Muhlenberg 34, Grove City 31 (OT)
#33 R.J. Bowers
Bowers Injured In Overtime Loss
November 7, 1998--Needing less than 100 yards to break the NCAA Division III season rushing record, Grove City College sophomore R. J. Bowers (West Middlesex, PA/West Middlesex) was forced to leave the game after fracturing his left ankle with 11:22 remaining in the third quarter at Muhlenberg Stadium in Allentown, PA.
Without Bowers, Grove City rallied from a 21-14 deficit to tie the game at 28-28, but fell in overtime, 34-31. The Wolverines closed the year 5-5 overall, while Muhlenberg improved to 4-5 with its second straight overtime win.
The injury was suffered on a third-and-four from Muhlenberg's 35-yard line. Bowers planted his foot on the artificial turf to cut on a counter play before his left ankle buckled under the force of the three Muhlenberg tacklers. "I have never in my life felt this kind of pain," said a crushed Bowers. "Two defenders were on my right and one was on my left. One guy came in low and the next thing I heard was pop, pop, pop."
A four-yard loss on the play gave him 172 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns. He left with the Division III record for points in a season (206) previously held by Coe's Carey Bender (194 in 1994). The only other college football player to score more points in a season was Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders, who scored 234 points in 1988.
The 6-foot-1, 230-pound fullback finished the season with 2,283 yards, 102 yards short of the Division III standard (2,385) set by Marietta's Dante Brown in 1996. Bowers' 228.3 yards per game is the third-best average in all NCAA divisions behind Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders (238.9) and Brown (238.5). His rushing total is fourth-best in all divisions behind Sanders (2,628), Brown (2,385), and Southern Cal's Marcus Allen (2,342).
With one kickoff return for 28 yards and a catch for minus-one yard, Bowers accumulated 199 all-purpose yards, raising his season sum to 2,876- the fourth - best total in all NCAA divisions and second-best in Division III.
The Wolverines spotted Muhlenberg a 21-0 lead before Bowers posted touchdown runs of 25 and 41 yards plus a two-point conversion to cut the margin to 21-14. The Mules countered with a TD pass at 7:47 left in the third to go up 28-14. Freshman quarterback John Napotnik (Sharpsville, PA/Sharpsville), making his first start in place of injured Steve Lacinski, trimmed the deficit back to seven with a 31-yard strike to sophomore split end Jake Dailey (Karns City, PA/Karns City) with 13:38 left in the fourth.
After junior Brian Smith (Cherry Creek, NY/Pine Valley) blocked a punt, senior Aaron Kaiser (Cortland, OH/Lakeview) scored on the next play from 20 yards out to tie the game, 28-28, with 11:42 showing. It would be the last score by either team in regulation.
Wolverine sophomore Ben Shreve (Union City, PA/Union City) opened the overtime with a 33-yard field goal, but the Mules countered with a 25-yard game-winning touchdown pass on their alternate possession.
"It was a real emotional game," said GCC head coach Chris Smith.
"Our men showed what they are made of when R.J. went down. You can't replace
R.J. Bowers. But I was proud of the way our players responded."
Kaiser finished with 106 yards rushing on 16 carries. Napotnik completed five of 11 passes for 70 yards.
Senior defensive end Mark Furgeson (Gaithersburg, MD/Gaithersburg) was credited with four of the Wolverines' eight quarterback sacks. Senior outside linebacker Casey Creehan (Belle Mead, NJ/Vermillion(SD)) and freshman inside linebacker Adam Corbett (Champion, OH/Champion) each had 10 tackles.
BOWERS GAME-BY-GAME IN 1998:
|Sep. 5||at Wooster||35||127||2|
|Sep. 12||at Ohio Wesleyan||25||122||1|
|Sep. 26||at Bethany||37||292||4|
|Oct. 10||at W&J||38||288||3|
|Oct. 17||at Waynesburg||33||228||3|
|Nov. 7||at Muhlenberg||21||172||2|
BOWERS RECORDS SET IN 1998:
NCAA Division III Records Set
Season Rushing Touchdowns (34)
Season Points (206)
School Records Set
Game Rushing Yards (304)
Season Rushing Yards (2,283)
Career Rushing Yards (3,522)
Game Carries (43)
Season Carries (329)
Game All-Purpose Yards (355)
Season All-Purpose Yards (2,876)
Career All-Purpsose Yards (4,902)
Game Touchdowns (6 tie)
Season Touchdowns (34)
Career Touchdowns (48)
PAC Records Set (4 games)
Game Rushing Yards (304)
Season Rushing Yards (1,112)
Season Rushing Yards Per Game (278.0)
Game Touchdowns (6)
Season Touchdowns (16)