The Valparaiso University football team was on the verge of its third straight victory on Saturday, but Morehead State scored a go-ahead touchdown with 22 seconds remaining to secure a 29-26 victory over the Crusaders. The Eagles converted on third-and-goal from the 4 when Austin Gahafer found Jake Raymond for the game-winning score.
How It Happened
- The Crusaders got off to a slow start on both offense and defense, but special teams provided an early spark when freshman Bailey Gessinger (Goshen, Ind. / Northwood) broke free for an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. It was the first Valpo kick return for a TD this season.
- The Gessinger return tied the game at 7 after a 6-yard TD run by Lawrence Jones had given Morehead State the early lead.
- Morehead State’s Braylyn Cook intercepted a Ryan Clarke pass to give the Eagles possession on the Valpo 26 with 1:42 left in the first quarter. That drive culminated 58 seconds later with a Lawson Page 1-yard plunge into the end zone to give the Eagles a 14-7 edge.
- Sophomore Jean Rene (Delray Beach, Fla. / Wellington Community) made an incredible 21-yard TD catch with 11:41 left in the second quarter to tie the game at 14. After the game, Valpo coach Dave Cecchini called Rene’s sprawling grab one of the best catches he’s ever seen. It was Rene’s 10th career TD reception and his team-leading fifth this season.
- Valpo’s next two trips to the red zone – one with 4:19 left in the second quarter and another with 5:48 to go in the third – both resulted in 23-yard field goals by Jake Simpson (Wyandotte, Mich. / Roosevelt).
- During the third-quarter red zone trip, the Crusaders had first-and-goal from the 1-yard line but were forced to settle for the Simpson field goal.
- Morehead State quarterback Austin Gahafer connected with Darius Pritchett for a 52-yard TD that gave the Eagles a 21-20 lead with 3:00 left in the third.
- The Crusaders responded with a 15-yard TD pass from Ryan Clarke (Hopatcong, N.J. / Hopatcong) to Frank Catrine (Springboro, Ohio / Bishop Fenwick) on the first play of the fourth quarter. A two-point try failed, so Valpo’s lead remained 26-21.
- Valpo’s Christian Campbell (South Bend, Ind. / Washington) made his first interception of the season with 12:37 left in the fourth to bring Morehead State’s march down field to a halt at the Valpo 29, but the Crusaders went three-and-out on the ensuing drive.
- Morehead State won the game on a 17-play, 84-yard drive that took 6:36 and ended with the Gahafer-to-Raymond TD.
Inside the Game
- Valpo running back Jarrett Morgan (Cooper City, Fla. / Cooper City) turned in his third straight 100-yard rushing performance, totaling 110 on the ground and 138 all-purpose yards. Also for the third straight week, Morgan established a career-high for rushing yards.
- Rene finished the game with four catches for 88 yards.
- Freshman Kyle Cartales (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. / Cardinal Newman) ran for a career-high 41 yards on 10 carries.
- Freshman Dylan Johnson (Valparaiso, Ind. / Valparaiso) had a career-high six tackles, five of them solos. He also notched one tackle for a loss.
- Brandon Doepke (Fitchburg, Wis. / Madison West) chipped in seven tackles, his highest total since Oct. 5, 2013.
- Sophomore Drew Snouffer (Columbus, Ohio / Upper Arlington) was Valpo’s leading tackler for the third time this season and second straight week. He made nine stops.
- The Crusaders did an effective job stopping the run for the second consecutive game, holding the Eagles to 94 yards on 33 carries. However, Morehead State passed for 308 yards.
- The Crusaders have led with less than three minutes left in each of the last three meetings with the Eagles, but Morehead State has pulled out thrilling victories in all three.
Thoughts from Head Coach Dave Cecchini
“It’s the same story as the last two years. We’ve been winning football games against these guys three straight years with under (three) minutes to play. That hurts when you can’t finish. Our defense played its tail off against an unbelievably talented quarterback. Our offense needed to win more of the one-on-one matchups.”
The Crusaders (2-3, 1-1 PFL) return to Brown Field next week, when they will look to stay unbeaten at home as Drake (2-3, 1-1 PFL) comes to town. The game is slated to begin at 1 p.m. and can be seen live on ESPN3, WatchESPN and the ESPN app, and heard live on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso). Links for the live video and audio, as well as live stats, will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.