Big plays doom Chowan
MURFREESBORO – Rocked, then shocked.
Chowan had their frantic football fans rocking the Garrison Stadium stands Saturday evening, as the Hawks put on a first-half offensive clinic against Shorter University only to be shocked – and shut out – in the second half of a 28-17 loss to the visiting Hawks.
The loss dropped Chowan’s record on the young season to 1-2 before they return to CIAA Conference play next weekend.
The great author Charles Dickens might have called this game ‘A Tale Of Two Halves’: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
It could also be said, “It was the best of big plays, it was the worst of big plays.”
Chowan won the offensive battle everywhere but the scoreboard; outgaining Shorter 334 to 299 yards in total offense. However, 244 of that for the home team came in the first half.
Former Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) “Player of the Week”, junior quarterback Cameron Stover, was sterling, going 11-for-15 with a pair of first-half touchdowns. However, the Michigan native did not play in the second half.
While seven different receivers were targets for Chowan quarterbacks on the day, accounting for 260 yards on 17 grabs, none shone brighter than sophomore Ryan Nolan who did it with his hands, leading all receivers with 92 yards on three catches, including one for a touchdown.
But that same success didn’t translate when Nolan had to sub at quarterback for Stover in the second half and do it with his arm, going six-for-20 for 55 yards with two interceptions.
For Shorter, quarterback Eric Dodson was sacked four times by the Chowan defense and completed just three passes, but two of them were for touchdowns of 63 and 49 yards, respectively.
All four of those Chowan sacks came courtesy of junior defensive end T.J. Batchelor who had 17 tackles, ten solo, and also forced two fumbles.
“I was just trying to put the defense on my back and try to carry the team,” said Batchelor. “We’ve just got to step up and make more plays as a team.”
“I mean it’s football, things like that happen,” said fifth-year Chowan coach Tim Place. “It’s on us to find a way and we didn’t find a way in the second half.”
“Injuries are part of football,” he added, “and when they occur you need to find a way. Hats off to Shorter for getting it done and we didn’t get it done.”
It began getting done for Chowan on their first possession of the game: going 80 yards in five plays; highlighted by Stover hitting Ryon Martin on a 36-yard strike, followed by Tim Hanson ripping off a 15-yard run.
The scoring drive was then capped off when Stover hit sophomore tailback J.R. Williams over the middle at midfield and Williams turned it into a 50-yard touchdown romp. The Alex Noboa kick made it, 7-0, Chowan.
Shorter made short work of a comeback; getting the equalizer in three plays as Dodson got his own touchdown toss from midfield. The first quarter was barely half over and the score was tied, 7-7.
With under a minute to go in the quarter, Chowan cashed in again. From their own 45 a bad pitch nearly turned into disaster, but the Hawks recovered the fumble at their own 38.
The next play was a 62-yard lightning strike by Stover airing it out to Nolan for six followed by another Noboa extra-point kick to make it 14-7, Chowan.
In the second quarter the Chowan defense kept Shorter off the scoreboard thanks to a big tackle for loss by Batchelor on one possession and a sack for a drive-stopper on another.
Meanwhile, on Chowan’s last drive of the half, Stover ripped off a 24-yard run up the middle, but was hit hard instead of opting for a safe slide in the teeth of the Shorter defense.
Chowan was able to later capitalize on the drive with a 31-yard field goal from Noboa with 18 second left before the break to give the home team a 10-point bulge, 17-7, at halftime.
The second half opened with both teams turning the ball over the first time they had it. On Shorter’s turnover, junior DeVahn Murphy picked up his second interception of the year.
But any joy was short-lived as the Chowan drive stalled. It then took just two plays to get the visiting Hawks within three when the Georgians went 73 yards; the last snap a 70-yard touchdown scamper that made it 17-14 after the PAT kick.
Chowan was stopped again while Shorter got another big play on a short drive and took the lead, 21-17, thanks to a 63-yard touchdown catch.
On the subsequent kickoff Chowan fumbled for the second time in the quarter, but Shorter did no damage as Batchelor forced a fumble which Murphy recovered deep in their own territory.
Chowan couldn’t capitalize on the recovery. After a quick Nolan pass to Elliot ended the quarter, the fourth quarter began with a loss that put the ball on Chowan’s two-yard line. On the next snap came the biggest big play of the game.
Nolan tried to avoid a sack, but instead attempted a pass that was picked off in the end zone and the interception became a touchdown.
There was still plenty of time on the clock for Chowan to mount a comeback, but the Hawks had two straight three-and-outs before they were intercepted for a second time on the third drive.
Shorter later missed a field goal, but Chowan’s last two possessions were a three-and-out and a late fumble.
“They basically scored on three big plays,” said Place with a shrug. “We win as a team, we lose as a team. We’ve just got to find a way.”
“When one man goes down we just have to deal with it,” said Williams. “We lost (receiver Robert Holland) in the first game and now Cameron goes down this week. We’ve just got to pull it together and try not to depend on one man.”
“It’s a mindset,” he added. “We can figure it out in time for Shaw (next week’s Chowan opponent), I’m going to make sure of it.”
“We’ve lost two big vocal leaders,” said Murphy, who finished with an interception and a fumble recovery, “but starting Monday we can get it right.”