Thursday, August 31, 2017

20th-Ranked Aggies Use Big Plays To Down No. 11 Wesley, 24-19, In Season Opener

Photo Courtesy of Delaware Valley Sports Information
DOYLESTOWN (PA) – No. 20 Delaware Valley University, jumped out to a 19-point halftime lead and then held on for a 24-19 home victory over No. 11 Wesley College, in the season-opening showdown of two of the top teams in Division III.

It marked the second year in a row that the Aggies opened with a win over the Wolverines as they notched a 21-14 triumph in Dover, Delaware last season when DelVal was 25th in the country and Wesley was seventh.

The Aggies also won the key turnover battle for the second consecutive meeting as they forced three turnovers and did not commit one themselves. Last year, they had a 5-0 edge in turnovers.

The biggest turnover came with 6:28 remaining in the first half as DelVal held a 10-3 lead, but the Wolverines were driving the ball. On third-and-12, quarterback Nick Falkenberg scrambled out the pocket and Aggie linebacker Nicholas DiGati forced the ball loose on a big hit. Fellow senior linebacker Nick Wright was there to scoop it up at the DelVal 30 and he raced 70 yards for the touchdown and a 16-3 advantage.

Wesley went three-and-out on its next drive and a short punt gave the Aggies the ball at the Wolverine 47-yard line. After a third down conversion moved the chains to the 30, quarterback Dashawn Darden hit Marquis Elliswith a beautifully-placed pass for a touchdown and a 22-3 lead with 3:05 remaining in the opening half.

Wesley came out strong to start the second half as it put nine points on the board on its first two drives. The first drive went 79-yards on 11 plays and was capped by E.J. Lee's two-yard touchdown run. After holding DelVal on the next possession, the Wolverines made it 22-12 with Nick Bruhn's 35-yard field goal with 6:15 left in the third.

Wesley's next possession began at its own three-yard line, but the team quickly moved into Aggie territory. Facing a third-and-16 from the 38, Falkenberg overthrew his receiver and safety Jarren McBryde was there for the diving interception nearly five minutes into the fourth quarter.

DelVal was stopped on offense again and a 53-yard punt by Stephen Adams and a penalty on the return left the Wolverines with the ball at its own nine. They were still at the nine when a false start penalty backed them up five yards for a third-and-15. Wright came in on a blitz and sacked Falkenberg in the end zone for the safety and a 24-12 Aggies lead with 7:15 to go.

Wesley made it a 24-19 game with 1:58 left on the clock as Falkenberg completed an eight-play, 60-yard drive with a seven-yard touchdown toss to Dan Kesack. The Wolverines attempted an onsides kick but Dan Allenrecovered for DelVal.

Wesley had one last chance at it took over on its own 14 with just 43 seconds left. They were able to move up to the 31, but turned the ball over on downs and the Aggies did one kneel down before celebrating the win.

Both teams notched field goals on their opening drives of the season. DelVal got a 39-yard boot from freshman Pat Moran while Bruhn followed with a 22-yarder. The Aggies took the lead for good 2:32 into the second quarter when Aaron Nelson got behind the defense and Darden hit him for a 39-yard touchdown.

Wesley outgained DelVal, 384 to 242, but was hurt by the three turnovers forced by the Aggie defense. The veteran unit also recorded four sacks on the day, including two by Wright as he finished the game with 10 tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble, the 70-yard fumble recovery for the touchdown and the safety.

Shawn Miller added 10 tackles while DiGati had seven tackles and a forced fumble. Offensively, Darden was 14-for-24 for 142 yards and two scores. Marquis Ellis caught three passes for 42 yards and a touchdown while Devauntay Ellis carried the ball 15 times for 81 yards.

For the Wolverines, Lee rushed 32 times for 162 yards and one touchdown. Falkenberg was 18-for-30 for 227 yards and a score. Samera Manna led a balanced defensive charge with six tackles.