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R.J. Bowers ran down the NCAA Division III career rushing record in Saturday's 20-point win over Thiel.

Bowers breaks Division III all-time rushing record as Wolverines top Thiel, 27-7

Game Stats

GROVE CITY, PA, September 30, 2000--Grove City fullback R.J. Bowers (West Middlesex, PA/West Middlesex) became Division III’s all-time leading rusher, amassing 301 yards as the Wolverines downed Thiel, 27-7, in front of a Homecoming crowd of over 4,500 at Robert E. Thorn Field.

Bowers, who scored three touchdowns on the afternoon, broke the record formerly held by Coe College’s Carey Bender on the game’s fourth play.  On first-and-ten at the Wolverine 47, Bowers picked up an errant pitch from quarterback Steve Lacinski (New Kensington, PA/Valley) and raced 11 yards into Thiel territory to break the record. Bowers entered the afternoon 16 yards shy of Bender’s record.

“I knew 16 yards would come quick,” Bowers said. “We’ve had a week off and the offensive line worked so hard. Give them credit – there were some great holes.”

“We’re extremely fortunate with what we’ve got going,” 17th-year Grove City head coach Chris Smith said. “It’s also 80 other players who are putting a team together. It’s really an honor. Is it great? It’s fantastic.”

The 6-1, 238-pound senior carried the ball 40 times on the afternoon. He now has 6,411 yards in his career, the third-highest total in NCAA history. Saturday, Bowers surpassed Heisman Trophy winners Ron Dayne and Ricky Williams, along with current Pittsburgh Steeler and former Winston-Salem standout Richard Huntley.

“I’m flattered to be mentioned in the same sentence with them,” Bowers said.

It was Lacinski, however, who got the Wolverines on the scoreboard in the first quarter. After Bowers’ historic carry, the senior quarterback sprinted 42 yards on an option play to put Grove City ahead less than three minutes into the game. Matt Styer (Greenford, OH/South Range) drilled the PAT, giving Grove City a 7-0 lead.

“It’s always nice to have a back like R.J.,” Lacinski said. “He gave a great fake. He opens up so much. After that, it’s pretty much one-on-one with the safety. Jake Dailey (Karns City, PA/Karns City) had an unbelievable block downfield. At that point, I was thinking, ‘Am I gonna score? Am I gonna score?’”

The Wolverines quickly regained possession as Thiel muffed Ben Shreve’s (Union City, PA/Union City) bloop kickoff. Wolverine linebacker Josh Albright (Bethel Park, PA/Bethel Park) recovered the loose ball at the Tomcat 33.

Grove City cashed in the opportunity with a 7-play drive, capped by Bowers’ three-yard touchdown run. Styer’s second PAT made it 14-0.

“I’m very happy to say that R.J. has used up his eligibility,” Thiel head coach Dave Armstrong said. “We had six freshmen starting on defense. The problem was we were a little intimidated at the beginning.” In his career, Bowers rushed for 963 yards in four games against Thiel.

The Wolverines stretched their lead to 21-0 midway through the second quarter. After stopping the Tomcats on downs at the Grove City 21, the Wolverines needed only four plays to score.

Bowers opened the possession with a 17-yard run. After Michael Orlando (Wickliffe, OH/Wickliffe) powered his way for 9 yards, Bowers raced 47 yards on a cutback to the end zone. Freshman Mike Titzel (Greenville, PA/Greenville) tacked on the extra point.

The Tomcats, who were missing 5 starters because of staph infection, rallied at the outset of the second half. Thiel used over 5 minutes of the clock to assimilate a 12-play, 70-yard drive. Freshman tailback Justin Napotnik raced into the end zone from 9 yards out, slashing the lead to 21-7.

“We are a good team,” Armstrong said. “We didn’t show it in the first half.” Last week, Thiel upset 21st-ranked Thomas More, 13-12.

The Wolverines also limited Thiel’s multi-purpose weapon, Rennie Gash, to just one carry for –4 yards.

“I thought without (Gash), they don’t beat Thomas More,” Smith admitted. “He scored the tying touchdown, he threw – I was concerned about him.”

Grove City sealed the victory in the fourth quarter as Bowers gained 62 yards on an 11-play drive. Following the blocks of Orlando, right guard Andy Jacks (Bridgeville, PA/South Fayette) and right tackle Kyle Millet (Erie, PA/Iroquois), Bowers tallied his third score of the afternoon with an 11-yard run.

Defensively, outside linebacker Jonathan Forbes (New Martinsville, WV/Magnolia) recorded a pair of sacks in his first action since Week Two.

“It was good to have him back,” Smith said. “His presence was felt with two sacks.”

Inside linebacker Adam Corbett (Warren, OH/Champion) recorded a sack and 13 tackles, including three for loss.

The victory was Grove City fifth straight on Homecoming and seventh straight in the Mercer County Cup series with Thiel.

 “Homecoming, Mercer County Cup, national record, rival Thiel, first Presidents’ Athletic Conference game – it’s a big day,” Smith said. “A lot of things make this day special.”

The 2-2 Wolverines travel to Washington and Jefferson next Saturday.

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