The day went south on a Novemberish wind with some muscle behind it, blowing a hard-earned “W” into the “L” column in one lost quarter.
“We didn’t get it done today,” said Saint Francis football coach Kevin Donley, not enjoying at all being on the upsetee end of a 28-24 loss to unranked Robert Morris.
“We can’t let this happen again,” said Wes Hunsucker, the quarterback of record with the No. 4 Cougars down to their third QB and their fourth running back.
A question floated in off the breeze.
“Yeah, I think we got a little relaxed and were satisfied,” Hunsucker replied. “And in this conference, with our schedule, you can’t do that. You saw that tonight.”
Indeed. The Cougars (5-2, 2-1 MSFA Mideast League) came out shaky, falling down 14-0 with 8:38 to play in the first half. Then they rallied behind Karrington Thompson’s momentum-turning blocked punt and Hunsucker’s 17-of-30, 207-yard, three-touchdown passing day in relief of starter David Yoder – who was in turn spelling the injured Josh Miller, and who came out after throwing two first-half interceptions that led to Robert Morris touchdowns.
Thompson’s block, Aaron Knight’s 39-yard punt return and Hunsucker’s three TD passes ignited a flurry of 24 straight points that sent the Cougars to the fourth quarter with a 24-14 lead.
And then the “W” slid away, a shocking turn of events for a football program that, coming into Saturday, was 138-4 all-time when leading at the end of three quarters and hadn’t lost in such a circumstance in 81 games.
While the Saint Francis offense stalled in the fourth quarter – the Cougars had the football for just 3:30 and managed one first down – Robert Morris (6-3, 2-0) drove 67 yards in 12 plays to open the fourth, Matt Westerkamp finding DeShawn Weaver from 17 yards out to cut the Saint Francis lead to 24-21 with 10:39 to play.
Two possessions later, the Cougars reached the Robert Morris 33, but Aaron Harris – relieving a banged-up Jason Nicodemus, who ran for 82 yards on 19 carries – got nothing on first down and Hunsucker missed Seth Coate and Akeim Kelsaw on second and third down. On fourth-and-10, rather than bring on punter Kollin Carman to try to pin Robert Morris deep, the Cougars elected to go for it, but Kelsaw couldn’t come up with the catch in a crowd and Robert Morris got the ball back with 5:14 to play.
“We wouldn’t have gained anything (by punting),” Donley said. “And I was concerned about getting one blocked or something at that point. That’s my decision. I take full responsibility.”
In any case, Robert Morris made the point moot, this time going 67 yards on 13 plays. Westerkamp hit Tyler Warden with 33 seconds to play for the go-ahead score, and that was the ballgame.
“You know, I think it’s human nature sometimes to go through what we’ve gone through the first six weeks, and you think, ‘Ah, maybe this one’s not quite this tough,’.” said Donley, whose team opened the season against six ranked opponents. “(But) there are no easy games, no rest points. You’ve just gotta keep on goin’. It’s what I just said to these guys: What are you gonna do now?”
Hunsucker thinks he has a clue.
“I guarantee you we’re gonna come back with a good perspective,” he said. “We’re gonna remember this.”