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Senior quarterback Mike Kashurba scrambled to daylight in the second half, but the Wolverines' comeback bid fell short in a 40-27 loss.

Wolverines surrender Cup

by Ryan Briggs

GAME STATS

GREENVILLE, PA, September 29, 2000--For the first time since 1993, the Mercer County Cup will not sit in Grove City College's trophy case.

Twice, host Thiel erased Wolverine leads to come away with a 40-27 victory in the 18th annual clash for the Mercer County Cup.

Two-way standouts Kevin Wilder and Rennie Gash led Thiel to its first win over the Wolverines in eight seasons. At split end, Wilder caught eight passes for 172 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown reception in the first half. Wilder also started at cornerback, making three tackles.

Gash, meanwhile, scored on a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs and also recorded 10 tackles and a sack from his outside linebacker position. However, Gash dealt the final blow to Grove City with 1:35 left, intercepting a Todd Smargiasso (New Wilmington, PA/Wilmington) pass at the GCC 12 and returning it for the win-sealing touchdown.

"I give a lot of credit to Thiel," 18th year Wolverine head coach Chris Smith said. "They did a super job offensively. They got a lot of mileage out of Rennie Gash."

Grove City (0-1, 1-2) stormed out to a 14-0 early in the second quarter. After a Tomcat punt, Steve Roberts (East Petersburg, PA/Hempfield) opened the drive with a 20-yard run. A Mike Kashurba (Latrobe, PA/Greater Latrobe) pass to tight end Mark Byrer (Morgantown, WV/University) netted nine yards while Mike Orlando (Wickliffe, OH/Wickliffe) picked up 26 yards, giving GCC first-and-goal at the 10.

Orlando, who finished with 136 yards on 22 carries, scored the first of his three touchdowns on a 2-yard run, giving Grove City a 6-0 lead with 2:25 left in the first quarter.

On the Wolverines' next possession, the lead grew to 14-0, thanks to a critical fourth-down conversion. The Wolverines faced fourth-and-1 at the Thiel 46 when Jason Walent (Massillon, OH/Tuslaw) took a direct snap from Byrer in punt formation and raced 17 yards to the Thiel 29. Two plays later, Kashurba scored on a 23-yard option keeper with 12:20 left in the half. Orlando added the two-point conversion.

Thiel cut the lead in half with a 9-play, 54-yard drive capped by a Gash touchdown run.

Grove City reclaimed a two-touchdown lead moments later as Orlando single-handedly took the Wolverines down the field.

Orlando garnered 16 yards on the first play of the drive before blowing up the middle on a trap play for a 50-yard gain to the Thiel 3. The senior fullback then hit paydirt on his next carry, bumping the lead to 20-7.

Wilder's 75-yard touchdown reception from T.J. Wiley, who threw for 251 yards and three scores, trimmed the lead to 20-13. With 19 seconds left in the half, a Wiley-to-Donte Harris touchdown pass tied the game at 20.

Thiel then took the opening possession of the second half 80 yards in 14 plays as Wiley completed a 31-yard scoring toss to Jamell Thomas for a 26-20 lead.

Grove City countered, though. Free safety Josh Sachleben (Ringtown, PA/North Schuykill) intercepted a Daryl Moore pass at the Thiel 25. Following a 22-yard run from Kashurba, Orlando scored from the 1. Matt Styer (Greenford, OH/South Range) drilled the PAT to give GCC a 27-26 lead.

Thiel took the lead for good in the fourth quarter as Gash scored on a 1-yard touchdown run.

Thiel gained 415 yards of offense, including 294 through the air.

"It's tremendously disappointing," Smith said. "We had high hopes that this would be the start of a real strong PAC drive and obviously did not expect the first game of the conference schedule to turn out this way."

Inside linebacker Mark Graziano led the Wolverines with 13 tackles while Adam Corbett (Warren, OH/Champion) made 10 stops.

Byrer had a pair of receptions for Grove City while Roberts finished with 73 yards rushing on 11 carries.

Wolverine freshman center B.J. Arnold (Brookfield, OH/Brookfield), who was carried off on a stretcher in the third quarter and rushed to a nearby hospital, is resting comfortably at home after being diagnosed with a mild concussion.  Arnold was hit as he raced down the field on punt coverage.

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