WAYNESBURG – The Waynesburg University football team relied heavily on its defense all season, so it was fitting that the Yellow Jackets leaned on it to close out the season.
With Carnegie Mellon driving to potentially take the lead with just more than a minute to play Saturday in the ECAC South West Bowl, Waynesburg’s defense made its two biggest plays of the game to secure a back-and-forth 28-24 win at John F. Wiley Stadium.
It was Waynesburg’s first postseason win since 1966.
On third down with the Tartans at the Waynesburg 42-yard line, defensive linemen Matt Krause and Josh Tolliver combined to sack Carnegie Mellon quarterback Rob Kalkstein, who was having success moving the ball through the air. Then, on fourth down, Dan Nacey sacked Kalkstein and forced a fumble that was recovered by Krause, securing the victory.
“I wouldn’t have had it end any other way,” said Waynesburg head coach Rick Shepas. “That’s the type of kids we recruit. We want guys who can make plays on the defensive side of the ball. I’m proud of the way our defense played all season, and it was nice that they had the chance to close it out.”
It wasn’t exactly the game the Waynesburg (10-1) was hoping to be playing in Saturday. Last week’s loss to Washington and Jefferson cost the Yellow Jackets a spot in the NCAA Division III playoffs, but winning an ECAC bowl game meant Waynesburg (10-1) won 10 games in a season for only the second time in school history. The first times was in 1966, when the Yellow Jackets won the NAIA national championship and went 11-0.
“It was a disappointment last week, for sure,” added Shepas. “But we needed to pick ourselves up and come out and win a football game. We are definitely headed in the right direction. It’s a building process. We just have to continue to build.”
Early on, the punters were as big a part of the game as either offense. Carnegie Mellon had to punt on six of its first seven possessions, and the Yellow Jackets punted three times, threw an interception and turned the ball over on downs once.
After a CMU punt on its first possession, Waynesburg scored on a seven-play drive that was capped with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Carter Hill to Christian Jackson. That duo got Waynesburg into scoring position with a 40-yard hookup on the first play from scrimmage.
CMU’s passing game came alive in the second quarter. Quarterback Rob Kalkstein connected on two deep throws, including a 47-yard touchdown to Tim Kitka to tie the score at 7-7.
The Yellow Jackets had some success moving the football, gaining 225 yards in the first half, but they had trouble scoring.
“We just missed some opportunities in the passing game,” said Shepas. “A couple inches here or there and we make some plays.”
But the game turned into a shootout in the second half as the lead changed six times.
Beth-Center graduate Dominic Moore gave Waynesburg a 14-10 third-quarter lead, capping an 11-play, 80-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown run. But the Tartans answered with Jared Delello’s one –yard scoring run to regain the lead at 17-14.
Waynesburg struck quickly when Bertrand Ngampa made the play of the game, taking a swing pass from Hill on the left sideline and made few tacklers miss. Ngampa cut back all the way to the right sideline and outran the Carnegie Mellon defense for a thrilling 74-yard touchdown to make it 21-17.
“It’s a play we practice a lot,” said Ngampa, who also ran for 96 yards. “I just was patient with it and set up my blocks pretty well. The guys did a great job blocking, and once I got into open field I just used my speed.”
However, the Waynesburg lead didn’t last long. Kalkstein hit Timothy Swanson with a 16-yard touchdown with a little more than eight minutes left as CMU retook the lead at 24-21.
Waynesburg responded with a 13-play, 75-yard drive that took 5:32 off the clock and ended with Moore’s second touchdown run of the game, this time from one-yard out to give Waynesburg the 28-24 lead. During the scoring drive, Waynesburg converted a fourth-and-six inside CMU territory on a pass from Hill to Jackson.
Moore was named the ECAC South West Bowl’s Most Valuable Player. He rushed for 105 yards on 18 carries and the two touchdowns.
“It’s an honor, for sure,” said Moore. “This team has been through a lot. As much as this is for me, it is also for all those who came before me. I think of it as a team award and not an individual one. The coaches have had a hand in this. So have the offensive line, my fullback and all of the receivers who block downfield. I’m just the one holding the trophy.”