Is this rock-bottom yet?
DePauw football downed by Kenyon, 21-19
Junior running back Brandon January of Kenyon College runs the ball against DePauw at Blackstock Stadium on Saturday afternoon. MICHAEL APPELGATE / THE DEPAUW
This time it was special teams.
It wasn't the offense or defense - though the two sides shoulder some of the blame - but special teams accounted for an opening kickoff return for a touchdown and two missed field goals.
Saturday afternoon at Blackstock Stadium featured the young Tigers team breaking down on defense and special teams which lead to their sixth loss of the season against Kenyon College, 21-19. DePauw (1-6, 0-4 NCAC) tallied its third-straight loss by less than four points.
"It's maturity. We're playing a heck of a lot of freshmen," interim head coach Scott Srnka said after the game. "That's not a thing that happens at DePauw. Freshmen play JV ball. ... It's just a maturation process, and you'd hope they mature a lot quicker than we have at this point, but we just have to keep coaching them better so they're in their spots doing what they're supposed to do."
The afternoon started on a sour note on the opening kickoff to the Lords (4-3, 3-1 NCAC). Brett Williams fumbled the catch as the ball bounced off his chest in front of him. His teammate, Carlo Gagliardo, scooped up the ball off the ground, near DePauw's sideline and appeared to have a knee down on the field.
Much of the Tigers' special teams players paused for a moment and Gagliardo tore down the right sideline. After just 16 seconds, DePauw was in a 7-0 hole as the kickoff unit gave up an opening kickoff touchdown for the first time since 2001.
"It killed us," Srnka said of the opening touchdown. "We've talked about how special teams win and lose ball games, and for two weeks special teams have not been good. We have to play to the whistle, which we did not do."
The Tigers did little to respond. Freshman quarterback Justin Murray led the first offensive drive for DePauw that went for negative three yards. After the Tigers' defense stopped the Lords, the offense stalled again.
On DePauw's third offensive possession, sophomore Drew Seaman came off the sideline, replacing Murray at quarterback. Seaman methodically passed his way down field, connecting with four different receivers to Kenyon's 3-yard line. Freshman Amen Galley then ran it twice, and on the second attempt, banged his way up the middle for a two yard touchdown. Galley's touchdown capped an 11-play, 73 yards drive for the Tigers.
However, senior kicker Eric Malm's extra point attempt sailed wide left, and the Lords maintained a 7-6 lead.
With 2 minutes and 27 seconds left in the first quarter, Kenyon's quarterback, Dan Shannon, worked his way to his team's 47-yard line. On second down and seven to go, Shannon dropped back to pass with little pressure coming from DePauw's defensive line and lobbed a pass down the right sideline for Gagliardo. Tigers' cornerback, junior Dennis Callicutt, lost track of Gagliardo and the wide receiver stepped into the end zone completing a 53-yard passing play for the Lords' second touchdown of the day.
"Every game but last week we've given up a long pass," Srnka said. "Each time it's a guy. ... who looks inside for the ball instead of staying on his man."
Seaman and DePauw's offense couldn't respond in the second quarter - neither could the special teams.
After a 42-yard punt return by junior Nikko Sansone, the Tigers wound up with prime field position on Kenyon's 21-yard line. After two rushes for five yards and an incomplete pass, DePauw lined up to attempt a fourth down conversion, but was called for a false start penalty.
Malm came out to attempt a 31-yard field goal, but holder Robby Schuler instead took the snap and ran out left to pass. His throw was intercepted on the Lords' one-yard line.
Two offensive series later, Murray was back under center to replace Seaman, who was still moving the ball downfield utilizing quick, accurate passes.
Murray was at the helm for just one offensive possession, and then Seaman took back over.
By halftime, Seaman racked up 145 yards on 20-27 passing while Murray was 5-9 for 40 yards. Kenyon out-rushed DePauw 83 yards to 12 for a 14-6 lead.
"Being the first week back from my concussion, I just wanted to go out and make the best of the time I got," Seaman said. "The offense felt smooth, and it was finally clicking."
Srnka added: "We were trying to take what the defense gives us, and they were playing a soft zone. We just ran spot routes and options routes and guys had to break forward on it. We just had to keep doing it that way. That's what we saw and what we knew we could take."
In the third, both teams' offenses stalled as zero points were added to the scoreboard. Murray controlled the offense for the first two possessions while Seaman ran the latter two and gained momentum for a promising drive at the end of the quarter.
The sophomore led a 16-play, 63-yard drive as he completed seven of 12 passes for 46 yards. At the end, Junior Eric Malm missed a 31-yard field goal attempt.
DePauw's defense again forced a three-and-out from the Lords - their sixth of the game. Starting at the Tigers' 47-yard line, Seaman found junior Armani Cato, who ran a route out of the backfield down the left sideline and caught Seaman's pass for 33 yards. The reception was the fourth longest play of the season for the Tigers, the first being a 55-yard reception.
Cato ran in DePauw's second rushing touchdown of the game four plays later, and the Old Gold brought itself within two, 14-12.
Kenyon responded with a 10-play, 61-yard drive capped by a seven-yard Williams rush on fourth down to extend the lead, 21-12.
The Tigers answered back again with Seaman slinging the ball across the field starting at DePauw's 24-yard line. He was aided by three penalties called on the Lords - two personal foul calls and a pass interference. Cato then ran in from one yard out for his second touchdown of the day and brought the Tigers back, 22-19.
However, DePauw's defense wasn't able to get one final stop as Kenyon tallied three first downs and ran out the clock.
The Tigers set a school record for pass completions with 45 - beating the mark of 41 set in 2001. Seaman was 39-54 for 322 yards and Murray was 6-13 for 44 yards. The two quarterbacks - a battery used for the first time this season - hit 11 different receivers with junior tight end Kevin Ude leading the way with nine receptions for 79 yards.
On the ground, Cato netted 30 yards and scored two touchdowns while Galley tallied 15. Ude also ran the ball twice for nine yards.
After the game, Srnka wouldn't say whether or not his team will split time between quarterbacks next week against College of Wooster (2-5, 1-3 NCAC).
"Each game is a little bit different depending on what defense we see," he said. "Drew is a little bit more poised right now with a year under his belt. Justin will get there."
Now two years removed from the Tigers' second NCAA Div. III playoff appearance in school history, DePauw was downed by a Kenyon team who before this season, lost 24-straight games and hadn't won four games since the 2006 season.
With three games remaining on the regular season schedule, the Tigers must win-out to match its four wins from last season or face its worst season since 1995, which had a 3-7 record.
The Tigers travel to Wooster next Saturday.
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