GW's Jordan Clay reaches the ball over the goal line as he's brought down by St. Francis DeSales defenders Savvid Kanu (4) and Tucker Yinger.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Life went on for George Washington without Dustin Crouser on the field. Actually, it went on pretty well Friday night.With Crouser in street clothes and out for the season, the Patriots turned back a playoff-desperate St. Francis DeSales team from Columbus, Ohio, 49-20. The game was closer than the score indicated, as the fifth-ranked Patriots didn't enjoy a two-score lead until midway through the fourth quarter.Ryan Switzer performed his usual magic, getting involved in four touchdowns - a 4-yard option pass to Jordan Clay, a slick 15-yard delayed draw, a 45-yard Kennedy Award-caliber catch and run and a 26-yard romp in the final minute.But it certainly wasn't all about Switzer on this night at Steve Edwards Sr. Field. Trevor Bell was cool behind center, overcoming five sacks to go 14 of 17 for 193 yards with two passing touchdowns and another on the ground. Jordan Clay was his go-to target, pulling down 10 passes for 129 yards and two scores.
The Patriots (7-2) had four sacks of their own and scooped up two critical fumbles, helping them overcome a band of Stallions who were trying to extend their streak of 18 straight playoff appearances."We had some guys step up who hadn't played," said GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. "We had four starters out this evening and we had some kids step in there - [Will] Graley and the [Trevor] Wooten kid stepped in [on the line], Trevor Bell came alive tonight. He did what we asked him to do, what he was going to have to do, take some pressure off those guys."We just kept trying to be patient and, man, they played really hard tonight."Crouser, the star fullback/linebacker, tore his anterior cruciate ligament last week against Capital, and will visit the doctor again Tuesday. The Patriots also missed left tackle Jack Skidmore and left guard Alex Jones with shoulder injuries, and running back/wide receiver Jacob Jackson was out with a rib injury.The Stallions (5-5) outgained the Patriots 333-293, but GW scored the first touchdown and led the rest of the way.That wasn't a given, though. DeSales drove from its 17-yard line to the GW 30 and quarterback Alex Perrine scrambled to complete a deep ball on fourth-and-6, but he was flagged for throwing from beyond the line of scrimmage. With a loss-of-down penalty, GW was awarded possession.And GW did well with it, driving 65 yards on seven plays. Switzer gained 23 yards on a third-and-14 draw for the Patriots' first first down of the game, and eventually Bell hit Clay for a 22-yard score.DeSales fumbled at the GW 15 in the second quarter, but scored two plays later when Oliver Grimard intercepted a Bell pass and ran it 23 yards. Charlie Stack missed the extra point, leaving GW up 7-6.Bell and Clay struck for 29 yards on a fake punt, giving GW a first down on the DeSales 23. Four plays later, Switzer took a pitch and tossed an easy pass to Clay for a 14-6 lead, which was the halftime margin.DeSales held GW to a three-and-out to start the third quarter and drove 80 yards in 11 plays, finishing with Tyler West's 12-yard run. But Zack Malone sacked Perrine on the 2-point conversion, keeping GW ahead 14-12.At that point, Switzer woke up and stung the Stallions, starting with a 57-yard kickoff return. He was fortunate on the play, though - he fumbled and a teammate somehow wrestled the ball away in an intense pile of humanity.
Switzer didn't let loose of the ball again, whether on his 15-yard draw or his 45-yard field-reversing run off a swing pass on the next possession. Those two scores gave GW a 28-12 lead with 1:00 left in the third quarter."We had to be patient," Edwards said of Switzer's eventually explosion. "We had some young kids playing, we had to get some things opened up, and we were able to do that. Our offensive coaches did a great job today of moving him around and taking advantage of some things that we saw, and coming back to it. And the kids executed - it's all about execution."DeSales had plenty of life left at that point, as Perrine hit two big passes on a 77-yard drive. Andrew Sparks took advantage of a breakdown in coverage to haul in a 41-yard pass, and Perrine ran in the 2-point conversion to make it 28-20 with 10:40 left.Still behind and not confident in their kick coverage, the Stallions tried an onside kick and recovered. But there was one problem: The kick traveled about 9 yards and 33 inches, the officials ruled, just short of the required 10 yards. The Patriots then drove 49 yards in 11 plays and nearly five minutes, going ahead 35-20 on Trevon Johnson's 2-yard run.That put the Stallions in desperation mode, and they couldn't escape their own end. The Patriots answered with Bell's 1-yard run and Switzer's 26-yard scoring scoot with 38.8 seconds left.DeSales entered the game ranked 10th in Ohio's Division 3 Region 10, and needed to climb two spots to make the playoffs. With the loss, the Stallions will stay home next week for the first time since 1993.
Two of the Stallions' losses came in triple overtime, making Friday's trip home even more painful."When it's your last game like this, it's even tougher, and tough for your seniors," said DeSales coach Ryan Wiggins. "They played hard; we just didn't play well enough. We played poorly on special teams, gave up too many return yards. Had trips to the red zone where we didn't get any points."George Washington's a good team and Switzer's an unbelievable player, but we didn't do ourselves any favors by giving them as many chances as we did."Switzer rushed for 86 yards on 16 carries and had two receptions for 48 yards.Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.