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Taggart on target in HC's debut
Sure, Ryan Taggart was excited before Holy Cross’ season opener, but that was probably the third-best adjective he’d use to describe his pregame emotions.
“Nervous and anxious were 1 and 2,” he said.
Taggart, who is succeeding record-setting quarterback Dominic Randolph, made his starting debut yesterday and, as it turned out, the senior didn’t have too much to worry about. He completed 17 of 29 passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Crusaders to a 38-7 victory over Howard University at Fitton Field.
“Overall, he had a good day,” Holy Cross coach Tom Gilmore said. “We did make some mistakes, and he was a little off on a couple of plays, but hey, first-game jitters. When he settled down, he was starting to hit the throws a lot better.”
Taggart, who had attempted just two passes the last three seasons, directed a crisp, 10-play, 68-yard scoring drive on HC’s first possession. Taggart was 5 of 6 for 40 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Luke Chmielinski for the Crusaders’ first points of 2010.
“It felt good coming out and getting one in,” Taggart said.
Taggart’s other two TD throws were to fifth-year senior receiver Bill Edger, who finished with seven catches for 124 yards. The Crusaders picked up 91 yards on the ground. Sophomore running back Sam Auffant scored from 10 yards out in the fourth quarter.
The game was the first between HC and Howard, which plays in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
Holy Cross did a good job defending the Bison’s triple-option offense, allowing just a third-quarter touchdown pass from Jarad Dorsey to Willie Carter. Dorsey was one of three quarterbacks used by Howard. The Bison rushed for 123 yards on 48 carries. HC turned two Howard turnovers into 10 points.
“Defending the triple option takes a lot of dedication and a lot of focus,” said senior safety Alex Johnson, who had a second-quarter interception. “It’s really assignment football, and you have to trust that everyone on the team will do their job.”
Johnson’s pick led to Taggart’s 19-yard TD throw to Edger in the right corner of the end zone.
“Taggart threw it up and let me make a play,” said Edger, who led the Crusaders in receiving yardage last season. “It’s great when your quarterback trusts you like that — here’s the ball, go get it. That’s what I did, and I’m glad I was able to help out.”
Senior defensive end Mude Ohimor’s fumble recovery, and Taggart’s 34-yard completion to Edger, led to Rob Dornfried’s 29-yard field goal that put HC ahead, 24-0.
After the Crusaders’ opening drive, the offense stalled on its next five possessions, going three-and-out on three of them. Taggart missed some throws, there were a couple of drops, and the Howard defense kept the HC running game in check.
“We have a couple of wrinkles to iron out,” Edger said. “It took a couple series to get back on track, but we did in the second half.”
Taggart connected with Edger on a 38-yard touchdown pass three minutes into the third quarter.
Carter led Howard with six receptions for 130 yards, but Gilmore was pleased overall with his defense.
“The mistakes we made were technique mistakes on a couple of the long passes, but those are very correctable,” Gilmore said. “Our guys stuck with some really fast receivers, and that was a high-quality team as far as skill was concerned, and I thought we matched up really well.”
Johnson, junior linebacker Ricky Otis and junior cornerback Cav Koch made some big stops to keep the Bison out of the end zone late in the first quarter, and freshman kicker Parker Munoz missed a 23-yard field-goal attempt with 38 seconds left in the period.
The Crusaders were without senior All-Patriot League safety Anthony DiMichele, who suffered a concussion last weekend. Gilmore said keeping DiMichele out was precautionary, and that he’ll be back for Saturday’s game at UMass.
Early in the fourth quarter, senior Freddie Santana returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown. It equaled the second-longest punt-return TD in Holy Cross history.
“We did a good job overall in the most important category (winning), but we were inconsistent in all three phases,” Gilmore said. “We have a lot of stuff we’re going to be learning off the film, but it’s always nice to be learning things when you have a big win.”
Holy Cross 38, Howard 7
Howard 0 0 7 0—7
Holy Cross 7 7 10 14—38
HC—Luke Chmielinski 11 pass from Ryan Taggart (Rob Dornfried kick), 10:30.
HC—Bill Edger 20 pass from Taggart (Dornfried kick), 1:59.
HC—Edger 38 pass from Taggart (Dornfried kick), 12:04.
HC—Dornfried 29 FG, 9:05.
How—Willie Carter 33 pass from Jarad Dorsey (Parker Munoz kick), 1:41.
HC—Sam Auffant 10 run (Dornfried kick), 14:55.
HC—Freddie Santana 85 punt return (Dornfried kick), 12:24.
First downs 15 15
Rushes-yards 48-123 21-91
Passing 185 191
Comp-Att-Int 13-25-1 19-32-0
Return Yards 6 104
Punts-Avg. 8-34.4 7-38.0
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 10-102 5-65
Time of Possession 36:15 23:45
RUSHING—Howard, Terry Bradden 7-31, Brandon Drayton 4-27, Casey Council 10-24, Terrence Leffall 14-20, Carter 1-17, Jarren Brown 3-10, Jahmaine Rodriquez 2-7, Carnegie Tirado 1-(minus 2), Team 1-(minus 4), Dorsey 5-(minus 7). Holy Cross, Eddie Houghton 6-41, Auffant 8-31, Gerald Mistretta 1-17, Freddie Santana 1-14, Chmielinski 2-5, Kevin Watson 1-(minus 2), Taggart 1-(minus 4),
Team 1-(minus 11).
PASSING—Howard, Bradden 8-15-1-89, Dorsey 5-9-0-96,
Council 0-1-0-0. Holy Cross, Taggart 17-29-0-186, Kevin Watson 2-3-0-5.
RECEIVING—Howard, Carter 6-130, Todd Hughes 2-17, Leffall 1-23,
Kenny Hayes 1-7, Rodriquez 1-5, Daley Gunter 1-2, Brandon Drayton 1-1. Holy Cross, Edger 7-124, Chmielinski 3-21, Mistretta 2-18, Santana 2-12, Auffant 2-9, Nick Mercurio 1-4, Houghton 1-2, Alex Schneider 1-1.
By Jennifer Toland, Worcester Telegram & Gazette