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Lions’ Post-game recap: In Lions’ 58-28 romp of MAC rival FDU-Florham, all but one of Lions’ impact players able to bask in glory of lopsided victory

September 18, 2009

Receivers Mark Gardner (left) and Colin Weber (right) after one of their combined 3 rec TDs Friday night vs. FDU

Receivers Mark Gardner (left) and Colin Weber (right) after one of their combined 3 rec. TDs Friday night vs. FDU, a performance inclusive of 318 combined yds

As the Lions strutted toward the locker room, heads held high and cleats only slightly grazing the asphalt after dismantling the Fairleigh Dickinson University Devils for 48 first-half points en route to a 58-28 triumph over the Devils, it seemed as if everyone snatched their fair share of the spotlight.

Everyone—except for Chase Misura.

The Lions’ defense earned acclaim on Friday night’s stage, proving impermeable to the multi-faceted offensive attack with which FDU quarterback Bill Winters crippled the unit in 2008.

The last time the teams played, the senior from Brick Twp. High personally amassed 415 total yards and 6 combined TDs (2 pass, 4 rush) on Sept. 5 a year ago.

Once Dickinson finally reached pay-dirt via a 57-yard strike from Winters to wide receiver Kyle Bukowiec (6:23 remaining), the Lions’ offense was well on its way to delivering a performance for the history books.

At the end of the first half—one of two dominating periods during the squad’s record-breaking performance of 708 total yards (broke previous team mark of 618 vs. Ramapo in 1980), the unit had already accumulated 545 yards of offense and tallied 48 points—two shy of the school’s single-half mark set in the same game nearly 30 years ago.

Chris James, who threw for a career-best 358 yds and 3 TDs, also rushed for 44 yds and a touchdown

Chris James, who threw for a career-best 358 yds and 3 TDs, also rushed for 44 yds and a touchdown

En route to a career-high 358 yards on 19 attempts (14 completions) Lions’ quarterback Chris James massaged more than ample production out of two different Lion receivers, Colin Weber and Mark Gardner, who combined for 318 of the team’s total yards through the air.

While the team undoubtedly waits in restless advent of Cam Richardson’s return—the  two-time All-NJAC performer and team co-captain remains sidelined with injury, the Lions don’t seem to mind, relishing in the safety net provided by two of its accessory beacons of senior leadership.

“Losing Cam has been tough,” Weber said after the game. “He’s one of our biggest contributors on offense—just his talent and his presence on the field.

In spite of his role in the team’s instant-classic finish, Weber didn’t seem all that phased at the group’s collective supremacy in the victory.

“I think its just business as usual. We worked really hard through the week and the week we had off. We came out and we just executed.”

Nor did he of his own personal best—an evening’s compilation of 199 receiving yards on six catches.

“I had a good game today but I don’t think it’s anything special. I just did what I was asked and I got lucky enough to have a good day.”

Craig Meyer rushing Devils' quarterback Bill Winters, who couldn't hurt the Lions in '09 like he did in '08, scoring six total TDs a year ago

Craig Meyer rushing Devils' quarterback Bill Winters, who couldn't hurt the Lions in '09 like he did in '08, scoring six total TDs a year ago

Unlike last week’s one-sided barrage of the Buffalo State Bengals that exclusively showcased the Lions’ running game—only on account that it didn’t need to—the unit dissected the Devils’ D under the Friday night lights with a complete, balanced effort. And Coach Bobby Acosta’s post-game satisfaction resembled that of a child sitting next to an empty chest, all his toys scattered and readily available—should he feel like using one over the other.

“We did what we had to do,” said the second-year offensive coordinator after the game. “We wanted to feature the pass game this week and that’s what we did.”

Acosta explained that offensive philosophy, especially one implemented in a unit with this kind of talent, can’t be forced—predetermined by a coordinator’s personal preference.

“Every game has a personality. Last week’s personality was that we needed to run the football and this week’s was that we had to throw the ball. It’s all about what the defense gives you.”

Although it looked more like it was taken, the defense also offered running back Justin Donoloski a crack at repeating last week’s more-than-pleasant surprise, as the sophomore gashed FDU-Florham with 131 yards and two TDs—all on nine carries. Much like his outing a week ago proved to be a driving force in the group’s 300+ yards in its season-debut, Donoloski fueled an already proven ground game that totaled 339 yards’ worth of production against its perennial MAC rival.

Joe Spahn, abusing FDU-Floram quarterback Bill Winters during a stellar first half of defensive play

Joe Spahn, abusing FDU-Floram quarterback Bill Winters during a stellar first half of defensive play

“The line did a great job again today, just like they did last week,” Donoloski said after the game, humbly deferring attention to the unsung heroes in the trenches. “They just keep making holes. And we’re just running hard.”

Donoloski’s gaudy statistical display reiterated that last week’s breakout performance of 74 yards on seven carries wasn’t an anomoly, a one-time capture of lighting in a bottle.

He’s here to play, and he’s here to stay—despite his reluctance to admit it.

“I’m just trying to run my hardest and keep this going. I just rotate in with Yetka and Chase and everything just seems to be going well.”

Though it surrendered a total of 469 and 28 points, the Lions’ defense established it could rise to the occasion when needed.

In the first half—with the contest already out of reach—the defense held the Devils to converting a mere 33% of its third-down conversions (2 of 6) and forced two turnovers.

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Mark Gardner (left) celebrating with Justin Donoloski on one of the running back's two TDs during a 131-yard performance vs. FDU-Florham

While the textbook ball-hawking play of its free safety translated into the second of the team’s takeaways—a Phil Gatti interception in the second-quarter—its first seizure of possession also robbed FDU from a likely touchdown.

After Beau Reed simply dropped the football—well on his way to an uncontested score in the first quarter—linebacker Dan DeCongelio’s recovery in the end zone added an element of opportunism to the squad’s haughty establishment that it can hang with the Lions’ high-flying offense.

“We felt like the defense had something to prove,” DeCongelio said after the game. “We’d talked about how we’re always considered the weakest link and we didn’t want that anymore. We knew we had to pull it as a team. We came out, did our thing and shut them down. That’s it.”

When the dust finally settled in Lions’ Stadium–the turf more closely resembling the Roman Coliseum that entertained its fans with ostensibly winless battles—it looked like destiny had served everyone a piece of the pie.

DL Sam Dokus during a disciplined team effort on the defensive side of the ball, containing Winters--a proven rushing threat in addition to his pass skills

DL Sam Dokus during a disciplined team effort on the defensive side of the ball, containing Winters--a proven rushing threat in addition to his renowned prowess as a passer

Everyone not named Chase Misura.

Though he broke the plain on a three yard scamper with 3:11 remaining in the second quarter to cap a eight-play, 62-yard scoring drive, Misura appeared to have cashed in on two other opportunities chances (two and 15 yards)–only to watch penalties negate his efforts.

Despite missing out on the acclaim of such an infrequent statistical performance, Misura didn’t seem to mind as long as his team left the stadium with a “W.”

“We won. I mean, come on,” he said, giddy when he’d been informed of his teammates’ stat totals. “If we lost I’d be bitching and crying all over the place but we didn’t. What do personal touchdowns really mean anyway? It’s whatever.”

Although they didn’t count toward the box score, Misura said he’d already internalized the satisfaction that accompanies earning six points three times in a game—and it’s good enough for him.

“I’ll see them when we watch film. As far as I’m concerned, I scored.”

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