NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Christopher Newport University opened New Jersey Athletic Conference play on Saturday, losing to Kean University, 27-20, in overtime at Kelchner Field at TowneBank Stadium. The Family Weekend defeat dropped the Captains to 2-3 overall and 0-1 in the NJAC. The Cougars improved to 1-3 on the year, and 1-0 in conference play.
Christopher Newport was hurt by three costly turnovers, the final coming on an interception in overtime to end the game. The Captains found themselves battling from behind for most of the second half, as the Cougars held a possession time advantage of 20 minutes to just ten minutes for the Captains after halftime.
"It's a frustrating loss, and we certainly had our chances," Head Coach Art Link said. "We gave up a big play on the punt return, but the turnovers are what really hurt us. We will now get back to work, look hard at what we did right today, and start planning for next week."
The Captains gained an early lead on a sunny and 75-degree afternoon when senior wide receiver Garrison Mayo caught an eight-yard scoring pass from sophomore quarterback Matt Dzierski with 3:08 to play in the opening quarter to take a 7-0 advantage. The touchdown was the tenth of Mayo's career, and one of nine grabs he made on the day for 84 yards.
Kean cut the lead to four with a field goal early in the second quarter, and then took its first lead of the day on a 60-yard punt return by Donte Jamison with 6:34 to play in the first half. CNU junior kicker Ryan Castle tied the game when he booted a 27-yard field goal with 1:58 to play in the second quarter, and the teams went to intermission in a 10-10 tie.
The third quarter was dominated by the Cougars, who ran 24 plays in the quarter to just three by the Captains. Kean strung together a 12-play, 55-yard drive that ate up just over seven minutes of the third stanza, and ended with a Logan Matthews 33-yard field goal. After a three-and-out by the Captains, the Cougars then embarked on a 13-play, 77-yard drive that took 7:50 off the clock from late in the third quarter to early fourth quarter. The drive culminated with a one-yard scoring plunge from Kean quarterback Justin Lucia that gave the Cougars a 20-10 edge.
Christopher Newport battled back into the game by constructing an 11-play, 73-yard scoring drive that took just 3:59 off the fourth quarter clock. Dzierski connected with junior wide receiver Xander Jedlick on an 18-yard pass that took the ball to the one yard line. Freshman running back Aeron Williams then plunged into the end zone on the next play to cut Kean's lead to three, 20-17. Six minutes later, the Captains would pull even on Castle's second field goal of the afternoon, a 39-yard kick, that evened the game at 20-20. The Captains could not get into scoring position in the final minute of regulation, and CNU went to overtime for the second time in five games this season.
Kean's offense came alive in the OT with a 22-yard pass from Lucia to Jamison to get to the three yard line. Two plays later, Lucia hit Myles Toppin on a two-yard scoring strike to put the Cougars up, 27-20. Just as they did earlier this season in a 30-27 overtime loss at Averett, CNU ran just one play in overtime. Dzierski had a pass picked off by Kyeon Taylor of the Cougars to end the game.
Dzierski completed 25 of 37 passes for the day for 272 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. CNU out-gained Kean in total yardage, 351-267, but the Captains managed to pick up just 79 yards for the day on the ground on 22 attempts. Senior linebackers Sean Wilkinson (10 tackles) and Jason Massengill (9 tackles and two pass breakups) led the defensive effort.
A crowd of 4,257 watched the Captains fall to 2-5 all-time vs. Kean. It was the 100th home game in Captains football history, and CNU is now 65-35 all-time on home turf.
The Captains travel to Wayne, New Jersey, next Saturday to take on William Paterson University. The Pioneers are also 2-3 overall and 0-1 in the NJAC, following a 15-14 road loss at the College of New Jersey on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. next Saturday.