Both wins came in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs and will set up a meeting between the two upstate New York powers next Saturday at Noon.
The NCAA will announce which team will host that contest on Sunday, Nov. 24, but it would be a surprise if the eighth ranked Statesmen are forced to make the drive west.
Fisher (9-2) is now 5-0 all-time in first-round NCAA Championship games.
"To go on the road and get down 13-0 to a high, explosive offense like that, they just persevered and came back," said head coach Paul Vosburgh, speaking about his team after the game. "They kept chipping and chipping away and they won the game."
The Cardinals, ranked 25th nationally, trailed early on. After going three-and-out on its opening drive, the Blue Streaks scored on a 45-yard touchdown pass to take a 7-0 lead just four minutes into the game. The Fisher defense wouldn't allow a touchdown, however, after that. The Blue Streaks made it 10-0 late in the first quarter. They penetrated inside the Fisher 10, but were forced to kick a 27-yard field goal.
On their very next possession, going against a 25-mile-an-hour wind, John Carroll drove 94 yards to inside the Fisher 5, but had to settle for three points yet again.
Trailing 13-0 with just under four minutes left, Fisher got on the board. The Cardinals marched 76 yards on 11 plays with quarterback Tyler Fenti scoring on a five-yard run to make it 13-7 at the half.
Fisher took a 14-13 lead midway through the third quarter. After John Carroll fumbled on its opening drive of the second half, the Cardinals marched 56 yards, but couldn't convert on a fourth-and-goal play from the Blue Streaks 3. On the very next play, however, Ryan Seymour intercepted pass on the left sidelines and scored on the 13-yard return.
John Carroll took the lead back at 16-14 with 9:36 left. After a rough-the-kicker penalty kept the drive alive and two fourth down conversions, the Blue Streaks converted a 34-yard field goal into the wind.
Fisher, however, came right back. Fisher drove 66 yards on nine plays with Nathan Nigolian scoring a 15-yard pass from Fenti. The duo also hooked up on a two-point conversion to make it 22-16 with 5:56 left. Dan Rudy picked up 23 yards on a third-and-14 from the Fisher 42 to keep the drive alive.
Mike Guinta made his sixth interception of the year – and his fifth in the last six games – on the next possession – right near midfield.
After eight consecutive rushes from Cody Miller, senior kicker Brendan Carey delivered a career-long 39-yard field goal to make it 25-16 with 1:54 left.
Fisher sealed the win with Bryant Moore making his second interception of the day at Fisher 13 with less than a minute left.
"I think that (turnovers) was a big part of the reason why we did not win the game. Certainly any game you look at the turnover margin is probably the most important statistic in football and we unfortunately gave them some plays and they made them," said John Carroll head coach Tom Arth. "That's a good football team and they made the plays when they had the opportunity and unfortunately we did not."
Takeaways helped key Hobart's (10-0) win as well. The first was a fumble forced by junior defensive end Tyre Coleman that senior linebacker Devin Worthington scooped up and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown. The second was a third quarter interception by first-year free safety Michael Harper, the first of his collegiate career, on one of only three passes attempted by GU, which relies on the triple option.
Coleman rang up a game-high 10 tackles, including 3.5 for loss. One week after Worthington broke the Hobart career tackles for loss record, Coleman surpassed his teammate. The junior now owns the mark with 63, while the senior is in second with 61.5. Sophomore defensive end Mark Guarino-Hyde matched his career-high with nine tackles and junior linebacker Jacob Price added eight stops.
Sophomore fullback BJ Flores ran for a career-high 176 yards and a TD for Gallaudet. Ryan Bonheyo added 63 yards on 10 carries. The Bison defense was led by senior free safety Nicholas Elstad, junior linebacker Gregg McConville, and sophomore nose tackle Chris Richardson, who produced nine tackles apiece.
Coleman and senior linebacker Cory Davis set the tone for the day, dropping sophomore running back Braxton Baker for an 8-yard loss on the first play from scrimmage. GU went three-and-out on that drive and got off a 32-yard punt into a strong wind.
Hobart took over at its own 46 and engineered a 14-play, 54-yard march that ended with a 2-yard plunge by Webb for a 7-0 lead. Gallaudet moved the chains on its ensuing possession, but stalled out just short of the red zone. The Bison elected to go for it on fourth-and-3 from the 22, but sophomore tackle Tucker Gumkowski stopped the run 1 yard short.
The Statesmen were forced to punt on their next drive, but Coleman and Worthington teamed up to get Hobart points anyway. The two-time Liberty League Defensive Player of the Year, Coleman met sophomore quarterback Quentin Williams 5 yards into the backfield and punched the ball out of his right hand. Worthington pounced on the loose ball and logged his second career scoop-and-score. The extra point was wide right, leaving the Statesmen a 13-0 lead with 12:49 remaining in the second quarter.
On their next drive, facing a fourth-and-1 at their own 31, the Bison again opted to go for it. This time Guarino-Hyde stuffed the run for no gain, giving the offense the ball with a short field. Three straight handoffs to Webb resulted in 3 yards, 27 yards, and 1 yard and another TD that put the home team in front 20-0.
Hobart logged its third TD of the second quarter on its next drive with another 14-play march. This time, the Statesmen covered 72 yards and ended with a 1-yard pass from junior quarterback Kyle Bayly to junior tight end Mike Berkowitz 34 seconds before halftime. Hobart carried a 27-0 lead into the break.
Webb broke the season rushing TD record on the very first play from scrimmage in the second half for a 34-0 lead and took the rest of the game off. Sophomore running back Justin Burke carried the ball nine times down the stretch, gaining a career-high 47 yards.
Gallaudet finally cracked the scoring column with a 16-play, 93-yard drive that used 6:23 off the game clock, spanning the third and fourth quarters. Flores finished the drive with a 1-yard dive to make it 34-7. The Bison had one more shot at the end zone with under four minutes remaining, but on fourth-and-goal from the 3, first-year defensive end James Hedger and senior tackle Cory Einbeck stopped Flores 2 yards short of the goal line.
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