November 13, 2004
Comeback Falls Short; Arkansas Tech 24, Catawba 20RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. --- Arkansas Tech University won an NCAA Division II Playoff game for the first time in school history by defeating the Catawba College Indians (N.C.) 24-20 in a first-round game at Buerkle Field on Saturday afternoon.
Tech sophomore defensive end Cedric Cursh sealed the win when he stripped the ball away from Catawba wide receiver Corey Ready and then grabbed the fumble out of mid-air at the Wonder Boys' 47-yard line with 38 seconds remaining.
Tech (10-1) took a knee on the ensuing play and time expired, giving the Wonder Boys their first postseason victory since they defeated Northern State (S.D.) 24-0 in the semifinal round of the 1971 NAIA National Playoffs.
Catawba (7-4) led 20-17 at halftime, but Tech scored two third-quarter safeties to take the lead. The first came with 11:58 left in the period on an intentional grounding call when Indians' punter Stephen Petrilyak attempted a pass from Catawba's end zone after a snap had gone through his fingers and rolled to the goal line.
Cursh then recorded the go-ahead safety when he sacked Indian quarterback Luke Samples in the end zone with 1:45 left in the third quarter. It was Cursh's team-leading ninth sack of the season and it put the Wonder Boys in front 21-20.
Mark Ewersmann added a 28-yard field goal with 13:32 left in the fourth quarter to set what proved to be the final margin, but otherwise, the second half belonged to the Arkansas Tech defense. The Wonder Boys limited Catawba to 98 yards of total offense in the final two quarters and held the Indians scoreless during the second half after they had rolled up 20 points and 218 total yards before halftime.
Cursh led Tech's defense with 10 tackles, two of which were for a loss, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. Andrew Jackson and Cedric Flemons added nine tackles apiece for the Wonder Boys.
Quarterback Jason Campbell, wide receiver Thomas Hosey and tailback R.J. Vanhook led a balanced Tech offense. Campbell completed 20-of-24 passes for 254 yards, Hosey caught seven passes for 121 yards and Vanhook rushed 27 times for 152 yards and two touchdowns. It was Vanhook's second consecutive 100-yard rushing game and the third 100-yard rushing game of his freshman season.
Samples completed 23-of-35 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns in a losing effort. Rod Tenor caught six passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns for the Indians. Catawba's Lester Sconyers recorded a game-high 17 tackles.
The Wonder Boys took a quick 7-0 lead when Vanhook darted 18 yards for a touchdown with 14:00 left in the first quarter. Samples threw a 43-yard scoring strike to Tenor to knot the score at 7-7 with 11:09 to go in the opening period, but Vanhook came right back with a 1-yard touchdown run at the 6:11 mark of the first quarter.
The back-and-forth continued when Samples and Tenor connected on their second touchdown pass of the first quarter, a 24-yard toss that tied it at 14-14 with 11 seconds remaining in the first period.
The second quarter was all field goals. Mark Ewersmann made a 32-yard kick for Tech with 2:25 left before halftime, but Catawba's Allan Rohrbaugh was good from 36 and 30 yards during the second period to give the Indians a 20-17 halftime lead.
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