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Vercher Breaks the RU Receptions Record as Rockford Falls to CUW in a Shootout

Mar Sean Vercher
Mar Sean Vercher

MEQUON, Wis. - The Rockford University football team hit the road for the final time this season on Saturday when the Regents traveled north to face the Concordia University Wisconsin Falcons. Saturday's matchup turned out to be one of the wildest and most entertaining games of the season. The game featured eight lead changes as two schools lit up the scoreboard for a combined 95 points, 34 of which came in the fourth quarter. Rockford racked up a season-high 537 yards of total offense including 309 through the air and 228 on the ground. The Regents also tied the school record with an astounding 30 first downs the game. Unfortunately Rockford turned the ball over 5 imes, 2 of which came inside the CUW 10-yard line, and another was returned for a touchdown as Concordia Wisconsin escaped with a 49-46 win. 

Despite what the score might indicate, the RU defense played well for much of the afternoon, especially in the first half. The Rockford defense allowed just one touchdown and 172 yards in the opening 30 minutes. The first score of the game came with the Regents offense on the field as Concordia Wisconsin scooped up a Rockford fumble and returned it 10 yards for touchdown to take a 7-0 lead.

The RU offense quickly moved on from the fumble as it scored the game's next 13 points to jump in front 13-7. Junior Joe Breeden (Burlington, Ill.) set up Rockford's first score of the day with a 48-yard kickoff return to midfield. Six plays later, Darion Hornickel (Lowell, Ind.) found Breeden for an 11-yard touchdown as Rockford tied the game at 7-7. The Regents defense set up the next score as Lamear Downes (Detroit, Mich.) forced a fumble that was picked up by Jose Robles (Round Lake, Ill.) and returned 63 yards to the Concordia Wisconsin 9-yard line. It took the RU offense just two plays to find the end zone as Hornickel connected with Mar Sean Vercher (Chicago, Ill.) for a 6-yard touchdown to give Rockford its first lead of the day.

Everything seemed to be going Rockford's way as Concordia Wisconsin then proceeded to fumble the kickoff, which the Regents recovered at the CUW 23-yard line. Unfortunately, Rockford gave the ball right back to the Falcons on the very next play as Regents were intercepted in the end zone. The Falcons would capitalize off the turnover with their second touchdown of the game to retake the lead at 14-13. 

The Regents moved the ball very effectively on their final two drives of the half but were only able to come away with 7 points. Rockford's first drive covered 80 yards on 8 plays but the Falcons were able to force and recover a fumble on their own 7-yard line to end the Rockford scoring threat. Following a Falcon punt, the RU offense put together a 95-yard touchdown drive to retake the lead. Running back Chance Manning (Durand, Ill.) helped march the offense down the field accounting for 50 of the team's 65 yards on the ground. The drive was capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run by Darion Hornickel as Rockford took a 20-14 lead into halftime. 

The early portion of the third quarter was rough for the Regents as the Falcons scored 13 unanswered points to surge back in front 27-20.

However, the Regents would respond with 14 straight points of their own to pull ahead 34-27. Rockford tied the game at 27-27 with a 6-play, 75-yard drive capped off by an 18-yard touchdown run from Shundale Wilcox (Peoria, Ill.). The game would not stay tied for long, as Lamear Downes made yet another crucial play on defense. Downes intercepted a Falcon pass and returned it 35 yards for Rockford's first non-offensive touchdown of the season.

After the Falcons tied the game on their next possession, Rockford quickly retook the lead on its next possession. The Regents chewed up nearly six and a half minutes off the clock as they drove the ball 75 yards on 14 plays. Rockford converted on two crucial third downs and one fourth down to keep the drive alive as the Regents moved the ball inside the Falcon 10-yard line. Quarterback Andrew Perez (West Covina, Calif.) then found Vercher on a 9-yard touchdown pass to put his team back in front 40-34.

The game was ultimately decided in the closing moments as the Regents and Falcons combined to score 3 touchdowns in the final 4 minutes and 17 seconds of the game. After the Falcons took a 41-40 lead, Rockford put together what looked to be the game-winning touchdown drive. Senior quarterback Andrew Perez masterfully engineered a 9-play, 93-yard drive as Rockford retook the lead. Perez connected on all 8 of his pass attempts including a 17-yard touchdown strike to Kalan Miller (Cordova, Tenn.) to give Rockford a 46-41 lead with just 52 seconds remaining. 

Unfortunately the Falcons needed just 19 seconds to find the end zone and retake the lead. Concordia Wisconsin connected 41-yard touchdown pass along with a successful 2-point conversion to once again jump in front 49-46. 

Rockford had one final chance to tie or take the lead with only 26 seconds remaining. Perez was able to move the ball down to the CUW 33-yard line as he twice connected with Vercher to give his team one final shot to win the game. Unfortunately his pass was intercepted in the end zone on the final play of the game as the Regents dropped a heartbreaker by a final score of 49-46.

The Rockford offense continues to improve, as it turned in its best statistical performance of the season. Quarterback Andrew Perez completed 20-of-29 passes for 264 yards and 2 touchdowns. Darion Hornickel also tossed a pair of touchdowns and ran for another. Chance Manning led the Rockford ground attack with his fourth 100-yard performance of the season. Manning carried the ball 24 times for a game-high 144 yards. However, it was Mar Sean Vercher who stole the show on Saturday. Vercher hauled in an RU record 13 passes for a career-high 193 yards and 2 touchdowns. Wideouts Kalan Miller and Joe Breeden each also caught a touchdown. 

Defensively, Rockford made numerous big plays including creating four turnovers. Lamear Downes had his best statistical game of the season as he intercepted two passes, one of which he returned 35 yards for a touchdown, forced a fumble and made 5 solo tackles. Jose Robles made 9 tackles and returned a fumble 63 yards to set up a Rockford touchdown. Jared Johnson (Miami, Fla.) finished with a team-high 10 tackles including 1.5 tackles for loss and 0.5 sack. 

The RU football team concludes its season at home next Saturday, November 12 against reigning NACC Champion Lakeland University. Kickoff is set for noon at Sam Greeley Field.