SHERMAN, Texas – The Austin College football team had a chance late but a costly turnover on a potentially game-winning drive ended the team’s hopes of a dramatic home victory over the Centre College Colonels in a 22-17 loss on Saturday afternoon at Apple Stadium. With the defeat, the ’Roos fall to 1-3 on the year and 0-2 in Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference play.
The Colonels used a strong passing game led by quarterback Grant Conliffe and rushed for three touchdowns as a team to hold off the ’Roos, who turned the ball over five times on the day. Conliffe completed 21-of-35 passes for 230 yards on the day.
Centre struck first in the game when Chase Porter rushed 14 yards into the endzone to make it a 7-0 game with 8:39 left in the opening quarter, but the ’Roos answered back just before the quarter came to an end when Zach Mamot broke several tackles on his way to a 14 yard touchdown run of his own with 13 seconds left in the first. The Austin College possession was set up by a 16 yard punt return by Matt Finke to get the ball down to the Centre 33 yard line.
The Colonels broke the tie on their next possession when John Starks nailed a 40 yard field goal just under a minute into the second quarter to make it a 10-7 game, but the ’Roos responded with a 13 play, 74 yard drive that ate up 7:37 and ended when Andy Braly ran it in from five yards out to make it a 14-10 game with 6:26 left in the half. Braly rushed for 42 yards and threw for nine more on the drive, while Evan Coachman took an end around 23 yards to keep the drive alive.
The ’Roos would not hold their lead for long though as the Colonels went 55 yards in eight plays after Jimmy Warren gave them good field position with a 33 yard kick return. The drive ended at the 3:56 mark in the second quarter when Jonathan Pinque plunged in from two yards out, but after a false start on the point after pushed the try back, Starks kick went wide and kept it a 16-14 game headed into the half.
Neither team could get their offense going early in the second half, with each team going three and out on their first series and then trading turnovers when Nick Zitaglio forced a fumble by Pinque, only to have Braly’s pass on the third play of the ensuing possession picked of by Centre linebacker Adam Hay.
The momentum swung back in favor of the ’Roos only four plays later though when Scooter Means got the ball right back for Austin College when he stepped in front of a Conliffe pass and returned it 15 yards, but once again the ’Roos were unable to capitalize and went three and out on the possession.
The ’Roos would start to get something going offensively at the end of the third quarter with Braly completing a pair of passes to Ed Amerson and Ross Hasten for eight and 13 yards, respectively, with the drive ending on a 33 yard field goal by Jonathan Hersh to put Austin College ahead 17-16 just seconds into the fourth quarter.
The momentum seemed to be remaining in Austin College’s favor midway through the fourth when Jake Pritchard came around the end and blew up Conliffe for the sack, forcing a fumble in the process, with David Tibbets recovering for the ’Roos. However, they would not be able to sustain that momentum and were forced to punt it away once more.
Conliffe took advantage on the ensuing possession for Centre, connecting with Tyler Pinkel on a 56 yard completion that ultimately set up a three yard rushing touchdown by Pinque to give the lead back to the Colonels. Conliffe’s two point attempt failed, making it 22-17 with 4:51 left in the game.
The ’Roos looked to have something going on their next possession, with Braly completing a pair of passes to Amerson for eight and 10 yards to keep the chains moving and then found Coachman for a 31 yard gain down to the Centre 15 yard line, but on the next play Braly’s pass was picked off by Zack Sloan with just 2:37 left. On the next Centre possession the ’Roos forced the Colonels into a 3rd and 11, but Conliffe found Nate Hanson for a 16 yard gain to seal the victory.
Braly finished the day completing 12-of-20 passes for 133 yards and three interceptions and also rushed 18 times for 37 yards and a score. Ross Hasten carried 15 times for 52 yards and caught three passes for 21 yards, while Coachman had five receptions for 71 yards and Amerson finished with four catches for 41 yards. Scooter Means had a big second half to finish with 12 tackles and an interception, and Andy Stowe had nine stops, including 1.5 for loss.
John Coomer proved to be Conliffe’s favorite target on the day, catching nine passes for 84 yards. Porter finished the game with 57 yards on 13 carries and a score, and Pinque rushed 15 times for 38 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Hay finished with 14 tackles and a pick, while Brian Sneed added 13 tackles including 1.5 for loss.
Austin College heads out on the road next week when they fly to Colorado Springs to take on the Colorado College Tigers. Kickoff is set for 12:00 p.m. Mountain Standard Time.