Blake Bowman could hear his teammates yelling at him to pick up the bouncing football at his feet. The Lycoming freshman had already done the hard work by blocking a second-quarter FDU-Florham punt Saturday afternoon.
His reward was waiting at his feet, with a convoy ready to accompany him to the end zone. Bowman heeded the demands of teammates John Sibel and Tyler Botchie and picked up the ball, scampering 14 yards for a Warriors touchdown which seemed to loosen up a Lycoming offense which had fallen out of sync after scoring two quick touchdowns.
The Warriors responded after last week's disappointing loss by putting up a season-high in points, including Bowman's first career touchdown, in a 55-12 win over FDU-Florham at David Person Field. Lycoming kept its hopes alive for a share of the MAC championship with the win. It'll need a win in next week's season finale against Stevenson coupled with a Lebanon Valley loss to Albright to win its 15th MAC title.
Lycoming’s Craig Needhammer (23) splits FDU-Florham’s Robert Loneker, left, and Alex Kwapis on his way for a first-quarter touchdown on Saturday at David Person Field. Lycoming won, 55-12.
Lycoming appeared to play with a purpose on its first two offensive possessions yesterday, scoring on the first play from scrimmage on a 49-yard pass from Tyler Jenny to Matt Atkinson. It scored again on its second possession which covered 48 yards, capped by a Craig Needhammer 1-yard scoring run.
The Warriors led 14-0 before 4 minutes of game time had passed. Then the offense hit a lull.
First there was a missed field goal from 22 yards. Then there was miscommunication on a fourth-down pass which fell incomplete, turning the ball back over to FDU. Then there was a dropped pass on an easy third-down slant throw which took away a sure first down.
That's when Bowman got Lycoming back on track. The backup running back out of Tri-Valley High School broke through the left side of the line untouched and took the ball off the foot of Devils punter Dan DiProfio before gathering it to give Lycoming a 21-0 lead.
"It was kind of wide open and no one really blocked me," Bowman said. "I got a free run at it. It was great. Everybody did their job and I just kind of grabbed it and picked it up."
Lycoming isn't a team to run a lot of exotic punt block schemes to try and force the action on special teams. But during the week, special teams coach Tim Landis thought the Warriors might be able to get a block because FDU's snap to the punter wasn't on a tight line.
So with the Devils backed up to their own 28-yard line, Landis and head coach Mike Clark decided to give it a shot. It ended up being a spark for the offense.
Lycoming scored two more touchdowns before the end of the half, one on a 23-yard touchdown run by Needhammer, the second of his three, and a 3-yard pass from Jenny to John Sibel which gave Lycoming a 34-0 lead at halftime.
"That's something you have to plan, and that's where Tim's experience is invaluable," Clark said of the blocked punt. "He's a phenomenal special teams mind and he loves it. We had talked about it earlier in the game, but we waited. That was good to get it when we did."
Lycoming's offense got back to doing what it does best following the punt block: running the football. Needhammer was over the 100-yard mark by halftime. It was the sixth time this year Needhammer, who is second in the MAC in rushing yards, has gone over 100 yards.
When his first two carries of the second half went for a combined 45 yards, including his third touchdown, a 12-yarder, Needhammer eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the season for the first time in his career. He has 1,022 yards heading into Lycoming's season finale next week.
Needhammer became the program's first 1,000-yard rusher since Josh Kleinfelter, the school's all-time leading rusher, went for 1,212 yards in 2010. Needhammer is also just the seventh player in school history to run for at least 1,000 yards in a season.
"It's fun and easy to watch him go," said Atkinson, who had 106 receiving yards. "Craig ran well, the line blocked great and in the second half we could just watch the run."
"We're going to find a way to run the ball, that's who we are," Clark said. "It sets up the first play (Saturday). It sets up any number of touchdown passes throughout the course of the season."
As Needhammer and the Warriors' offense piled up points, the defense made sure it wouldn't be caught. By the time the majority of Lycoming's starters had left the field at the end of the third quarter, Lycoming had allowed just 113 yards of offense on 50 snaps.
FDU scored its first touchdown with its first-team offense playing against Lycoming's second team. It's second touchdown came on an interception return for a touchdown with under 6 minutes to play.
The Warriors forced the Devils' running game out wide where their athletic linebackers could make stops. The defensive line made it tough for 5-foot-8 quarterback Michael Santos to throw by getting their hands up to take away passing lanes.
Santos completed just 12 of 26 passes against the Warriors' first-team defense, and the Devils ran for just 19 yards on 23 carries through the first three quarters.
"We really had to adjust to their game play," defensive tackle Dwight Hentz said. "As the game goes on we really hard to adjust our scheme and the way we played it up front."
Tyler Denike tied a career high with 11 tackles to lead Lycoming. Hentz had eight tackles, including 1 1/2 sacks and 2 1/2 tackles for loss. He also forced a fumble.
"Defensively, our guys were incredibly motivated to come out and play well," Clark said. "We win as a group and lose as a group, but last week was our worst tackling game. We allowed King's to move the ball more than anyone else this year. I think when we played our best guys (Saturday), we were pretty tough."
FDU-Florham 0 0 0 12 - 12
Lycoming 14 20 21 0 - 55
LYCO - Matt Atkinson 49-yard pass from Tyler Jenny (Zack Czap kick), 14:44
LYCO - Craig Needhammer 1-yard run (Czap kick), 11:15
LYCO - Blake Bowman 14-yard punt return (Czap kick), 10:52
LYCO - Needhammer 23-yard run (pass failed), 5:20
LYCO - John Sibel 3-yard pass from Jenny (Czap kick), 0:30
LYCO - Needhammer 12-yard run (Czap kick), 12:47
LYCO?- Nick Mongiello 31-yard pss from Matt McGinley (Czap kick), 10:11
LYCO - Mongiello 50-yard run (Czap kick), 6:01
FDU - Doug Van Orden 13 yd pass from Michael Santos (pass failed), 10:32
FDU - Mickey Weiks 70 yd interception (kick failed), 5:24
FIRST DOWNS 13 23
NET YARDS RUSHING 31 295
NET YARDS PASSING 157 207
Completions-Attempts-Int 18-34-1 12-19-1
RUSHING: FDU-Floram - A. Ognibene 1-2; Craig Kimbrough 4-5; Michael Santos 4-(-20); A. Fruncillo 2-6; James Ognibene 1-1; Daldyn Stewart 14 37. Lycoming - Matt Atkinson 1-12; Tyler Jenny 2-19; Vinny Sidoll 4-16; Joe Pawlowski 3-7; Craig Needhammer 20-148, 3 TDs; Nick Mongiello 2-64, TD; Blake Bowman 7-11; Ethan Jeffries 3-18.
PASSING: FDU-Florham - A. Ognibene 0-1-0, 0 yards, Michael Santos 18-33-1, 157 yards, TD. Lycoming - Chase Whiteman 0-1-1, 0 yards; Tyler Jenny 10-15-0, 167 yards, 2 TDs; Matt McGinley 2-3-0, 40, TD.
RECEIVING: FDU-Florham - Edwin Lara 4-16; Craig Kimbrough 2-12; Dan Pastor 1-9; A. Fruncillo 3-46; Doug Van Orden 4-41, TD; Joe Tauriello 1-11; Daldyn Stewart 1-7; Dan DiProfio 1-6; Joe LeBlanc 1-9. Lycoming - Matt Atkinson 6-106, TD; John Sibel 4-61, TD; Nick Mongiello 1-31, TD; Tyler Botchie 1-9.