November 3, 2019, by brzmjb1
Headliner | UoN American Football come up just short in the game of inches
Some say that American Football is a game of inches, and if anything the Headliner at David Ross Sports Village this afternoon proved it.
Elliot Harvey’s opening drive touchdown for University of Nottingham, and a resilient first half defensive display, were unfortunately not enough to prevent the University of Nottingham falling to defeat in a close and hard fought opening match against the Stirling Clansmen.
The match, watched by a sell-out crowd at David Ross Sports Village, was a tight affair with both sides heading in to the final quarter level at 6-6. It required a last minute touchdown from Stirling to secure the victory, leaving UoN to consider what might have been after failing to convert on 4th down in the final quarter by a matter of inches.
Quarter back CJ Spencer fell desperately short of the first down marker as the seconds ticked down, turning the ball over in midfield. The resultant game winning drive saw Stirling win on the road in the opening match of the British University League season.
FT | University of Nottingham 6 – 13 Stirling Clansmen
CJ Spencer, a UoN Sport scholar and graduate from UC Davis, seemingly made the perfect start to his time in Nottingham.
In the opening play, he threw a beautiful deep ball to Molnar to set up the first touchdown of the game and of the league campaign. Spencer linked up with GB Lion Running back Elliot Harvey in the resulting play to put UoN Sport on the scoreboard in the opening scoring drive which went for 70 yards, through three perfectly executed plays.
The blistering start was simple but effective. The clutch play by Molnar set up perfect field position and it was a simple hand off to Harvey who found space in front of the two safeties, got to the edge an ran the ball in to put the Green and Gold 6 points up!
University of Nottingham were denied an extra point with a blocked PAT, following a low attempt.
Rattled by the fast start, visitors Stirling almost gifted UoN more points on their opening drive of the game. Former Penn State LB, Frank Di Leo was also settling into his first game well, having read shotgun pass well and nearly picked off quarterback ,Tom Lee. Di Leo would have taken it to the house for a pick 6 if it had stuck, but the ball popped out and the play was ruled incomplete.
Despite the mounting pressure, Stirling came up with the play of the first quarter. At 4th & 3 at the UoN 30, Lee pitched the ball to his RB Emmanuel Bawa, who’s strong outside run got him to the edge and he looked destined to score had it not been for the persistence of Danylo Slechtko-Blackburn who dragged him out of bounds at the 5. The 27 yard run did come at some cost, with Bawa injured at the end of the play and left in some discomfort. A defensive shutout on the next set saw Stirling reluctantly have to settle for a field-goal.
It was the UoN offence that struggled to get a hold in the second quarter with Spencer struggling to find targets and being smothered by the relentless Mark Stewart who had an impressive game for the Clansmen on Defence. Spencer was nearly picked off and instead opted to use Harvey in the running game. The running back had an eye-catching first half following his touchdown and a powerful run late in the 2nd went for a gain of 25 yards, but unfortunately the team couldn’t convert this into points.
Green and Gold kicker, Elliot Robert played his part early on by flipping the field on two occasions with booming punts to secure strong field position for the UoN defence. This was followed by big hits from Ayo Oyelola and Paul Frost who forced a number of overthrows from Lee.
UoN brought a number of different blitz packages and shut down Stirling’s Red Zone opportunities well. The resilience by the D-line was commendable and the team restricted the Clansmen to just two FG’s in the first half to bring the scores level at 6-6 as they players headed in for the break.
If the first half was an arm-wrestle then the second half was a shootout. Both QBs taking more risks with the ball and trying to open the game up. Unfortunately, for both the ball didn’t stick when it was aired out. Lee having the better of the chances when trying to connect deep but nothing completed. Both teams will be frustrated not to have taken chances to receivers down the field.
The biggest moment of the game came at the 2minute warning and strange sequence in which UoN were their own worst enemy. With the Green and Gold in possession and driving down the field, CJ Spencer used his legs to rush for the first down on 3rd and 8 and looked to have secured his team a first down. However, there was a flag on the play, with Molnar being penalised for a hold and his team were marched back to 3rd & 14 on the resulting play. Spencer then avoided Mark Stewart who hounded the Quarterback all game and found enough space in the pocket to pick out Adewale who pulled out a big play by powering his way to 6 yards after catch and set up 4th and 1.
UoN opted to go for it on 4th and 1 and Spencer ran the ball up to the line-up scrimmage only to be stopped inches short of the first down by some superb blocking by the Clansmen. The resulting play flipped the field and at 2 minutes with ball in hand, Stirling marched down to the RedZone.
With less than a minute left, it seemed likely that the Clansmen would chew clock and take a walk-off field goal, but with two attempts already blocked in the game they left nothing to chance. A well thrown ball by Lee took Stirling down to 2 yard line, setting up a simple hitch to Jack Cochrane for a Touchdown. With the PAT attempt converted by Cauldwell, Stirling took a 13-6 lead.
55 seconds remained, yet there was still time for some magic from CJ Spencer. On-play action, he escaped the rush and threw across field to set up great field position and get the crowd on their feet for a grandstand finish. The fans were nearly given their showreel finish as a trick play, “hook-and-ladder” attempt was every close to coming off – the failed attempt ruled incomplete. Fighting against the clock, Spencer went back for one last play, throwing across his body deep to the 5 yard line . The ambitious play was broken up mid-air and the deflected ball fell kindly to the Stirling safety for a pick, and that, as they say, was that.
As Stirling took the victory formation and knelt down to see out the remaining seconds, it was University of Nottingham who were left to question what could have been if they had converted at the 2 minute warning – a matter of inches.
Speaking after the game Head Coach Jason Scott said,
“I’m proud of how those guys battled. We’ve got some work to do in the classroom and on the field on Tuesday. But failure isn’t fatal. A huge thank you to everyone who came out to support us and support the game. We will rebound from today and this defeat will be a healthy thing for us. ”
Congratulation to Stirling who fought well as a team and were well deserving of their victory at David Ross Sports Village. We must say a huge thank you to everyone who attended and made this a truly memorable event. You can catch up on all the action on social media @UoNSport
University of Nottingham American Football move on to play Durham next week Sunday in the British Universities American Football League.