Story and photo courtesy of Hobart Athletics
GENEVA, N.Y. - Seventh-ranked Hobart College dominated time of possession and outrushed the No. 1 rushing team in the nation, defeating Washington & Lee University 38-20 in the first round of the NCAA Division III Football Championship. The Statesmen had the ball for 36:36, rushing for 284 yards and five touchdowns while limiting the Generals to a season-low 188 yards on the ground.
Junior tailback Steven Webb ran for 99 yards and three touchdowns for Hobart (11-0). Senior tailback Bobby Dougherty added 81 yards and a TD and sophomore fullback Dominique Ellis ran for 56 yards. Hobart did not have a single negative play on offense, until it took a knee twice to run out the clock at the end of the game.
Senior quarterback Nick Strang completed 10 of 21 passes for 96 yards, including a team-high five for 40 yards to senior wideout Junior Woodard. Woodard has at least one reception in 31 consecutive games, one shy of the Hobart record.
Senior linebacker Andrew Klindera recorded a season-high 11 tackles to lead the Statesmen defense. Defensive ends sophomore Tyre Coleman and first-year Mark Guarino-Hyde each produced eight tackles. Sophomore linebacker Nolan Toran made four stops and an interception.
Washington & Lee (8-3) got a team-high 85 yards rushing from senior slotback Luke Heinsohn. Junior quarterback Nick Lombardo didn't throw a pass until the fourth quarter, finishing the day 4-of-8 for 50 yards and a TD. Senior tight end Eli Chester caught two passes for 18 yards and a touchdown.
The Generals' senior linebacker Stephen Peck and senior strong safety Jake Pelton shared game-high honors with 19 tackles apiece.
W&L scored on the game's opening drive, going 70 yards in 11 plays. Heinsohn punched it in from 2 yards out for a 7-0 lead. Hobart countered with an impressive march of its own, driving 66 yards in 17 plays. Webb scored his first TD on a 1-yard dive over the pile. The Statesmen forced the Generals to punt after three plays, the only punt of the game, setting Hobart up for another scoring drive at its own 44.
The Statesmen claimed their first lead of the day on a 12-play, 56-yard march that Dougherty capped with a 3-yard scamper. This time it was Washington & Lee's turn to answer, moving 73 yards in 11 plays. Lombardo scored on a 5-yard run to knot the score at 14-all with 4:32 left in the half.
Hobart drove deep into Generals' territory late in the half, setting up the turning point of the game. The Statesmen faced third and goal from the 1. Strang's pass off the mark and Pelton nearly made a diving interception. With a second chance at the end zone, Hobart gave the ball to Webb, who swept around the left end for a 21-14 halftime lead.
Hobart got the ball back to start the second half and ran 17 plays and 7:30 off the clock before first-year James Hull booted a 25-yard field goal for a 10-point lead.
The Statesmen opened the fourth quarter scoring with a 3-yard Webb run that gave the home team a 31-14 advantage with 14:31 remaining.
W&L scored its final TD on a 9-yard pass from Lombardo to Chester with 10:20 to go. The extra point hit the upright, leaving Hobart a 31-20 lead.
Toran's interception with 5:26 to go, set up the final TD of the day. On fourth-and-1 from the Generals' 15, Strang's sneak attempt turned into a 15-yard scoring run, securing the Statesmen a place in the second round.
Hobart will face Wittenberg at noon on Saturday, Nov. 24. The NCAA Football Committee will announce the host teams for the second round tomorrow.