By: Ryan Gasser, sports information director
NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. – The Capital Crusaders hit the gridiron to open up the NCAA Division III football season on Thursday night at Westminster College (Pa.). The Crusaders fell behind early with three key turnovers through the air, which put the Titans on track for the win. Westminster defeated Capital, 66-7.
The Capital defense answered the call on the Titan's opening drive, allowing just one first down and forcing the hosts to punt. The promising start was not to be translated on Cap's first offensive set as the Titans came back with a three-and-out on the flip side.
Westminster took its second drive to the end zone following a Capital punt by Wyatt Pertuset. A pair of 15-plus yard pass plays set up a steady dose of runs leading to the opening score of the game. Tyler Greene got the Titans on the board with rushes of two and six yards to get into the end zone with 7:23 on the clock in the first quarter.
TRIO OF PICKS
Capital had a promising run at the end of the first quarter but the drive was shut down by the first of three consecutive interceptions thrown by quarterback Andrew Ray. Ray and the Crusaders made it down to the Titan 15-yard line and the junior connected with senior Wyatt Pertuset in the end zone, but the touchdown was called back due to a holding call. On the following play, Westminster cornerback Aaron Pierce stepped in front of Ray's pass over the middle and took the interception 97 yards the other way for six points.
Ray came back and continued to try to move the ball through the air, but his second pass attempt of the drive again landed in the hands of Pierce at midfield. Pierce took it down the far sideline the rest of the way for another six to put Westminster up 28-0.
Mitchell Machock entered the game to try to get something going, but his first drive was ended prematurely when Sam Pickett fell in his route, which allowed Westminster's Kevin Brown to make a third straight interception to end a CU drive. That pick led to a 55-yard scoring drive that ended in a 15-yard touchdown catch for Greene, putting Westminster up 35-0.
TITANS TAKE THE 'W'
- Andrew Ray returned to start the second half but his second pass was intercepted and taken the other way for six points, the third pick-six for the Titans in the game. That touchdown plus the point-after touchdown try made the score 49-0.
- Tanner Dudek hit a 36-yard field goal just before the turn of the third quarter to make for a 52-7 game.
- Westminster's Denny Dennison returned a punt for 81 yards to give the Titans another six points at the top of the fourth quarter, 59-7.
- Freshman Justin McClelland threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown with seven minutes to go in the fourth, making the score 66-7.
BACKS GETS CAP ON THE BOARD
Capital got on the board for the first time this season after the running backs set up the score. Junior Dylan Schoonover and senior Evin Butler went to work on a drive that started with just under seven minutes to go in the third quarter. The duo helped build up an eight-play, 88-yard drive that was capped off by Schoonover's first collegiate touchdown, a 23-yard pass caught out of the backfield and taken to the house. Butler set the play up when he bulldozed through the Titans defense for a 32-yard run just before the score, making it a 49-7 game.
- Evin Butler finished the game with a game-high 95 yards on the ground on 14 rush attempts.
- Cap featured three quarterbacks who combined to go 17-for-34, 128 yards, one touchdown, and five interceptions, four of them returned for touchdowns. Of those, Mitchell Machock led with 62 yards on 5-of-11 passing and threw for Cap's lone score.
- Senior Jake Elsayed led Cap's defense with five tackles.
- Sophomore safety Dakota Kirkbride made his first collegiate interception in the fourth quarter.
- Capital finished with 162 rushing yards to Westminster's 143 but was outgained as a whole 316-290.
Capital will regroup with extended rest and host Marietta College on Saturday, Sept. 14 at Bernlohr Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.