By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – After smothering Endicott College in the first round of the NCAA Division III Football Championship Tournament, the Rowan Profs will be in Texas this weekend for a second round match-up with The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.
The Profs 24-0 win over Endicott this past weekend was a near perfect execution of the Rowan playbook for success here in 2013: a superior defensive performance complimented by a punishing running game.
That defense held Endicott to six first downs, 113 yards of total offense and just one third down conversion in 12 opportunities. They also intercepted Gulls quarterback Drew Frenette three times, including one that sophomore linebacker Darren Dungee returned 46 yards for a touchdown.
“The defense kind of set the tone,” Rowan head coach Jay Accorsi tells KYW Newsradio. “They played outstanding. To hold a quarterback that was throwing for so many yards and touchdowns, and a running back that had rushed for over a thousand (yards), and an offense that was scoring over thirty-something points a game – to do what we did was truly an outstanding effort by our defensive coaches and defensive players.”
As for the punishing running game, it was led by sophomore Withler Marcelin. He carried a career-high 43 times for a career-high 223 yards and a touchdown.
“When we were interviewed after the game, he was kind of wowed at how many (carries), and I was too, because you don’t realize it,” Accorsi says. “We mix Khalil Pierce and Matt Dortch in a little bit. He’s just been really durable and he’s been able to carry the load.”
Marcelin has now topped 100 yards in six consecutive games.
Pierce also had a big game against Endicott, rushing for 120 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. For the game, Rowan finished with 346 yards rushing on 67 carries and that allowed them to control the ball for an absurd 42:40.
Mary Hardin-Baylor won the American Southwest Conference. Their 35-7 win over the University of the Redlands in the first round improved them to a perfect 11-0 this season, and they finished the regular season ranked #2 in the country in the AFCA Coaches poll. The Crusaders have scored at least 31 points in every game this season, and four times they scored more than 55. So Accorsi says this trip to Belton will be a tough one.
“It’s Texas, you do everything big in Texas,” Accorsi says. “They have a brand new big stadium, they have 144 players on the roster. So again, it is Texas football, which you would expect to be really, really good. They are a lot like us. They are big, physical, and fast on defense and kind of stifle teams. And then on offense they want to run the football. So its similar to a mirror image of ourselves, and this time of year that’s how you have to be playing. They are one of the top programs in the country. They’ve made trips to the Stagg Bowl and lost. They’ve been right around trying to get a national championship the last few years. It’s going to certainly be a tough task for us.”
This will be the first-ever meeting between the Profs and the Crusaders.
Kick-off on Saturday is set for 1:00pm in Belton, Texas.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.