The winds of change blow cold for TU
Things change. It’s inevitable; it can be scary, exciting, regrettable, or in the case of Saturday’s game, change can be rewarding. It was a quarterbacking change that lead Walsh to its 30-29 victory over Tiffin when Walsh head coach Ted Karras decided it was time to sit starter Paul Kempe and replace him with senior Jason Fracassa.
“It’s (Kempe’s) first year playing quarterback here at Walsh University; he’s played defensive back and wide receiver, he’s been our quarterback the first seven games, it’s just with this game he wasn’t getting it going,” Karras said. “Jason Fracassa has been biding his time at number two and we felt it was the right time to make a change.”
Tiffin seemed full of energy and firing on all cylinders as it made its way down the field and capitalized on its opening drive as Antonio Pipkin found Jerry Brown for a three-yard touchdown strike, putting Tiffin on top 7-0. Then things changed. Walsh’s Jamaris Brown picked off Pipken, and Walsh scored one play later, finding the end zone and making it a 7-7 game. Not to be outdone, Tiffin’s Bryon McCorkle stepped in front of a Kempe pass and returned the interception 53 yards for the score putting Tiffin up 14-7.
As each offense and each defense made its presence felt, things changed again. This time it was Tiffin’s special teams making the big play, blocking a Walsh punt that rolled out of the back of the end zone for a safety, making it a 16-7 ballgame.
As Tiffin sat on a nine point lead, change was in the air again when Walsh’s Pierre Raymond picked off Pipkin for a 60 yard interception return for a touchdown, making it 16-14. Special teams kept the game close as Tiffin’s Tomislav Derezic and Walsh’s Michael Dudic exchanged field goals. This time change would come in the form of who possessed the ball, as Tiffin returned the kickoff there was a bit of trickery when the ball was caught, handed off, and handed off again, ending up in the hands of Stefan Willis, who returned the kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown, and a 26-17 lead. Special teams were the focus as halftime neared, Derezic drove home a 33 yard field goal to put Tiffin up 29-17 at the half. “Both teams made some really big plays,” said TU coach Gary Goff.
The third quarter saw the most important change of the game for Walsh. Sitting their starter, Walsh decided to go with Fracassa, a decision that Karras did not regret. Fracassa came onto the field and put together a twelve play, 59-yard drive for the score, as Walsh pulled within five points at 29-24. Later in the third quarter Fracassa would cap off a ten play, 65 yard drive, as he crossed the goal line from two yards out, making it a 30-29 game.
“He produced a win for us, it was a very gutsy effort by him,” Karras said.
Fracassa’s two-point conversion attempt failed but Walsh was still in the driver’s seat. Change was on the horizon again as Tiffin’s Stefan Willis seemed to scoop up a Walsh fumble and return it 76 yards for a score, but all that was negated as the referees called the play dead as an incomplete pass.
For Tiffin, change was a bad thing. The team that put up 29 first half points was held scoreless for the entire second half of the game.
“They won the battle on the line of scrimmage, their defense was on our side of the ball all day,” Goff said.
Passing became priority No 1 as Tiffin only mustered five yards on the ground all game. Not being able to change up the plays cost Tiffin as Pipken threw three interceptions, and was sacked three times.
“We couldn’t establish the run; Pipkin was pressured most of the game, it just was not a good day for him,” Goff said.
With less than 40 seconds to play, the Dragons scratched and clawed to find something downfield, but came up short as Pipkin’s final pass attempt landed in the hands of Walsh defender Nathan Filut.
“It was a much needed win, its our first year in division II,” Karras said. “Tiffin is a similar team; they’ve been in division II a few years longer than us, but you know it was a good, hard fought game. Our guys they fought until the end and thats what we preach, I’m very proud of our team.”