Sunday, September 15, 2013College Football: Turnovers stall Oilers in 41-31 setback
In a hole and hopeless, the University of Findlay football team pushed through one bad half of football Saturday afternoon against Northern Michigan and nearly completed an improbable comeback.
The Oilers, trailing by 24 at halftime at the Superior Dome in Marquette, Mich. in their Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener, closed the gap to seven early in the fourth quarter but never got over the hump in a 41-31 loss.
Findlay trailed 31-7 at the end of a first half where little went right. Fast forward to the fourth and the Oilers (1-1, 1-1 GLIAC) were within 38-31 with 9:22 to play after a 5-yard touchdown run by Demetrius Trapps.
The effort was valiant, but as third-year head coach Rob Keys pointed out, teams don't get anything for playing hard.
"No one gets points for it," Keys said. "Very few teams quit playing hard, and we are never going to quit playing hard. But you can't play a first half like we did and dig a hole like we did and expect to win, especially on the road."
The Oilers rolled up 592 yards of offense, more than 400 in the second half, but all of those yards and all of the big plays in the final 30 minutes couldn't erase two interceptions and two fumbles.
The Oilers got an interception from Feraris Golden in the fourth that set up the TD by Trapps. It was Golden's second pick of the season.
"Turnover ratio is the most telling stat in football," Keys said. "If you finish on the plus side of it, you will usually win the game."
Northern Michigan (1-0, 1-0) scored on its first drive, capping it with a 1-yard run by quarterback Cody Scepaniak. The senior was 22 of 35 passing for 320 yards and two TDs.
One of his biggest plays was a 23-yard scoring strike to Marcus Tucker with 51 seconds left in the half. The score came on the heels of an interception thrown by Findlay signal-caller Verlon Reed, who was 22 of 36 passing for 363 yards.
Scepaniak also rushed for 95 yards, displaying the dual-threat ability Keys was concerned about.
"He had 320 passing yards and almost 100 rushing. That's over 400 yards for one guy," Keys said.
Despite the early struggles, the Oilers and Wildcats were tied at 7-7 at the end of one quarter. Lloyd Henry hauled in a 42-yard scoring strike from Devontae Payne with 7:26 to go in the first. Payne got the start at quarterback and finished 4 of 9 for 64 yards.
The Wildcats, who rolled up 507 yards, owned the remainder of the half.
Jon Linkenheimer nailed a 19-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead and Wyatt Jurasin broke free for a 10-yard TD run that stretched the Northern Michigan lead to 17-7. Keon Collier scored on a 6-yard run and Tucker's TD grab finished off the big first half.
It only got worse in the third as a back-breaking 85-yard TD toss from Scepaniak to Christian Jessie extended the Wildcats' advantage to 38-10 with 3:30 remaining.
"We shot ourselves in the foot a lot of times, especially in the first half," Keys said. "We played much better later in the game but there were a few more plays we could have made."
Henry, who made 10 catches for 175 yards, caught his second TD pass with 20 seconds to go in the third on a 6-yard pass from Reed. Daiquone Ford just missed his second 100-yard game, finishing with 87, but cut the Wildcats' lead to 38-24 with a 1-yard run.
Linkenheimer's seond field goal of the day, a 29-yarder, along with an interception by Reed in Northern Michigan territory with under four minutes to play sealed Findlay's fate.
Trevor Smith anchored the Oilers' defensive effort, racking up a career-best 17 tackles. Golden and Harold Jones-Quartey tallied seven tackles apiece.
Findlay now has a pivotal game Saturday at Donnell Stadium when nationally-ranked Saginaw Valley State comes to town for a noon GLIAC showdown.
"We have to move forward. We will go over the film and work to clean up our mistakes," Keys said. "Saginaw is one of the best teams in the country. If we play like we did in our first two games, it's going to be a long day. We have to be better than we have been to win."
Findlay 7 0 10 14 -- 31
Northern Michigan 7 24 7 3 -- 41
NMU -- Scepaniak 1 run (Linkenheimer kick)
UF - Henry 42 pass from Payne (White kick)
NMU -- FG Linkenheimer 19
NMU -- Jurasin 10 run (Linkenheimer kick)
NMU -- Collier 6 run (Linkenheimer kick)
NMU -- Tucker 23 pass from Scepaniak (Linkenheimer kick)
UF -- FG White 32
NMU -- Jessie 85 pass from Scepzniak (Linkenheimer kick)
UF -- Henry 6 pass from Reed (White kick)
UF -- Ford 1 run (White kick)
UF -- Trapps 5 run (White kick)
NMU -- FG Linkenheimer 29
First Downs 31 26
Rushes-Yards 41-165 47-187
Passing Yards 427 320
Comp-Att-Int 26-46-2 22-35-1
Punts-Avg. 4-37.8 6-40.3
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 0-0
Penalties-Yards 6-40 11-105
rushing -- Findlay, Ford 22-87, Reed 15-59, White 1-7, Payn 2-7, Trapps 1-5. Northern Michigan, Scepaniak 18-95, Jurasin 20-82, Collier 7-9, Jessie 1-2, Team 1-(minus-1).
passing -- Findlay, Reed 22-36-2-363; Payne 4-9-0-64. Northern Michigan, Scepaniak 22-35-1-320.
receiving -- Findlay, Henry 10-175, Hampton 6-140, Ford 4-40, White 4-37, Sutton 1-32, Brown 1-3. Northern Michigan, Jessie 10-189, Tucker 4-65, Smarwt 5-48, Collier 2-13, Jurasin 1-5.
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