In a game that lacked explosive offense, one big play in the fourth quarter Saturday helped Kutztown make program history.
Facing a third-and-10 at its opponent’s 34-yard line, quarterback Eric Nickel connected with a leaping Derek Anderson along the sideline for 33 yards. Running back Jeremiah Nelson ran the ball into the end zone on the following play to give the top-seeded Golden Bears the touchdown they needed to defeat fourth-seeded New Haven 10-7 in the second round of the NCAA Division II football playoffs at Andre Reed Stadium.
“The ball was perfect,” Anderson said about the play. “You just have to come down with those catches and we did. It was a fortunate opportunity for us.”
With the victory, No. 12 Kutztown (11-1) has earned a spot in the NCAA Division II national quarterfinals for the first time in program history. They will host fellow Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference East member Shepherd next week.
“(I’m) really proud of the guys on our team,” Kutztown coach Jim Clements said. “(For the) first time in 105 years, we’ll be playing in December.”
Both teams played suffocating defense in the matchup, keeping points to a minimum. The game remained scoreless through 43 minutes.
“We were ready for this,” Clements said about his defense. “I thought we were really sound.”
The Golden Bears broke the scoreless tie with a 22-yard field goal from Nick Coppolino with under two minutes to play in the third quarter. The field goal completed a 42-yard scoring drive.
Kutztown held onto its 3-0 lead until midway through the fourth quarter, when Nickel’s deep pass to Anderson sparked momentum for the Golden Bears. Nelson’s rushing touchdown on the next play and the subsequent extra point made it 10-0 with just over nine minutes remaining.
The No. 18 Chargers (10-2) did not go away quietly, responding with a touchdown on their next drive to make it 10-7 with just over three minutes remaining. Running back Jake Conlan ran the ball into the end zone from 8 yards out to complete a 75-yard scoring drive.
On the following possession, Kutztown earned two first downs to run out the clock and seal the win thanks to a pair of crucial carries by running back Jordan Davis. Davis was the Golden Bears’ leading rusher with 18 carries for 97 yards.
“This team is so good,” Anderson said. “We really can handle everything that comes our way.”
Anderson finished the game with three catches for 59 yards. In addition to the 33-yard reception in the fourth quarter, the wide receiver had a 23-yard catch on Kutztown’s scoring drive in the third that ended with a field goal.
“Those are huge momentum plays,” Clements said. “We’re happy the ones that we made let us win the game.”
The Golden Bears’ defense held New Haven to 156 yards of total offense. The Chargers averaged 2.3 yards per carry and were 3-for-12 on third down conversions.
“Our front (seven) were pretty good,” Clements said. “I thought we tackled well.”
Linebacker Amani Justice led Kutztown with 10 tackles. Fellow linebacker and Upper Perkiomen grad Tyler Whary had four tackles.
The Golden Bears did not turn the ball over. They were penalized just one time for 5 yards.
“The biggest thing, as a whole team, was playing smart,” Whary said. “That was a huge part of our win.”
Source: Berkshire mont