WASHINGTON, Pa. — Junior running back Dion Wiegand (Pittsburgh, Pa./Keystone Oaks) rushed for a career-high 168 yards and blocked a punt, while sophomore backup quarterback Shane Smith (Fredonia, N.Y./Fredonia) added 115 on the ground and recovered a key fumble during Washington & Jefferson’s 40-14 PAC football rout of Saint Vincent on Homecoming Saturday at Cameron Stadium.
The Presidents (6-2, 5-1 PAC) clinched their 29th consecutive winning season which is the fifth-longest active streak in all of NCAA football. Only Linfield (58), Florida State (soon-to-be 36), Mount Union (34) and Florida (soon-to-be 33) have longer streaks.
Prior to the game, W&J honored the 1992 Presidents, who played in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl in Bradenton, Fla., the first team in college history to appear in a NCAA Division III National Championship Game. Also in attendance on Homecoming Day was 1981 W&J graduate NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Following a scoreless first quarter, W&J opened a 3-0 lead at the 13:34 mark of the second quarter after junior placekicker Eric Eberle’s (Mifflintown, Pa./Juniata) 36-yard field goal. The Presidents took a 17-0 lead into halftime after a pair of touchdown runs by junior quarterback Matt Bliss (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park) in the final 8:30 of the first half.
Smith recovered a Saint Vincent fumble on the second half kickoff and the lead grew to 24-0 after Bliss drilled an eight-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Brandon Trefelner (Greencastle, Pa./Greencastle-Antrim).
The Bearcats (0-7, 0-5 PAC) clawed back into the game with a pair of touchdowns during a four-minute span to trail 24-14 at the 9:22 mark. A long pass from Matt Deakins to Dan Wirkowski set up Ryan Crawford’s two-yard touchdown run at the 12:56 mark and Dwayne Brown’s 97-yard return of an interception 3:34 later made it a 10-point game. Bliss was hurt trying to make a tackle on the play and did not return.
Junior safety B.J. Monacelli’s (Cassadaga, N.Y./Cassadaga Valley) 37-yard kickoff return gave W&J a spark and Smith lofted his first career touchdown pass, a 32-yarder to junior wideout Dan Lucas (Pittsburgh, Pa./Brentwood) four plays later for a 31-14 advantage.
Smith accounted for 68 of the Presidents’ yards on their next series, an 11-play, 85-yard scoring drive, which Smith snuck in from a yard out for a 38-14 lead with 33 seconds left in the third quarter.
Late in the fourth quarter, Wiegand blocked a punt which was recovered by SVC in the end zone for a safety and the game’s final margin.
W&J ran 86 plays, including 55 rushing attempts, for a season-high 546 yards and 30 first downs. The Presidents held the ball for 12 minutes and 23 seconds during the decisive third quarter. Wiegand rushed 26 times and also caught two passes for 14 yards. Smith’s only completion went for a touchdown and he carried the ball 17 times. Bliss added 155 passing and 61 rushing yards before leaving.
Senior linebacker Nathan Melhorn (Salineville, Ohio/Southern Local) led the defense with 11 tackles, two of which went for a loss. Monacelli grabbed eight stops and broke up two pass plays, while senior linebacker John Hunter (Gibsonia, Pa./Pine-Richland) had five tackles, picked off a pass in the end zone, blocked a field goal attempt and deflected one pass.
The Bearcats were limited to 330 total yards and 12 first downs. Crawford gained 68 yards on the ground and 90 receiving, while Deakins completed 14-of-28 passes for 196 yards. Renny Larue-Holloman amassed a game-high 15 tackles and recovered a fumble.
W&J is idle next Saturday, but returns to action under the lights at Reeves Field in Beaver Falls on Nov. 3 at Geneva.