Benedictine defeats defending NAC champion Aurora, 21-14
October 5, 2009
Dave Beyer, Sports Information Director
Benedictine University's football team could not have asked for a better outcome than Saturday's 21-14 Northern Athletics Conference (NAC) win over rival Aurora University in the 2009 league opener for both teams. The win evened the Eagles overall record at 2-2 on the year and 1-0 in the NAC.
For Aurora, which won the inaugural NAC football championship in 2008 with a 7-0 record, it was their first-ever NAC loss in the young league's history and dropped them to 2-2 overall (after starting the season 2-0).
In what turned out to very much be a defensive struggle, Aurora held an advantage in total offense by a 275 to 212 yards margin. Aurora also doubled up on the Eagles on first downs (20-10).
But the Spartans fell victim to their own turnovers and the opportunistic Benedictine defense. Aurora quarterback Mike Anderson was intercepted three times, all inside AU's territory. None of the pilfered passes was more costly than the one by BU defensive back Matt McWilliams midway through the third quarter.
With Benedictine clinging to a 14-7 lead, Aurora was faced with a second-and-12 from its own 45. Anderson scrambled to elude a rush and tried to dump a short pass near the original line of scrimmage. However, McWilliams stepped in front of the intended receiver and deftly wove his way past the Spartans, picking up two blockers near the 15-yard line and veering to his right with a clear path to the end zone. Robert Miller's extra point kick made it 21-7 in favor of the Eagles with 6:13 left in the third.
From the outset, the game felt like the outcome was going to come down to that type of moment.
After a scoreless opening period, the two longtime nemesis were knotted at 7-7 at the intermission. BU tallied first when senior quarterback Dave Klinger ran a keeper from three yards out with 7:26 left until the intermission. Klinger's run capped an eight-play, 79-yard drive. Miller's PAT kick made it 7-0 in favor of the hosts.
AU senior tailback Ryne Reder had a beautiful 17-yard TD gallop with just over a minute remaining until the half, finalizing a six-play, 44-yard drive. The extra point by Ryan Subick made the score 7-7 at halftime.
Benedictine - which won the coin toss and deferred to to second half - took the kickoff to begin the third quarter and embarked on a marathon march up the field. Eleven plays and 52 yards later, Klinger's dive and out-stretched arm to break the plane of the goal line and helped the Eagles to the 14-7 advantage.
That set the stage for McWilliams' interception return. However, the Spartans, true to the AU-BU rivalry, were not through yet.
On its own 25-yard line, Benedictine coughed up the ball on a fumble after Klinger ran out of a collapsed pocket. AU linebacker Ray Boro rammed Klinger and jolted the ball loose, which was recovered by teammate Pat Funk to give Aurora a first-and-10 from the Eagles' 26.
The Spartans needed just five plays to traverse the remaining yards and come within one possession of BU on the scoreboard. Anderson (12-27-126 yards) hit runningback Dan Heinz out of the backfield for a 17-yard touchdown strike with 56 seconds left in the third period, 21-14.
The two teams jousted for most of the fourth quarter, playing a defensive chess match. With 7:20 left in the game, AU appeared on its way to a potential score by driving from its own 11 to the Benedictine 31. However, consecutive tackles for loss by Dan Kleppin and Eddie Hill netted seven yards of lost real estate. Then the big blow - a sack by Kleppin for a nine-yard loss - forced the Spartans to punt.
Behind some timely running by Klinger (25 yards rushing) and Derek Hitt (77 yards on the day), BU was able to move the ball to the Spartan 39 before punter Neal Revane - who had a 63 yard boot earlier in the game - placed the ball perfectly, rolling out of bounds at the AU six.
Pinned deep in its own end, Aurora went four-and-out after a suffocating Benedictine defense refused to budge. The Eagles took over on downs and ran out the game clock.
BU junior defensive back Mike Hatfield was the real McCoy against the AU offense, registering a season-high 12 tackles, 2 1/2 tackles for loss and a pair of pass break-ups. Senior linebacker Alex Dewey had nine tackles, while Hill and Devin Montgomery had seven tackles apiece.
In addition to McWilliams' interception, Tim Shanahan and Travis Newsome also picked off AU's Anderson.
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Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 10,000 students in 56 undergraduate and 19 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the sixth consecutive year in 2016. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ben.edu.