “They were back, and we were just dinking and dunking.”
The Spiders dinked and dunked to a 21-20 win in the FCS semifinals. Seven-yard completion here. Eleven-yard hookup there. Plenty of time. Don’t worry about not having top receiver Kevin Grayson (L.C. Bird) because of a groin pull. Run for 5. Pass for 4. Then hit the tight end, third option on the play, for a TD with 14 seconds left.
“We knew we had enough time. We just wanted to take what they gave us,” Ward said. “That’s something we practice every Tuesday, the two-minute drill. We finally got the opportunity to run it.”
While leading UR on that decisive 62-yard drive, the junior from Atlanta spiked one pass to stop the clock and threw another away to prevent a sack. Otherwise, he went 6 for 6 for 52 yards. “You practice those situations in practice all the time. It looks great when the players execute the plan,” UR coach Mike London said.
Ward seemed to get loose and confident when UR fell behind 20-7 late in the third quarter. London called for the Spiders to go no-huddle approach and stay that way.
“The hurry-up mode might have got [UNI’s defenders] off tempo a little bit,” London said. “That’s how we seemed to move the ball, when we did our best, when we were in that hurry-up mode there.”
Ward completed the day 28 for 35 for 280 yards. Eight Spiders caught passes. After UR trailed 20-7, Ward went 13 for 17 for 118 yards.
“He was right on the money all day,” said Joe Stewart, who caught the winning pass, “and he finished off with a perfect ball to me. It couldn’t have been in any better place.”
Dink-dunk drive comes up big for Spiders
By John O’Connor, The Richmond Times-Dispatch
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall