DePauw freshman Dane Young found his way through a convoy of Rose-Hulman blockers to stop Shane Welshans at the DePauw 22-yard line of the last play of Saturday's NCAA Division III playoff game at the Tigers' historic Blackstock Stadium, wrapping up a 26-21 win for the home team and sending the Engineers home "super frustrated," according to coach Jeff Sokol.
Rose had dominated the last three quarters of the game after falling behind 13-0 in the first period, but endured a dizzying array of mishaps and bad breaks that prevented the Engineers from ever getting closer than that final five-point margin.
The five interceptions were only part of the problem.
"We had tons of opportunities," Sokol said after the game.
"We were able to drive the ball down the field, but we kept shooting ourselves in the foot," added receiver Noah Thomas. "If we eliminate mistakes, the game would've been different."
Rose wasn't driving in the first quarter, able to pick up just two first downs, and DePauw had scoring drives of 51 and 76 yards. But the second period began with a Rose-Hulman defensive stop, and the worm began to turn.
One promising drive, set up by a 28-yard run by Welshans, ended when a field goal attempt was deflected at the line of scrimmage. Then another defensive stand led to Rose-Hulman's best drive of the day, 90 yards in 12 plays. Catches of 17 and 27 yards by Adam Tice-Saliu were the biggest ones, and Tice-Saliu caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Dion with 49.7 seconds left to cut the lead to 13-7. The Engineers were ready to go into the halftime locker room with momentum to spare.
Not so fast. DePauw's Danny Sheehan ran the kickoff back 57 yards into Rose-Hulman territory, and three straight passes — all to Northview graduate Trey Shaw — got the Tigers a touchdown with six seconds left, so the halftime score was 20-7 instead.
But the frustration hadn't even begun yet.
Rose took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove inside DePauw's 20-yard line — but missed a field goal attempt.
After a three-and-out series for DePauw, Rose got to DePauw's 28-yard line, but a holding penalty wiped out a big gain. Four plays after that, Dion's fourth-down pass was intercepted and returned 53 yards into Engineer territory.
Rose's Winston Amankwah immediately got the ball back with an interception, and Rose escaped from the shadow of its own goal posts with a drive that included a 42-yard reception by Daniel Huery. But on third-and-goal from the 8-yard line, Dion was intercepted again.
DePauw kept the ball just four plays — "They couldn't do anything against us [by this time]," linebacker Michael Stevens said after the game — before Chaikou Sow forced a fumble recovered by Kyzer Bowen at DePauw's 20-yard line. This time the Engineers were stopped on fourth-and-goal inside the 1-yard line.
DePauw kept the ball for just three plays, with Riley Roberts forcing a fumble recovered by Stevens. And, after a 21-yard run on a reverse by Thomas, the Engineers finally scored on the first play of the fourth quarter on a pass from Dion to Welshans that brought the visitors within 20-14.
The Engineers were moving into the stiff wind by this time, and Brett Tuttle sent a high, short kickoff into the gale. Rose's Caleb Brown actually caught the ball in the air just past midfield, but officials ruled that a DePauw player had been calling for a fair catch and penalized the Engineers. "We thought that should've been called different . . . but we got a stop and got the ball back anyway," Sokol said after the game.
Rose didn't keep the ball long. A third-down interception gave DePauw the ball at Rose-Hulman's 23-yard line, and this time the Tigers held it long enough to kick a field goal for a nine-point lead.
An exchange of punts — DePauw's kick with the wind, remember — put Rose at its own 4-yard line, and Dion was intercepted immediately. Facing first-and-goal at the 3-yard line, the Engineer defense forced another field goal, but now the deficit was 26-14 with just 4:33 left in the game.
"That just speaks to the mentality of the team, the toughness these guys have," Stevens said when asked about the Engineers' defensive resilience.
The Engineers used most of that time with a 75-yard drive in 15 plays. Tice-Saliu caught a touchdown pass with 35 seconds left, then recovered the onside kickoff (and, to complete a significant three-play sequence, was injured trying to catch a pass on the next play). Rose got one first down on a pass to Heury as the clock wound down, but a spike of the ball, a pass deflected in the end zone and the screen pass ended the game and an excellent season for the Engineers.
"That's football right there. That's what playoff football is all about," a relieved coach Brett Dietz of the Tigers said after the game. "Rose is a great team."
"We got through the [Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference] undefeated . . . I wouldn't trade my job for anything in the world," Sokol said. "You don't get many opportunities to win a playoff game . . . I've got the best kids in the world, and I wish we could've pulled it out."
"Win some, lose some, I'm proud of our guys either way," Stevens said.
Thomas, one of several Engineers playing because of the extra year granted for COVID reasons, said his fifth season "was amazing. Honestly, I'm kind of speechless right now. But it was a wonderful opportunity, and I couldn't pass that up."
DePauw 26, Rose-Hulman 20
D — Jaylon Smith 10 pass from Chase Andries (kick failed), 10:14 1st
D — Aaron Candiano 3 pass from Andries (Joe Sullivan kick), 2:00 1st
RH — Adam Tice-Saliu 12 pass from Andrew Dion (Jonathan Oliger kick), 0:50 2nd
D — Trey Shaw 21 pass from Andries (Sullivan kick), 0:06 2nd
RH — Shane Welshans 6 pass from Dion (Oliger kick), 14:54 4th
D — Sullivan 36 field goal, 10:34 4th
D — Sullivan 27 field goal, 4:33 4th
RH — Tice-Saliu 3 pass from Dion (Oliger kick), 0:35 4th
Time of possession=27:43=32:17
Rushing — RH: Welshans 30-124, Noah Thomas 3-33, Grant Ripperda 1-3, Dion 1-2. DePauw: Andries 10-69, Gus Baumgartner 20-57, Nathan McCahill 2-5, Drew Moore 1-minus 3.
Passing — RH: Dion 27-58-5, 355 yards; Team 0-1-0, 0. DePauw: Andries 17-24-1, 169; McCahill 0-2-0, 0.
Receiving — RH: Thomas 9-145, Tice-Saliu 6-95, Daniel Huery 3-76, Alex Gresock 3-14. DePauw: Trent Veith 5-18, Smith 4-82, Shaw 4-35, Josh Major 2-23.
Next — DePauw (9-2) plays at Wisconsin-Whitewater next Saturday. Rose-Hulman finished 8-3.