CHESTER - It wasn't necessarily his prevailing thought, but Mike Clark couldn't help but think to the Widener game from a year ago as he watched the Pride methodically work down the field in the fourth quarter.
It was an ending he'd seen before. One where the Lycoming defense was able to hold on to a fourth-quarter lead, costing the Warriors a shot at the Middle Atlantic Conference championship. He couldn't believe the same pervasive script was unfolding in front of him yet again Saturday afternoon.
But as he, among the many on the Lycoming sideline, held his breath, this year's story of the Warriors' game against Widener was re-written as Ryan O'Hara's 37-yard field goal attempt with 20 seconds to go sailed wide left.
Lycoming survived with the miss, still one of the two unbeaten teams in MAC play with a 16-14 win over its long-time rival, and the sideline exploded in jubilation. One kneel down later from quarterback Tyler Jenny and the Warriors had one of the most exhausting wins - physically and emotionally - in Clark's six years as Lycoming's head coach.
The Warriors moved to 3-1 this year, and 3-0 in the MAC by beating 24th-ranked Widener. It was the fifth time in six seasons under Clark Lycoming has knocked off a ranked team. And the Warriors get to face the lone other unbeaten MAC team next week when Delaware Valley comes to David Person Field. The winner will be the leader for a MAC championship.
"We don't want this again. We don't want a win like this again," said a joyous Kabongo Bukasa, who led Lycoming with 10 tackles. "But I'll take it. It's a great win."
Unlike Widener, Lycoming got the big kick late in the game when senior Zack Czap kicked his third field goal of the day, a 33-yarder, with 2 minutes, 24 seconds to go in the fourth quarter to give the Warriors a two-point lead. It was a two-point lead which was enough for Lycoming to pull off the road win in a game with more ups and downs than an elevator.
A year ago Lycoming handed a two-point lead to its defense with 1:26, and 78 yards to go against the Pride. Widener converted on a third-and-22 play before Chris Haupt eventually found Anthony Davis for a game-winning 34-yard touchdown pass with 17 seconds to go.
Widener converted a pass on fourth-and-5 Saturday to extend its drive following Czap's go-ahead field goal, and a pair of passes to Davis got Widener to the Lycoming 22 with 36 seconds to play. But the Pride were content to run the ball twice from that spot setting up the 37-yard field goal attempt from the sophomore O'Hara, who is in his first year as Widener's full-time kicker.
His kick was left all the way, and never had a chance of going through a left upright on the goalposts which leaned slightly to the left.
"Oh God yeah, how can you not think (here we go again)," Clark said. "You try to be as light-hearted and level-headed as possible because you can't control it. But nobody kicking the ball 37 yards from the hash at our level has an easy kick."
"I couldn't watch our field goal at the end, and I couldn't watch theirs at the end," said Lycoming receiver Ryan Umpleby, who had a career-high eight receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown. "All you can do is basically hope."
It surely wasn't the prettiest of wins Lycoming has ever had. After playing a brilliant first half in all three phases of the game and carrying a 13-0 lead into halftime, the defense coughed up the lead in the third quarter as the offense failed to record a first down.
But the Warriors' defense adjusted and held a team averaging 25.7 points and just under 400 yards per game to just 14 points and 331 yards of offense, including just 15 yards rushing.
The Warriors' offense finally found some solid footing in its final drive, taking six minutes off the clock and converting third downs of 4, 7 and 6 yards to extend the drive which ended in Czap's winning field goal.
Czap's winning field goal was as true as the ones he hit from 44 and 31 yards in the first half. His three field goals matched a career high which he set against King's in 2011.
"I knew it was different because I'm in the game and I have to know when things are going on," Czap said. "I've caught myself a few times before just getting too excited, even in practice. But we work on it every day in practice where everyone is crowded around you, and it really pays off in moments like this, and I was able to treat it like any other kick."
Trailing 13-0 to start the second half, Widener's offense finally came to life. After posting just 104 yards of offense in the first half, the Pride ran 27 plays for 158 yards in the third quarter alone.
Using screens and getting their running backs in space on swing passes finally turned into major yardage after Lycoming bottled up the plays in the first half. Quarterback Seth Klein threw a swing pass to Terrant Morrison and he split two defenders before finishing the 35-yard pass play with a touchdown, cutting Lycoming's lead to 13-7.
After forcing the Warriors to go three-and-out, Widener went 56 yards in seven plays, aided by a defensive pass interference call, before Klein, a freshman, found Davis on an 8-yard touchdown throw with 3:24 to go in the third quarter to give Widener a 14-13 lead.
Lycoming surrendered just 65 yards of offense in the fourth quarter as the defensive line's pass rush was ratcheted up. Dwight Hentz recorded two of his career-high 3 sacks in the fourth quarter.
The pressure forced Klein to throw away a third-down pass early in the fourth quarter to end a drive. It also caused Klein to misfire on a third-down pass to end a second drive in the fourth quarter.
Widener ran just eight plays in the fourth quarter before its final drive.
"We knew they would try to get a bunch of quick passes, so we knew if we got the coverage right, we were going to get sacks," Bukasa said. "The D-line came up big."
Lycoming 3 10 0 3-16
Widener 0 0 14 0-14
LYCO-Zack Czap 44 field goal, 1:17
LYCO-Ryan Umpleby 33 pass from Tyler Jenny (Zack Czap kick) 12:57
LYCO-Zack Czap 31 field goal 2:00
WID-T. Morrison 35 pass from Seth Klein (Ryan O'Hara kick) 6:34
WID- Anthony Davis 8 pass from Seth Klein (Ryan O'Hara kick) 3:24
LYCO-Zack Czap 33 field goal 2:24
TEAM STATS LYCOWID
FIRST DOWNS 1519
PASSING YDS 176 316
Att-Comp-Int 29-18-0 52-37-1
Punts (Number-Avg) 7-38.4 7-36.6
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-Yards 8-89 8-56
Possession Time 35:46 24:14
RUSHING: Lycoming-Craig Needhammer 26-108; Blake Bowman 1-0; TEAM 2-minus 4; Tyler Jenny 7-minus 45. Widener-Couve LaFate 6-16; T. Morrison 6-13; Chris Wickes 1-4; Kyle Shostek 1-1; Richard Brown 1-1; Robert Getz 2-minus 1; Seth Klein 9-minus 19.
PASSING: Lycoming-Tyler Jenny 18-29-0-176. Widener-Seth Klein 37-52-1-316.
RECEIVING: Lycoming-Ryan Umpleby 8-112; Matt Atkinson 4-33; Craig Needhammer 1-9; Greg Kovacs 1-9; John Sibel 1-5; Corey Talerico 1-5; Nick Mongiello 1-3; Matt Cookson 1-0. Widener-Anthony Davis 9-64; Couve LaFate 7-61; T. Morrison 5-50; Adam Marcucci 3-42; Chris Wickes 3-36; Kyle Shostek 3-30; Robert Getz 2-13; J. Quattlebaum 2-11; Jabree Kemp 1-5; Connor Schlegel 1-4; Richard Brown 1-0.
Records: Lyco 3-1, 3-0 MAC. Widener 2-2, 2-1