NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - Christopher Newport managed to escape with a 27-19 victory Saturday over William Paterson University, as the winless Pioneers put an early Halloween scare into the Captains. The hard-fought triumph Saturday afternoon at POMOCO Stadium raised CNU's record to 5-2 overall and 4-2 in the New Jersey Athletic Conference, and came in front of a standing room-only crowd of 4,861 during Family Weekend.
While the Captains never trailed in the game, William Paterson was able to cut the lead as close as two, 14-12, early in the fourth quarter. The Pioneers fell to 0-7 overall and 0-6 in the NJAC with the defeat.
"At the end of the day, a win is a win," Head Coach Art Link said. "I just told our guys that maybe it wasn't the way we expected it would be, but it's still a victory and we're still 5-2, which is a mark a lot of programs would love to have. We had some breakdowns and didn't finish drives, and turned the ball over four times. So there's a lot to work on as we move forward."
After a scoreless opening quarter, the Captains grabbed with lead on a five-yard scoring pass from sophomore quarterback Jack Anderson to senior wide receiver Khiry Weaver. Freshman kicker Ben Garbarini connected on field goals of 32 and 27 yards, with his second coming as time expired in the second quarter, and CNU took a 14-0 lead to the locker room at halftime.
CNU's offense would then go silent for much of the second half, and the Pioneers scored the next two touchdowns to cut the lead to 14-12 with 9:15 to play in the fourth quarter. The Captains bounced back by traveling 63 yards on eight plays, with the drive ending as senior running back Harrison Dandridge scored on a 19-yard run to push the advantage to 21-12. Anderson then ran for a four-yard score and the lead grew to its biggest of the day, 27-12.
William Paterson would not go quietly as the Pioneers scored again in the final minute of the game on a 35-yard touchdown strike to account for the 27-19 final. WPU's onside kick attempt in the final minute went out of bounds to end the upset threat.
CNU entered the game as the top team in the country in turnover margin, but lost three fumbles and also threw an interception in the eight-point victory on a sunny and warm October afternoon at POMOCO Stadium. Christopher Newport's defense forced three turnovers, picking off three WPU passes. Two of the picks came from senior cornerback Justus Drakeford and one from senior cornerback Tyrell Noel, who matched the school's all-time single season interception record with six. Noel led the CNU defense Saturday with six tackles and also broke up three passes and blocked an extra point. He tied the mark of six interceptions set by Anthony Matthews in 2003.
Anderson, who entered the game in place of senior starting quarterback K.J. Kearney, completed 27 of 34 passes for 269 yards. The sophomore threw and ran for a score, and also tossed an interception. Freshman wide receiver Cole Blais caught a team-high eight passes for 103 yards receiving. Senior tight end Danny Mattson caught six passes for 64 yards. The victory guarantees the Captains a .500 regular-season record for the 16th time in 17 seasons of action. The Captains now lead the all-time series with the Pioneers, 3-0.