PHILADELPHIA — SUNY Cortland had the chance to conclude this football season with one of the greatest comebacks in school history.
Instead, Kean University pulled out a 30-27 victory in Friday afternoon’s ECAC Clayton Chapman Bowl contest when junior Aryeh Moslavi successfully converted a 26-yard field goal on the game’s final snap.
The Red Dragons battled back from a 27-7 deficit late in the second quarter before a gritty rally fell short, head coach Dan MacNeill’s squad completing the campaign with a 5-6 overall record.
Both teams had struggled in the kicking department on this warm post-season occasion at legendary Franklin Field on the University of Pennsylvania campus, host to six ECAC bowl games over a three-day stretch this weekend.
The Red Dragons, playing without injured kicker and punter Shane Cronin, missed a field goal and had an extra-point smack off the crossbar. Kean had two field goals and an extra point blocked — Cortland’s 6-foot-8 Travis Alverez the main culprit to Cougars there as his three blocks were a single-game school record — before Moslavi settled the issue to get swarmed by joyous teammates.
Kean (7-4), a squad out of the New Jersey Athletic Conference who had been 2-17 in previous games against Cortland, enjoyed a 585-481 edge in total yards, piled up 32 first downs and held a 39:29 to 20:31 edge in time of possession. Cougars running back Brian Matthews rushed for 193 yards on 30 carries to be named the Chapman Bowl MVP.
Cortland sophomore quarterback Brett Segala threw for three touchdowns, two to senior all-time school receiving leader Jon Mannix and another nice 31-yard hook-up to Jake Smith to spark the
Smith’s touchdown grab pulled Cortland within 27-21, with Kean coming up empty after a lengthy drive with a field goal blocked before Cortland missed a field goal opportunity to pull within three points.
But the Red Dragons got the ball back — on Kean’s lone punt of the day — and traveled 88 yards before scoring on freshman running back Zach Tripodi’s 7-yard run. That tied things at 27-27, with the Cortland PAT booted off the left post with 5:48 left to play.
Both teams exchanged possessions before the Cougars started the day’s final drive on their own 13-yard line with just over two minutes left.
Facing a 3rd-and-4 on their own 19, quarterback Charles App was able to tip-toe down the sideline for 13 yards and a crucial first down. App later found LeRon Dillard for a 21-yard strike and David Patterson for 11 more, pushing Kean into Cortland territory.
With Kean then facing third and long once again, the Red Dragons interfered with Patterson on a pass into the end zone to give the Cougars a fresh set of downs. With time expiring the Cougars were able to pull off one more trick play, as Dillard completed a pass to App who was able to step out of bounds at 0:04. That set up Moslavi’s game-winning boot.
Cortland scored off the game’s opening drive, capped by Segala rolling right before finding Mannix unattended in the end zone for a 7-yard TD completion.
Segala was picked off three times in the opening half, however, as Kean was successful putting together lengthy drives mostly on the sturdy legs of running back Matthews. The four Kean touchdowns came from other sources, however. App swept for a 3-yard end zone run and then completed a 5-yard TD pass to Dillard off a play-action fake, while a David Coleman 3-yard run and a 25-yard pass to wide open Ben Guarino behind the Cortland secondary produced that early 27-7 lead.
The Cortland comeback began just before halftime arrived, Mannix making a nice sliding catch of a Segala toss in the corner of the end zone with 45 seconds left to get the Red Dragons within 27-14 at the break.
Smith’s TD catch and Tripodi’s TD run practically untouched through a big hole would get Cortland even before the comeback was denied.
App was 22-of-30 for 261 yards and two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions, the Cougars also having a drive halted when Matthews fumbled the ball away to Cortland safety Brandon Lewis. Cornerback Max Jean and linebacker Mark DeLuise had interceptions for the Red Dragons.
DeLuise and senior Carson Lassiter both were in on 14 tackles to lead the Red Dragons defense.
With his three blocked kicks, freshman Alvarez — an offensive right tackle — tied the school single-season record of six blocked kicks set by Josh Jablonski in 2005. Cortland’s nine blocked kicks this season ties the school mark established in both 2005 and 2010.
Segala completed 27-of-42 passes for 356 yards, Smith with six catches for 101 yards. Mannix finished his career with five catches for 97 yards, and has latched onto 188 catches over his stellar four-year Cortland career. Smith now has 100 career catches with a season left to go.
— In the President’s Bowl that followed Cortland’s loss, Washington & Jefferson staged a fourth quarter a comeback that beat Brockport 38-31 at Franklin Field.