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W&J Downs Thiel 34-24 in PAC Opener

Written by: on Sunday, September 21st, 2008

By Bill Albright
Western PA Writer

During the first half of Saturday’s PAC matchup between Washington & Jefferson and Thiel, the two teams decided absolutely nothing as they each scored a touchdown and field goal for a 10-all deadlock at halftime.
However, during the third period, the Presidents, led by All-American candidate Bobby Swallow (West Branch/Salem), scored 17 unanswered points to give them some separation from the Tomcats (0-3, 0-1) en route to a 34-24 win at Alumni Stadium.
“We were playing without our best back, but once we were able to run the ball, we were able to take some of the pressure off Bobby (Swallow),” said W&J coach Mike Sirianni. “I just told the guys at halftime, hey, we are in a game where we aren’t playing very well, they have good players, they are well-coached and are playing well. We regrouped and made some adjustments at halftime and I am happy with the way the guys responded.”
While tossing the touchdown aerial covering 47 yards to Craig Besong during the first period, Swallow eclipsed yet another plateau as he surpassed the 6,000-yard mark for his career.
For the game, Swallow finished with 21 completions on 35 attempts for 253 yards and a pair of scores, giving him 6,189 yards and 74 touchdowns with seven regular season games remaining.
“I try not to think about the numbers,” said Swallow. “I know it is talked about a lot, but is that is what it takes for our team win, that is what I want to do. All I ever do is try and put our team in its best possible situation to win the game.”
As for his personal performance, Swallow was more happy with the win.
“I am definitely happy that we got a win,” Swallow said. “But what we need to do is put a full game together. I think when we do that, we are going to be a very good football team. It is good when you win while making mistakes that you can fix. It is only week three and there is a lot of football left so we just have to move on.”
With the 10-10 tie at the break, Sirianni noted there was no cause for panic.
“I think we are well coached and to be honest about it, I think Thiel might be the best-coached team in the conference,” praised Sirianni. “I knew they (the Thiel coaches) were going to have them ready to play so there was no panic on our part. If they don’t give up the fumble to Marietta when they were driving down the field, they might have come in here today 2-0.”
Although his Tomcats fell 10 points short of the Presidents (3-0, 1-0), Thiel head coach Jack Leipheimer liked some of the things he saw from his club.
“I am very pleased with the way our kids came out and played today,” said Leipheimer. “We finally played like we are capable of playing. W&J is a heckuva football team and there is no question about it. We had our chances and that is all you can ask for. If we don’t fumble the ball down here (in the red zone) and lose a couple of other opportunities, it might have been different.”
Just prior to halftime, the Presidents had an opportunity to take the lead, but a fumble on fourth down by Swallow ended the drive as the Thiel defense kept the Presidents out of the end zone.
“I never even got the ball,” noted Swallow. “I think one of their defensive players yelled ‘go’ and our center mistook that for me. I never even got the snap so it is just one of those plays that hopefully won’t happen again.”
Working from the shotgun formation most of the time, Swallow uses a somewhat different approach to getting the snap. Instead of using a pumping motion of his foot so the center can visually see that he is ready, he claps his hands.
“That (clapping of the hands) lets the center know that I am ready to get the ball,” he said. “We picked it up off West Virginia a couple of years ago. He snaps the ball and yells ‘go’ to let the other linemen know when the snap has been made.”
Although his club is 0-3 overall and 0-1 in the conference, Leipheimer feels the Tomcats are improving one step at a time.
“I just told the guys today we are a much better football team right now than we were a week ago,” said Leipheimer. “There is no question about that and we have to build on this and take it on.”
In Sirianni’s case, he views his club progressing at the proper pace to be where they want to be at the end of the regular season.
“We aren’t as good as we are going to be which is fine,” he said. “I think we have peaked early in the past and then sailed out at the end and we don’t want that to happen.”

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