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November 15, 2008

WOLVERINES DOWN THIEL IN 25TH CUP GAME

GROVE CITY, Pa. -- The Grove City College football team retained possession of the Mercer County Cup Saturday afternoon with a 20-14 victory over visiting Thiel in Presidents' Athletic Conference action at rain-soaked Robert E. Thorn Field on Senior Day. Grove City closes the regular season with a 6-4 overall record, including a 3-3 mark in PAC play. Thiel is 2-8 overall and 1-5 in the PAC.

Grove City led 20-14 in the closing moments but Thiel drove to the Grove City 16. With five seconds left, Thiel quarterback Willie Bova attempted to spike the ball and stop the winding clock. However, Bova fumbled the snap and Thiel could not get off another play before time expired.

Junior quarterback Andrew DiDonato (Bridgeville, Pa./South Fayette) threw for a career-high 278 yards on 24-of-31 passing. DiDonato set a new Grove City single-season passing yardage record this year with 1,923 yards, breaking the mark of 1,914 yards set by Duke Johncour in 1991. DiDonato also now has 5,043 career passing yards.

Senior wide receiver Stephen Mercer (East Liverpool, Ohio/Beaver Local) pulled in 14 passes for 171 yards. The 14 passes are the second-highest single-game total in program history. Mercer caught 15 passes at Washington & Jefferson September 27 this season.

Thiel took a 7-0 lead with 12:48 left in the first quarter on Brice Mertiff's three-yard touchdown run. However ,Grove City answered with a 16-play, 60-yard touchdown drive that consumed 7 minutes, 27 seconds. On fourth-and-goal from the 3, Mercer received an end around handoff from DiDonato, then threw the ball back across the field into the end zone to DiDonato for the touchdown. It is DiDonato's second career touchdown catch.

Mercer and DiDonato combined for Grove City's second touchdown of the day in more conventional fashion as DiDonato fired a 19-yard touchdown pass with 7:07 left in the half. The pass capped a 12-play, 97-yard drive that took 7:03. Grove City owned a 38:03-21:57 edge in time of possession for the game.

Grove City closed the first-half scoring on the final play of the second quarter as sophomore kicker Craig Bicehouse (Prospect, Pa./Slippery Rock) booted a career-long 42-yard field goal. On the drive, DiDonato fired a 40-yard pass to Mercer. Freshman Clayton Hall (North Canton, Ohio/Jackson) caught a 16-yard pass that advanced the ball to the 24 and set up Bicehouse's kick.

Thiel quickly slashed the lead to 17-14 in the third quarter as Bova fired a 51-yard touchdown pass to Brendan Taylor. Bova completed 21 of 31 passes for 235 yards. Taylor caught seven passes for 135 yards.

Bicehouse kicked a 29-yard field goal with 1:35 left in the game to close the scoring.

Grove City out-gained Thiel, 380-310. The Wolverines executed 77 plays. Grove City also converted 10 of 16 third-down opportunities. The Wolverines also went 2-for-2 on fourth down. Thiel converted just four of 12 third-down situations.

Senior tailback Brian Mercer (Ridgewood, N.J./Ridgewood) led Grove City with 70 yards rushing on 24 carries. Sophomores Luke O'Hara (New Castle, Pa./Shenango) and Zach Summy (Manheim, Pa./Manheim Central) caught three passes each. O'Hara gained 40 yards while Summy added 34 yards.

Defensively, junior defensive tackle Tony Clark (Stow, Ohio/Stow) led Grove City with six tackles and a sack. Freshman weakside linebacker Jason Ferguson (Mineral Ridge, Ohio/Mineral Ridge) and senior middle linebacker Adam Eichler (North Versailles, Pa./East Allegheny) also had six stops each. Freshman nose tackle Jarred Frawley (Franklin, Pa./Franklin) also recorded a sack.

Grove City now owns a 16-9 edge in the Mercer County Cup series, which dates back to 1984. The Wolverines are also 9-1 in their last 10 Senior Day games.

This is the first time that Grove City and Thiel have played in the season finale since November 14, 1970, when the Wolverines earned a 7-0 win at Thiel. Grove City and Thiel played the season finale as part of the inaugural "Rivalry Week" in the Presidents' Athletic Conference.

Saturday's game is the final regular-season home game for cornerback Mike Baker (Harrison City, Pa./Greensburg Central Catholic), Eichler, safety Zach Fulmer (New Holland, Pa./Garden Spot), cornerback Matt Green (Mineral City, Ohio/Tuscarawas Valley), defensive tackle Bob Landsparger (Elizabeth, Pa./Elizabeth Forward), nose tackle Seth Lyon (Canton, Ohio/Perry), Brian Mercer, Stephen Mercer, linebacker Ian Minster (Pittsburgh, Pa./Mount Lebanon), guard Jerry Neilly (Bloomingdale, Ohio/Indian Creek), defensive end Ryan Rylands (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Allegheny) and guard Dave Salera (Sewell, N.J./Washington Township).

Box Score

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