Warriors suffer 1st loss in MAC

ANNVILLE – Tyler Jenny peeled his body off the Arnold Stadium turf one more time, the first-down marker he and the Lycoming offense were trying to reach some 50 yards away.

The junior quarterback jumped, ran, side-stepped and retreated to try to make plays for the Lycoming offense Saturday afternoon. It was difficult, though, to run out of the grasp of Lebanon Valley’s suffocating defense.

Jenny was sacked 10 times Saturday afternoon as the Flying Dutchmen threw a wrench into the Middle Atlantic Conference championship race with a 14-7 win over the No. 24-ranked Warriors. Lebanon Valley’s win was its first-ever over a nationally-ranked opponent, and it created a four-way tie atop the MAC standings for the time being.

Lycoming, who was the only unbeaten team remaining in MAC play, is now tied atop the league with Lebanon Valley (5-1, 4-1 MAC), Widener (3-2, 3-1 MAC) and Delaware Valley (4-1, 3-1 MAC). What it means is should Lebanon Valley win its remaining four games, it would win the MAC championship.

“You have to look at the bright side of things,” Lycoming defensive tackle Dwight Hentz said. “Yeah, this hurts, but we still have the ability to control what we want to do this season.”

Lycoming struggled to find any rhythm in its offense because of the relentless pressure from Lebanon Valley’s defense. The Warriors were held to just 50 rushing yards on 35 carries – in part because of the 10 sacks. Craig Needhammer, who had four consecutive games of at least 100 rushing yards coming into Saturday, ran for 52 yards on 20 carries.

And when the Warriors (4-2, 4-1 MAC) did throw, Jenny very rarely was able to sit in the pocket and step into throws because of the pressure. Dutchmen defensive end Zach Halpin recorded four of Lebanon Valley’s 10 sacks. Outside linebacker Frank Gaffney, a junior transfer from Stevens Tech where he was a quarterback, recorded three sacks in a game for the third time this year.

Gaffney’s 13 sacks this year are tops in Division 3 football. The pressure was key in the Dutchmen interception Jenny three times, the last of which set up Lebanon Valley’s go-ahead touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

Jenny has thrown six interceptions this year after throwing just four in 10 games as a sophomore a year ago.

“As a unit we’re making plays,” Halpin said. “Even if we sit back and only rush three, one of the three is making a play. And when we brought extra guys, we were still making plays. Everything seemed like it was working.”

“We knew they’d disguise everything pretty well, but for the most part we got everything identified that we needed to,” Jenny said. “Craig stayed in a couple times for protection, they were just good up front and they have some good linebackers, too. You have to give a ton of credit to them.”

There was no hesitation from Lebanon Valley to walking six or seven defenders up to the line of scrimmage, or just letting linebackers and safeties time the snap count. Jenny was sacked on the final three plays of a potential game-tying drive with under 3 minutes to go in the third quarter.

And when the Dutchmen didn’t get to Jenny, they forced Jenny to move around the in the pocket and look for open throwing lanes and even force holding penalties from Lycoming’s offensive line.

“They brought four, sometimes five and sometimes six (pass rushers),” Lycoming head coach Mike Clark said. “I don’t know that it was assignment things that we missed. I think when we watch film we’ll see they did a lot of the things we practiced for. They just out-executed us.”

Jenny was intercepted on Lycoming’s first two possessions of the game, but neither of the mistakes led to points for Lebanon Valley. First Lycoming’s defense forced a turnover on downs when it stopped Lebanon Valley on fourth-and-5 at the Warriors’ 20. The Warriors then forced a punt after an interception set the Dutchmen up with first down at its own 42-yard line.

The third interception, though, which came off a tipped pass from receiver Matt Atkinson who was running free over the middle of the field, was returned to the Lycoming 27-yard line by Bryan Kasper.

Three plays later quarterback Bryan Murphy found Joey Miller on a beautiful catch on the sideline for a 13-yard touchdown reception. The two-point conversion pass gave Lebanon Valley a 14-7 lead with 11:04 left in the game.

“The coverage was there, their receiver just made a spectacular catch,” said Hentz, who had nine tackles to lead the Warriors. “We were where we needed to be, but it’s tough in the red zone like that, especially coming off a big turnover.”

“Defensively I thought we played our rear-ends off. We played well enough to win,” Clark said. “Our guys had a good gameplan and executed it well. (Lebanon Valley) had one legitimate drive and one on a short field, and that was the game-winning score.”

Lebanon Valley took a 6-0 lead on Lycoming in the first half when it scored on a 99-yard drive. Murphy (10 of 16, 181 yards) had a 50-yard completion to Miller to move the Dutchmen into Lycoming territory. Four plays later he found Jake Zeigler on a roll out for a 20-yard touchdown pass.

But it was all Lycoming’s defense gave up until that fourth-quarter scoring drive. Lebanon Valley tailback Austin Hartman ran for 93 yards on 24 carries, snapping his string of two consecutive 100-yard rushing games.

Other than Hartman, no other Lebanon Valley player rushed for more than 8 yards. The Dutchmen as a team averaged just 2.7 yards per carry.

“We knew what to expect and we controlled their offense well,” Hentz said. “We played well up front. I thought our linebackers and secondary covered well. Just too many mental mistakes on both sides of the ball.”

Lycoming took the lead on its first drive of the second half. A team which looked flat after wins over nationally-ranked teams in the last two weeks, showed a little fire with its first drive.

Jenny was 4 for 5 on the drive for 37 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Umpleby. It was the only sustained drive of the day for Lycoming. The Warriors put together a drive in the final 3 minutes, moving from its own 9-yard line to the Lebanon Valley 20.

But the Warriors were called for back-to-back holding penalties as Lebanon Valley ratcheted up its defense, and Jenny was then sacked on three consecutive plays, including on fourth-and-41.

“We bent a little, but we didn’t break,” Lebanon Valley head coach Jim Monos said. “We kept everything in front of us. I know we gave up some plays underneath, but we didn’t give up anything deep.”

“We felt like we only played one good quarter all day and that was the third quarter,” Jenny said. “But after that we got back to shooting ourselves in the foot.”