Things appeared bleak early Saturday afternoon for Georgetown College football. The No. 12 Tigers (9-1) were locked up in a NAIA Football Championship Series Opening Round game with No. 6 Baker University (10-2). Before blinking the score was 10-0 Wildcats, but GC showed no signs of wavering and continued to work the game plan. It paid off as a late safety and several fourth quarter defensive stops helped the visitors to a 36-33 win.
“That’s one thing about this group of guys,” said GC coach Bill Cronin. “They really don’t get rattled much. We’ve gone through so much adversity over the past four years – tragic situations as well as really tough losses – maybe that’s helped us to this point here. We showed a lot of maturity and character today.”
The Tigers also learned Saturday while traveling back, they will head to Reinhardt University in Waleska, Ga. next Saturday for the NAIA FCS Quarterfinals. Time and viewing, listening and tracking possibilities to be announced.
Adversity is somewhat the name of the game heading into postseason. Lower seeded teams have one week to prepare and make the long trip. Add on top of that such a slow start and spots of other let downs, it could have been easy for the Tigers to pack it in against the 2016 runner-up.
“We fought through adversity today, driving 11 hours to get there for starters,” Cronin said. “Then it was a windy day. We are not used to those conditions of high winds and the cold. Thought our guys did an awesome job. They stayed focused.
“We started behind 10-0 quickly, but our kids dug deep, played harder and got the job done.”
Daric Pugh ignited the offense and became to workhorse as BU struggled to get him down. The sophomore rushed for a career-high 172 yards on 30 carries and one touchdown. This opened things up for Riley Hall. He orchestrated the offense and found the right receivers at big moments.
“Hats off to Daric on a great day. He played very physical and it was hard to tackle him,” Cronin said. “I also was pleased with Riley. He was poised and completed passes when we needed it. He did a great job leading our team.
“Our defense really stepped up when it had to, especially making it difficult in the fourth quarter for Baker to score even when they got close. They forced them back and out of position for even a field goal try.”
GC was the only team to score in the fourth quarter. The visitors turned the ball over on downs deep in Baker territory with a one-point edge, 34-33, and just more than nine minutes left. The Wildcats went backward on its first play from scrimmage and threw an incomplete pass on second down to set up an interesting third down. Marco Aguinaga dropped back and was sacked to give Georgetown a field goal lead.
Each team possessed the ball for one real final drive. The Tigers stalled out on Baker’s 38 and Nathan Bader’s punt put the home team on its own eight with 4:34 left.
BU slowly worked the ball up the field before GC’s defense showed its bend but do not break stance. The unit stopped the Wildcats at the Georgetown 29 and forced them to try a 46-yard field goal. Abram Garcia’s attempt went wide left with 1:17 left and the Tigers salted the game away.
“It wasn’t our best game, we had several mistakes and the toll of the travel and weather, but for a group of guys to come out on top tells the story of our maturity, character and development,” Cronin said. “At different times today every phase of the game struggled, but another phase came in and picked us up. All three phases had to contribute and all three had difficult times. I think we are seeing for Georgetown football character is paying dividends.”
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