Bouncing on his toes, scanning the field, Tyler Jenny had all day to throw the football and was just waiting to pull the trigger.
Corey Talerico flashed across the back of the end zone and Jenny, Lycoming's junior quarterback, hit his sophomore receiver in stride. It was a play of beauty, capping a drive of beauty which ate more than 8 minutes of the clock and gave the Warriors a 10-point lead in an eventual 19-16 win over Delaware Valley on Saturday.
A week ago Lycoming's offensive line struggled to give Jenny any time to throw the ball and struggled to open any kind of hole for tailback Craig Needhammer, even in a win. Saturday was vastly different, and that final touchdown play showed it. Needhammer ran for 144 yards and Jenny was sacked just once.
Craig Needhammer tries to break free from Delaware Valley’s Alonzo Sadler Saturday at Person Field. Needhammer was called for an offensive facemask penalty.
Lycoming's win put it atop the MAC standings and the Warriors can win their first league championship since 2008 if it wins its final five games. Saturday's win also marked just the second time since the turn of the century Lycoming has beaten Delaware Valley and Widener in the same season.
"I told the guys we can't order a championship banner yet. We can't reserve a spot in the playoffs," Lycoming head coach Mike Clark said. "But when you check the conference standings, there's one team in first place and it's us. That's where we want to be. All we've earned are increased expectations. It doesn't guarantee anything."
For the second consecutive week the Lycoming defense came up with a huge stop on a fourth-quarter drive to turn away a potential go-ahead score. It came in the form of Tanner Troutman's second interception of the game with under 2 minutes to play yesterday.
It was the final of four turnovers forced by the Warriors' defense, and the second interception by Troutman. Three of the turnovers came inside Lycoming's 20-yard line.
Chalk it up as another missed opportunity from two teams who played an error-filled game which featured three missed PATs, two missed field goals and over 190 yards worth of penalties.
"Turnovers kill you, they always have, especially at the end there when you're running out of time and don't have any timeouts left," Delaware Valley head coach Jim Clements said. "That's a dagger. Just too many mistakes."
It wasn't a pretty win, but it was a win nonetheless. Lycoming found a way to make plays when necessary, like on the drive which led to Talerico's first career touchdown reception. Jenny completed passes to convert on third-and-3, fourth-and-7, and third-and-2 to extend the drive.
It was only a 45-yard drive - set up by a 19-yard punt return by Matt Atkinson - but Lycoming, holding a 12-9 lead, used 13 plays to traverse the 45 yards, eating up 8:41 of game clock.
"It all starts with the offensive line," said Talerico, who caught three passes for 19 yards. "Every time they have a bad play, we have to pick them up because we know they're capable of blocking everyone in the league. They did a great job today and bounced back from last week."
"That play's been good to us. I think we've scored two touchdowns on it this year," Clark said. "There's a lot of options and choices on it."
It was the second consecutive possession with a touchdown for Lycoming which erased a 9-6 deficit. The previous touchdown was scored in part because of a fourth-down illegal procedure penalty called on Delaware Valley's offense.
Lycoming was lining up for a field goal to try and tie the game despite having trouble with snaps in the kicking game most of the day. Officials told Clements his defensive players were yelling "hut" and caused Lycoming's line to jump. The call gave the Warriors a first down on the Aggies' 4-yard line, and Craig Needhammer scored his second touchdown on the next play.
Needhammer's 144 yards gave him at least 100 yards rushing for the fourth consecutive game, which hasn't been done since Josh Kleinfelter did it in 2010.
As efficient as Lycoming's offense was for most of the day, it didn't translate into points. The Warriors were averaging nearly 5 yards per play in the first half but carried just a 6-0 lead into halftime.
Kicker Zack Czap missed a 34-yard field goal in the first quarter after a high snap threw off the timing of the kick. The Warriors missed an opportunity on another field goal attempt when a high snap sailed through the hands of holder John Sibel and traveled some 35 yards backward.
"I don't know how many yards we had, but I feel like we were pretty successful with every drive, then we'd end up stalling," Needhammer said. "It's something we have to clean up for next week. But it was nice just to have a lead at that point."
"It's frustrating and not good. We have to get the ball in the end zone," Clark said. "It's frustrating because we ran the ball, we protected the quarterback, we moved the chains, but we dropped some passes and we ended up settling, which we shouldn't have."
"I thought defensively we sucked in the first half. We were fortunate it was only 6-0," Clements said. "We couldn't stop the run and we were misaligned. Without a question we were outplayed in the first half."
Delaware Valley was shutout in the first half for the second time this year. Lycoming linebacker Kyle Sullivan played a big part in that, recording 10 of his game-high 12 tackles, including 2 1/2 for losses.
A Delaware Valley offense averaging better than 430 yards of offense per game picked up just 135 in the first half. Quarterback Aaron Wilmer completed 13 of 17 passes in the half for just 6.5 yards per completion.
"Our secondary played great. I think they have some skilled receivers and their quarterback is one of the best in the conference, but I thought we shut them down pretty good," said Sullivan, whose 12 tackles were a career high. "Overall I thought we played really good and we got a lot of pressure up front."