WORCESTER, Mass. – Senior quarterback Dominic Randolph (Amelia, Ohio) accounted for 358 yards of total offense and three touchdowns, to lead the 13th-ranked Holy Cross football team to a 28-26 victory over No. 20 Lafayette at Fitton Field. With the victory, the Crusaders claimed at least a share of the Patriot League championship, and earned the conference’s automatic bid to the 2009 NCAA football championship subdivision playoffs. Holy Cross improves to 9-1 overall and 5-0 in the Patriot League with the win, while the Leopards fall to 8-2 overall and 4-1 in the conference with the loss.
The Crusaders will now advance to the NCAA playoffs for only the second time in school history, with the only other appearance coming in 1983. In addition, Holy Cross wins the Patriot League title for the sixth time (previous championship came in 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990 and 1991), while reaching nine wins for the ninth time in school history and the first time since going 11-0 in 1991.
Randolph hit on 23 of 37 passes in the game for 348 yards and two touchdowns, in addition to rushing for 10 yards and another score. Junior wide receiver Luke Chmielinski (Walpole, Mass.) also had an outstanding day, catching seven passes for 87 yards and a touchdown, while rushing three times for 21 yards and a score. Junior strong safety Anthony DiMichele (McKees Rocks, Pa.) led the defense with nine solo tackles and an interception, while sophomore linebacker Jimmy Thomas (Severn, Md.) added seven solo tackles, including two tackles for loss and a sack.
Lafayette opened the game by taking a 6-0 at the 8:22-mark of the first quarter on a one-yard touchdown run by Maurice White, but Davis Rodriguez’s extra point attempt was wide left. The Leopards then increased their lead to 12-0 later in the quarter on a two-yard scoring pass from Rob Curley to Kevin Doty, but Rodriguez once again missed the extra point.
The Crusaders scored their first points midway through the second quarter on a four-yard touchdown run by Chmielinski. Lafayette responded with another one-yard touchdown rush by White, increasing its lead to 19-7. But two plays later, Randolph tossed a 22-yard scoring strike to Chmielinski, making the score 19-14. Holy Cross then had one more possession before the half ended, and Randolph scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak with just 11 seconds remaining, to put the Crusaders in front 21-19 heading into the locker room.
In the third quarter, DiMichele intercepted a Curley pass at the Holy Cross five-yard line to end a Leopard drive. The Crusaders then marched 80 yards in 11 plays, with Randolph throwing a 40-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Freddie Santana (Staten Island, N.Y.) to increase the lead to 28-19.
Lafayette refused to go away, as Curley threw a 14-yard scoring pass to Mark Layton to make the score 28-26 early in the fourth quarter. The Leopards then marched across midfield again on their next possession, but on fourth-and-10 at the Holy Cross 35-yard line, Thomas sacked Curley for a 20-yard loss. Lafayette would get the ball one more time with 38 seconds left in the game, but on the first play senior linebacker Marcus Rodriguez (Peoria, Ariz.) forced Layton to fumble, and sophomore linebacker C.J. Martin (Plano, Texas) recovered.
Holy Cross concludes the regular season next Saturday, Nov. 21, when it travels to Bucknell for a 1:00 p.m. game.