Zack Czap had never thrown a pass in a college football game before, but he was calm as he could be Saturday rolling to his right.
It's not that he's never thrown a pass in a game before. At Phillipsburg-Osceola High School, Czap was a running back who threw a handful of passes a season for the Mountaineers, including a touchdown pass his sophomore year.
So a breakdown in Lycoming College's special teams in Saturday's win over Albright gave Czap an opportunity to re-live his high school days. The farther right he rolled, the less and less of an opportunity there was for him to find an open receiver on the busted extra-point attempt.
As the sideline approached, Czap lofted a pass toward the back of the end zone, just over the head of tight end Greg Kovacs. It's not something Czap has had to do much of in his three years as Lycoming's punter and the last two as a kicker.
That's because in the last two-plus seasons the Warriors' special teams have been stellar. They've had veteran players in Ray Bierbach and Phil Peterson handling the holding and long-snapping duties.
With new short-snapper Zack McMenamin and long-snapper Tyler Denike, the Warriors haven't had a slip-up until Saturday's game at Albright. A low snap on a punt allowed the Lions to block a Czap punt attempt in the first quarter and led to Albright's second touchdown.
A tough snap on the extra-point attempt following Lycoming's second touchdown kept the Warriors from tying the game going into halftime.
The mistakes were small in the grand scheme of the Warriors' key MAC win. But they were enough to concern head coach Mike Clark.
"Snapping was an issue, and both snaps were the issue," Clark said. "One leads right to one of their scores and one is points we should have had. That's alarming and those are things we need to continue to address, and we will."
The special teams for the Warriors have been a strength this year. Czap, for the third year in a row, has been one of, if not the best punter in the MAC this year. Seven of his 20 punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line, and four of those have been downed inside the 5.
Czap said the snapping problems Saturday were nothing to be concerned with. It was just a blip on the radar of a 10-game season.
"I think we have the right guys in the right place now," said Czap, who is in his second year of handling both kicking and punting duties. "It's a matter now of getting the confidence and getting the reps. McMenamin just started doing it and (Saturday) was really his first slip-up. Denike is long-snapping and he's been pretty consistent. But I think we're in the right places with the right people."
Czap actually took the heat for the punt that was blocked. On the first punt he had pressure from about four Lions defenders before getting off a 28-yard kick.
So when he received a low snap on his second punt attempt, he was already trying to be quicker to get his kick off and briefly dropped the football before gathering it up and trying to get off a kick. The kick was blocked by Mark Krisak and gave Albright first down at the Lycoming 36-yard line. Six plays later Albright took a 14-0 lead with a touchdown pass to Eric Wade.
"I need to be a little more composed back there," Czap said. "That was my fault. the snap for the second punt was a little low, but very manageable by Tyler. It's my fault completely."
It was a learning experience for a young group learning some new roles, but one that could prove vital for the rest of the season.
Here's a closer look at Lycoming's 29-14 win over Albright on Saturday:
Time was running short for Lycoming with the Warriors facing second-and-goal from the Albright 5-yard line. With less than 45 seconds remaining in the first half, quarterback Tyler Jenny dropped back and threw the football to a spot. Initially there was nobody at the spot and it almost appeared as if the sophomore made a mistake in his read. But Jarrin Campman quickly came swopping in on his wheel route to pluck the ball out of the air and put the Warriors just one point behind at halftime. It was as veteran a throw as you'll see from someone in their fourth collegiate start.
It was just a 1-yard run which Craig Needhammer scored on in the second quarter, but 1-yard was tough to come by in short-yardage situations. Needhammer, the smaller of the Warriors' top two tailbacks, took the handoff on a stretch play to the right and put a shoulder into a defender before having the presence of mind to reach the football across the goal line. Needhammer has proven to be as tough as he is quick.
Scott Pillar was quiet for 52 minutes of Saturday's game, but it was the other 8 minutes in which the All-America hopeful was making noise. And the most noise he made was on a first-quarter touchdown catch in which he leaped over cornerback Kody Flail, who had blanket coverage on the play, to catch a pass on a fade route for a touchdown. Pillar didn't make another catch after that, but it sure was a dandy.
Just like last week, Zeiner's hit on Albright QB T.J. Luddy was bone-jarring, or even a de-cleater. It was just a good football play that seemed to open things up for the Warriors defense. But when he kept contain on a bootleg by Luddy in the second quarter, he made sure to finish the sack, along with some help from Kyle Sullivan. It was the start of a barrage of pressure against Luddy by the Lycoming defense that eventually led to three Luddy interceptions.
The Warriors' 168 rushing yards or 3.2 yards per carry Saturday were nothing worth raising an eyebrow over, but the Warriors' offensive line was tough on a day where the offense had to work 4 yards at a time. The offensive line of Andrew Wagner, Cody Moyer, Casey Strus, Mike Chaput, Garrett Hartman and Matt Patterson helped wear down Albright's defensive line and lead Lycoming to a huge MAC win.
Mitch Rupert covers Lycoming football for the Sun-Gazette. He can be reached at 326-1551, ext. 3129, or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Mitch_Rupert.