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Final moments’ cliffhanger eludes Spartans

TERRE HAUTE, IND. – A 19-point second half explosion left Manchester University just short of a big comeback at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Sept. 22.

The Spartans, dropping to 0-4 and 0-2 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference with a 28-26 defeat, were victimized by a slow start against the Engineers (2-2, 2-0). Playing in front of a Homecoming 2012 crowd of 2,500 inside Cook Stadium, RHIT leapt out to a 15-0 lead after one quarter and held a 25-7 halftime advantage. However, Coach Shannon Griffith's squad, as it had in each of the previous three games, got some momentum going in the second half.

Manchester University's defense got the roll started. Sophomore linebacker Jon Scribner (Huntertown, Ind.) set up the offense at Rose-Hulman's 36-yard line midway through the third quarter with an interception. Two plays later, the Black and Gold found the end zone when junior quarterback Nick Williams (Fort Wayne, Ind.) hit junior halfback Ryne Lehrman (Hoagland, Ind.) down the middle of the field for an 18-yard scoring strike. After the Spartan "D" sent Rose-Hulman's offense off the field on a three-and-out possession, Manchester University's offense went back to work. Williams keyed a four-play, 68-yard drive with a 31-yard scamper around the left side deep into RHIT territory. He came back two plays later to finish the series with a 29-yard run for six points. A two-point conversion try fell short to keep the score at 25-20.

The Spartans did get one last chance with the brisk west wind late in the third period but the clock ran down before they could convert. Shifting ends of the field, the conditions came into play, as a wind-blown aerial attempt was snagged in Manchester University territory to open the final stanza. RHIT made the most of the opportunity with a field goal to make it 28-20. After each side coughed the ball up, Manchester University took off on a 59-yard, 14-play drive in the final minutes with 49 yards coming on the ground. Sophomore running back Austin Adams (Dowagiac, Mich.) dove over from the one to make it 28-26. However, RHIT's defense stiffened on the two-point try, keeping the Spartans' quarterback just inches from the conversion.

MU did get one more shot in the final minute after an interception at midfield. The Black and Gold drove inside the Engineers' 30-yard line before a penalty moved the ball back. A final pass attempt was knocked down to close the contest.

Manchester University out-gained RHIT 323-260 with a balanced attack (162 yards passing/161 yards rushing). Williams and Adams guided the rushing attack with 71 and 67 yards rushing, respectively, while Williams threw for 118 yards. Sophomore wide receiver Alex Lissade-Gardner (Indianapolis, Ind.) topped the receiving corps with four catches for 38 yards. The Black and Gold defense was led by the underclassman duo of sophomore linebacker Evan West (Hartford City, Ind.) and Scribner. West compiled nine-and-a-half tackles, while Scribner ended with two sacks, four-and-a-half tackles for losses and an interception.

Manchester continues its current road stretch with a 1:30 p.m. kickoff at Bluffton University's Salzman Stadium Saturday, Sept. 29.

NOTES: The recent tight-knit history between the Spartans and Engineers continued with the final margin. It was the sixth time in the last seven games that the two sides were separated by six points or less. … MU senior wide receiver Kurt Monix (Crown Point, Ind.) moved closer to the 100th reception of his career with his 95th catch.