In a game determined by turnovers, the moment that stood out in the Lions’ home opener last Friday, Sept. 13, was junior linebacker Ryan Lowe returning an interception for six points that pulled them within reach of FDU-Florham in the third quarter.
Lowe reached for a grab at full extension at the 47-yard line, ran directionally across the field, and shook a couple of tackles near the endzone to set the score at 15-12.
“It was a quick pass — they were running a lot of quick passes throughout the game — and it was kind of about just being at the right place at the right time,” Lowe said. “When I caught the ball, all of a sudden I saw 10 other guys rushing out to block for me and I was just hoping to stay in bounds, but when you’ve got 10 guys to block for you it’s pretty easy to stay in bounds. It was a big play in the game, and we were happy to change the momentum a little bit.”
That would be as close as the Lions (0-2) would get to a lead, as the Devils kicked a field goal and stoned a late Lions drive in the red zone with their sixth interception of the game for an 18-12 win.
Sophomore quarterback Chris Spellman had a night to forget, going 11-for-36 for 157 yards, one touchdown and six interceptions.
“Even after the game, when I watched film with (head coach Wayne Dickens), I realized I almost forgot the first (interception),” Spellman said. “Having a short memory is good. We have a bye week, and it’s important to watch film in practice. You can’t expect to turn the ball over six times and expect to win the game.”
The Lions offense did manage to make some magic late in the second quarter, on a Spellman pass to junior wide receiver Kyle Janeczek.
Janeczek lept to catch the ball in coverage at the Devils’ 34-yard line, manuevered around a couple of tackles and burst clear, putting the exclamation point on a night for the wide receiver, which ended with a stat line of five grabs and 89 receivings yards.
“He’s a good player, a really good athlete,” Spellman said. “He just rouns his routes, crisply gets open and I put the ball where he is and he gets open. It was a good catch and a better run, he ran it probably 30 yards after the catch.”
The Devils’ defense would occassionally bend but never broke during the rest of the night, though, giving FDU a win in its season opener.
The Lions defense managed to keep the game close for the entire 60 minutes, holding the Devils to just 18 points on 17 drives.
“I thought we played well,” Lowe said. “As a team, we definitely had a good game plan coming in, and as a total unit everyone played well from the defensive line to the secondary to the linebackers. There were still plays throughout the game we thought we could have played better, but as a whole we’ve done well. I’m happy with where we are and where we’re going.”
The Lions’ dual ground threat of sophomores Victor Scalici and Brad Young averaged more than three yards per carry, combining for 96 yards on 31 carries, and will look to help the team forge its identity in the coming weeks.
“We want to be a running team and establish a ground game,” Spellman said. “We want to be able to do a little bit of everything — we don’t want to be a one-trick pony — but we want to establish a runing game, first and foremost.”
The Lions will have plenty of time in the coming weeks to regroup and get back in the win column.
“Coming up we hage a bye week, that will be big in the senses that we can rest up and correct on a lot of the things that need improvement,” Lowe said. “With the week off, it’s definitely going to help us and it will definitely be better for the team to reflect on the first two games of the year, and hopefully for the next several weeks to play well.”