After overcoming a 21-point deficit, the No. 15/23 University of Redlands football team eventually nabbed a 30-24 victory against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges on a "Hail Mary" play as time expired. With a gutsy performance on both sides of the ball, the Bulldogs put up 10 points in 62 seconds to end the second quarter and then out-scored the Stags, 20-3, in the final two periods for the exciting comeback victory in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) action.
After CMS recovered its own onside kick on the opening play, Redlands struggled to find its rhythm for most of the first half. The Stags racked up three touchdowns on six drives, while the Bulldogs were forced to punt on five occasions.
Finally, the Maroon and Gray orchestrated a scoring series, leading up to sophomore kicker Kevin Grady's (Seattle, WA) 22-yard field goal with 1:36 left in the second quarter.
On the ensuing CMS drive, junior linebacker Zak Mella (Yucaipa, CA) nabbed an interception for the Bulldogs, positioning them on the Stag 45-yard line. With opportunity knocking, junior quarterback Chad Hurst (Dixon, CA) hit senior wide receiver Tyler Aubrey (San Diego, CA) for a 44-yard strike, which set up a one-yard scoring run by sophomore running back David Woolbert (Irvine, CA).
Although Redlands still faced an 11-point deficit, these two scoring spurts in a 62-second span helped inspire enthusiasm and determination out of the locker room at halftime, possibly changing the outcome of the game.
The Bulldog defense set the tone on the Stags' first play of the second half, forcing a four-and-out series without allowing the ball to move one inch.
The tides were definitely turning as sophomore running back Bobby Brown (Ladera Ranch, CA) carried the ball to the house on a nearly untouched 87-yard run. He went on to amass 102 yards on nine attempts for his second consecutive game beyond the century mark.
CMS settled into a time-wasting drive, taking nine minutes off the clock and scoring a field goal from 49 yards, in an effort to hold onto its dwindling lead.
Down by seven with plenty of time, Redlands returned to its methodical and successful ways of moving the ball, putting together an eight-play, 73-yard drive for a touchdown. Woolbert's effective rushing moves played a key role by contributing 21 yards before Hurst found Aubrey on a 31-yard reception for the score.
Tied at 24, the teams rallied back and forth, effectively moving the ball only to be halted by the opposing defense in the final stretch.
One such strong defensive play came when senior defensive back Richard Dye II (Sacramento, CA) snagged a 67-yard interception, putting the Bulldogs in prime position to set up the winning score. However, the Redlands offense gave up a pair of penalties, while the Stag defense stepped up and eventually earned the takeaway on a Bulldog fumble.
With less than two minutes left, this game seemed to be destined for overtime, as the Maroon and Gray stopped CMS' last-ditch efforts to score while holding the Stags to 16 yards on five plays over 96 seconds.
One last chance for the Bulldogs, they began the drive on their own 41 with 14 seconds left in the game. Hurst found sophomore wide receiver Taylor Irwin (Rocklin, CA) for 17 yards and the first down but left only one second on the clock.
Following a timeout, Hurst dodged the defense and let go of a "Hail Mary" attempt as time expired, with Aubrey tipping it into the hands of Irwin for the 42-yard winning score.
Watch the winning catch, which was nominated for D3football.com's Play of the Week.
Aubrey finished with 92 yards on five catches, while Irwin came up with 95 on six grabs.
Overall, the Bulldog offense notched 232 yards passing and 158 rushing for a balanced attack.
In an effort to control the pace of play, CMS possessed the ball for more than 40 minutes of the game, forcing the Maroon and Gray to create efficient scoring opportunities in less than 20 minutes.
Defensively, junior linebacker Justin Butler (Poway, CA) led the Bulldogs with 15 total hits, including six of the solo variety. Senior defensive back Josh Herrera (Vista, CA) contributed nine tackles and two pass break-ups.
The Bulldogs (4-1, 2-1 SCIAC) sit in a tie for second place with Occidental College and look forward to facing the Tigers on Saturday in a 7 p.m. conference showdown in Eagle Rock.