Bowers Breaks NCAA Record In PAC Opener
GROVE CITY, PA, September 25, 1999--Hopefully, the NCAA Statistics Service has added "R.J. Bowers" to its spelling dictionary.
Saturday, Bowers (West Middlesex, PA/West Middlesex) established a new Division III record with his 20th straight 100-yard rushing performance. Bowers bulled his way to 253 yards as the Wolverines notched a 24-3 victory over the Bethany Bison in both teams Presidents Athletic Conference opener.
"Obviously, R.J. had a lot of yardage," Wolverine head coach Chris Smith said. "He averaged nine yards per carry and those are great statistics."
Bowers also rushed for three touchdowns and added a two-point conversion, accounting for 20 of Grove City's points. The junior fullback averaged nine yards per carry on the afternoon while running behind a reshuffled offensive line. Left tackle Kyle Millet (Erie, PA/Iroquois) moved to right tackle, replacing the injured Andy Jacks (Bridgeville, PA/South Fayette), while freshman Derek Bostick (Akron, OH/Coventry) filled Millets spot. Despite the changes, the Wolverines ran for a season-high 304 yards.
"The offensive line did a great job," Bowers said. "Anytime you have a seam to run through, it makes it that much easier to break tackles downfield and get in the end zone. They did everything they needed to do this week."
"We were able to run the ball and score points and right now, were trying to win football games," Smith said.
Grove City stumbled out of the starting blocks, however. Their first offensive drive went backwards eight yards. Meanwhile, Bethanys offensive unit consumed five minutes with an 11-play, 54-yard drive culminating in a 20-yard field goal from Scott Henderson.
The Wolverine offense kicked into gear on their second possession of the game. A 36-yard dash from Bowers placed GCC at the Bison seven. The drive ended when Wolverine kicker Ben Shreve (Union City, PA/Union City) booted a 20-yard field goal of his own to tie the game.
Then Grove Citys defense stepped forward, forced a pair of turnovers that were converted into 14 points. On a first-and-five, Josh Broerman (Grove City, PA/Grove City) forced a bad option pitch, which was recovered by Wolverine linebacker Tony Kunczewski (Irwin, PA/Penn Trafford). Bowers scampered 21 yards to the end zone on the fourth play of the drive to put Grove City up 9-3. Then, on the second play of Bethanys next drive, Grove City senior Jeremy Bowers (Hartville, OH/Lake) picked off a pass at the Grove City 33. Wolverine quarterback Steve Lacinski (New Kensington, PA/Valley) opened the drive with a 24-yard run. However, Grove Citys drive appeared ready to stall out at the Bethany 25. But on fourth-and-three, R.J. Bowers plowed ahead for five yards, keeping the drive alive. Bowers capped the 10-play drive with his second touchdown of the afternoon. He also caught John Stellas (Valencia, PA/Mars) two-point pass, putting GCC ahead by 14.
The Bison were not without their chances, though. Twice in the second half, Bethany could not convert fourth down opportunities inside the Grove City 25.
"They scored on their first possession, and thats not a good sign," Smith said. "Bethany was close several times after that. Im very proud of how our defense was able to stand up and stop them and keep them out (of the end zone.)"
Bowers completed the hat trick with 3:19 left in the third quarter. After a Bison punt, Bowers raced 48 yards for his 56th career touchdown. The 56 touchdowns puts Bowers in a tie for 11th in Division III history. Bowers now has 344 points in his career, also the 11th-highest total in D-III annals. He has 52 points in his first four games back from ankle surgery last November.
"Today was the best that Ive felt this year," Bowers said. "The weather could have had something to do with it. Being on the winning end could have had something to do with it. I feel Im starting to carry the (added) weight better and Im definitely getting in shape. Im 95%, real close to 100%. I felt quicker and I felt my top-end speed was better."
When asked about a possible future in the professional ranks, Bowers seemed somewhat unsure, yet optimistic.
"There was a "bird-dog" scout here today," Bowers said. "He really didnt say a whole lot. Theres still a lot of things up in the air. There is interest (from pro teams). All I have to do is go out every Saturday and perform and the rest of will take care of itself, I hope."
The Wolverines limited Bethany quarterback Justin Deem to 4-of-18 passing with two interceptions, both by Jeremy Bowers. Bethany chewed up 242 yards rushing, however. Freshman tailback Brandon Isbell picked up 145 yards, while classmate Will Anderson gained 58 from his fullback post. Deem rushed for 39 yards, six less than his overall passing total.
Inside linebacker Adam Corbett (Champion, OH/Champion) led Grove City with 12 tackles, while free safety Mike Kashurba (Latrobe, PA/Greater Latrobe) registered ten hits. The Wolverines also broke up six passes.
Next week, the Wolverines travel to Thiel for the annual clash for the Mercer County Cup. Grove City has won five straight over the Tomcats. Kickoff is set for 2:00 pm.
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