CINCINNATI, Ohio – A strong third quarter nearly allowed Defiance to erase a 14-0 halftime deficit at the 27th-ranked Lions of Mount St. Joseph on Saturday, but the Mount held off the rally and escaped with a 24-16 win over the Yellow Jackets.
DC could not get anything going on offense through the first two quarters, ending the opening half with only 32 yards on 13 plays and one first down. The Jackets completed just one pass and had the ball for only 10:14 of the opening 30 minutes, while failing to convert on any of their five third down snaps.
The lack of offense forced the Defiance defensive unit to spend nearly 20 minutes of playing time on the field in the first half, allowing MSJ to rack up 278 total yards of offense en route to building the 14-0 advantage.
Those trends nearly reversed in the third quarter however, as Defiance had the Lions on their heels from the opening possession. DC orchestrated a pair of scoring drives on its two third quarter possessions, which ate up all but 2:10 of the clock in the period.
The key to the turnaround was the Yellow Jacket ground game, which piled up 94 yards in the third quarter and helped DC churn out eight first downs to extend a pair of lengthy possessions.
Defiance used the first of the two scoring drives to open the second half. The possession spanned 13 plays and ended with an Alex Bonilla field goal from 27 yards out to narrow the deficit to 14-3.
After forcing a quick punt from the Lions, DC continued its comeback by stringing together a 14-play possession to march down the field. The drive ended with Rick Powell finding Nick Wiedenhoft in the end zone for a three-yard pass to bring the Jackets within 14-10.
The momentum shifted once again however, as the third quarter came to a close and the Lions hit back with a 72-yard touchdown pass just minutes into the fourth period. MSJ then added a field goal with 2:17 left in the game to push its lead to 24-10.
Defiance cut the gap in half on its next possession, capping a 10-play, 80-yard drive with an 11-yard pass from Powell to Wiedenhoft to draw DC within 24-16 with 36 seconds left in the game.
DC's lined up for the on-side kick following the score but the Mount recovered the kick and ran out the clock to hold off the Jackets and secure the eight-point victory.
Powell fueled the second-half rally for Defiance and ended the afternoon with 11 completions for 99 yards and two touchdowns through the air, while also scrambling 17 times for 63 yards. Drew Kuesel also chipped in with 18 carries for 59 yards and Wiedenhoft caught four passes for 29 yards and a pair of scores.
The defense was led by 11 tackles from Matt King, while Eric Rubio and Josh Wade each added nine hits. Ricky Sherrer provided the only takeaway of the day for the Jackets, adding one interception to go with five stops.
Defiance falls to 3-6 overall with the loss and 2-4 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. The loss also ends DC's string of four-straight seasons finishing among the top three teams in the conference standings.
The Jackets will round out the 2009 season on Saturday, November 14, when they host rival Bluffton (0-9, 0-6 HCAC) at Justin F. Coressel Stadium at 1:30 pm.