READING - Lycoming's climb from a 14-point deficit was methodical. It was a grind. It surely wasn't flashy.
But it was demoralizing. It was punishing. And it was effective.
The Warriors ran the football 49 times for 147 yards over the final three quarters against Albright Saturday at Gene Shirk Stadium and kept control of their own destiny in the Middle Atlantic Conference by beating a previously unbeaten team for the second week in a row, 29-14.
Michael Czap/For The Sun-Gazette
Lycoming College running back Parker Showers, left, runs down the sideline during the third quarter against Albright in Reading. The Warriors won, 29-14.
It was such a contrast of styles between the Warriors (3-1, 3-0 MAC) and Albright (3-1, 2-1) to score their points. The Lions scored 14 points in the first 16 minutes of the game with a sharp passing game that saw All-America hopeful receiver Scott Pillar catch five passes for 67 yards and a touchdown.
Lycoming got back into the game with a second-quarter, 14-play, 67-yard drive in which all 14 plays were running plays. Its second scoring drive of the quarter ate up 4 minutes of the final 4:23 and was capped with a beautiful pass from Tyler Jenny to Jarrin Campman for a 5-yard touchdown.
The final numbers for Lycoming surely weren't flashy. It ran the ball 53 times for 168 total yards. The 3.2 yards per carry alone weren't particularly impressive. But a strong, athletic offensive line for the Warriors was constantly leaning on a bigger Albright defensive line, and it eventually took its toll.
"They were all but dead by the end of the first half," Lycoming left tackle Andrew Wagner said. "They were pretty good up front, but we just wore them down. We were getting on blocks and making holes. We were feeling good about what we were doing."
It led to an eventual 11-minute advantage in time of possession at the end of the game. And it helped lead to the Warriors' third consecutive win since dropping the season opener to Brockport at home. Now, Lycoming is one of just two teams which are unbeaten in MAC play. The other, Widener, is undefeated overall and scored a 90-0 win over Wilkes yesterday. Lycoming hosts Widener in three weeks.
"It's demoralizing when you line up and people just run the ball at you," Lycoming head coach Mike Clark said. "That's just not good (for a defense)."
There was no panic for the Warrior offense when it took the ball at its own 33 with 14 minutes left in the first half and trailing 14-0. Jenny scrambled after seeing no option to throw on the first and fourth plays of the drive, but they were the only two pass plays called during the 14-play drive.
Parker Showers (15 carries, 70 yards) hit a 12-yard run on a draw play and a 14-yarder on an off-tackle play. Jenny ran for 8 yards to convert on third down. Matt Atkinson gained 12 yards on a pair of carries out of the Wildcat.
Craig Needhammer finally capped off the drive with a 1-yard run to cut the deficit in half.
"Listen, we've got two really good tailbacks," Clark said. "We've got a young, but athletic and physical offensive line and a really physical fullback. We've got some serviceable tight ends, two kids that are long-armed kids that get in the way. And we've got a Matt Atkinson element that is different. That's what we're good at."
"I felt like if we just kept having to run the ball, everything would take care of itself," said Wagner, the only senior starter on the offensive line. "We talked about all week just taking care of their front four and pound the rock."
By punishing with the ground game, it opened up some avenues for big pickups in the pass game almost immediately. On the Warriors' next possession, fullback Nick Mongiello converted a huge fourth-down play with a 6-yard reception. Showers added a 7-yard pickup on a swing pass.
And when it really counted, Jenny made the great throw to Campman for the first of his two touchdown catches. Lycoming held the ball for more than 11 minutes in the second quarter, converting on 2 of 3 third downs and a fourth down.
The Warriors converted on 9 of 17 third downs for the game, and at one point was 8 for 13.
"I'm sure part of it was we were exhausted," Albright head coach John Marzka said. "I don't know what the time of possession was, but we got slaughtered. Our defense was on the field way too long. (Lycoming) ate a lot of clock and kept our defense out there a long time."
Trailing 14-13 in the second half after a missed PAT, Lycoming's defense took over in the second half, forcing four turnovers, including three interceptions of Albright quarterback T.J. Luddy. Tanner Troutman's third interception of the year led to Jenny's second touchdown pass to Campman on a broken play where Campman was streaking along the end line and Jenny hit him in stride.
Matt Talerico made a brilliant play, jumping a route in the fourth quarter on a Luddy pass, and returning it to the Albright 1-yard line. Showers scored on the next play, just 21 seconds after Zack Czap had kicked a 21-yard field goal, giving Lycoming a 29-14 lead.
It was the second consecutive year the Warriors defense intercepted an Albright quarterback three times in a game, and the Warriors now have eight interceptions against the Lions in their last three meetings.
"Awesome," Clark said. "I'm glad those guys play for us."
"Coach (Steve Wiser) couldn't have been any happier with us," said Troutman, a sophomore safety. "Turnovers are the big thing we talk about all the time. We visualize and see ourselves making plays and things happen. We get pressure and they throw a bad ball. If we get a sack, that makes my job kind of boring, but that's OK."