LYNDHURST, OHIO – Behind a career night from its freshman running back and a couple of big special teams play, the Lake Erie College football team broke into the win column for the first time in 2012 with a 38-35 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) victory over Notre Dame College Saturday (Oct. 6) night at Korb Field, winning the first matchup between the only NCAA Division II programs in Northeast Ohio.
Freshman Anthony Bilal (Painesville, Ohio/Riverside) ran 23 times for a career-high 192 yards and a pair of touchowns. He scored on successive drives on runs of 58- and 14-yards that gave the Storm (1-5, 1-4 GLIAC) a 21-7 lead.
Sophomore Tanner Wells (Carrollton, Texas/Parish Episcopel), who made a game- and career-high 16 total tackles in his first game starting at safety, made the game's first big play by taking the snap on a fake punt and rumbling 48 yards for a touchdown on the Storm's opening drive for a 7-0 lead.
Wells picked off a pass in the end zone on Notre Dame's (1-5, 0-5 GLIAC) first drive and the Storm recovered a muffed punt by the Falcons as well, but were unable to convert them into points. After a personal foul penalty on a punt return set Notre Dame up in scoring position, Ray Russ hit Mikhail Morgan for a six-yard scoring strike to tie the game late in the first quarter.
But Bilal took the hand-off on the first play of the Storm's ensuing possession and burst through the defense for the 58-yard score, his longest run of the season. The Lake Erie defense forced a punt and Bilal again hit paydirt to make it a two-score game.
Russ threw another short touchdown pass to close within seven with just over a minute to go before halftime, but the Storm marched down the field before senior Sam Marcotte (Chardon, Ohio/Chardon) booted a career-long tying 47-yard field goal to end the half with a 24-14 lead.
The Falcons scored on their first two possessions of the second half to take the lead, 28-24. A four-yard pass from senior Patrick Nicely (Willoughby, Ohio/South/Akron) to sophomore tight end Cole Gordon (Naples, Fla./Naples/Georgia Southern) made it 31-28 at the start of the fourth quarter.
Russ scored on a 10-yard keeper to give the Falcons back the edge, but Lake Erie answered with a 12-play, 66-yard drive that took nearly five-and-one-half minutes off the clock. Nicely, who injured his knee earlier in the drive, broke free from a potential sack on a third-down-and-eight and went into the endzone from 13-yards out for the go-ahead points at 38-35.
The Storm defense buckled down and forced a NDC punt with 4:41 to go. A 29-yard run by Brandon Phenix ( Toledo, Ohio/Maumee) – one play after a 44-yard run by Bilal was called back because of holding – helped the Storm take several minutes off the clock. Bilal put the finishing touches on his big night by gaining six yards on a fourth-down-and-two with a little over one minute left and Notre Dame out of timeouts.
In addition to Bilal's big night, Phenix gained 75 yards on 14 carries as Lake Erie ran for 320 yards on the ground, nearly setting a new single game standard. The single-game high is 330 yards set against Ohio Dominican University on Oct. 3, 2009.
Bilal's 192 yards was the second highest total in school history behind Kameron Alexander's 214 yards against Tiffin on Nov. 6, 2010 and just missed being the second 200-yard game in school history. It was his third 100-yard game of the season and second in a row.
Nicely completed 12-of-20 passes for 94 yards and the touchdown. He did not throw an interception. Redshirt freshman Anthony Kukwa (Perry, Ohio/Perry/Ball State) was the top target with six catches for 44 yards.
Wells made eight solo tackles and had eight assists as part of his 16-tackle night. Classmate Marcus Rogers (Kent, Ohio/Roosevelt) finished with a dozen stops. Freshman Aturo Morgan (Lakewood, Ohio/Lakewood) also intercepted a pass.
Russ completed 26-of-41 passes for 306 yards with three touchdowns and two picks. He also added the touchdown on the ground. Pedro Powell gained 114 yards on 31 attempts and also had a TD for the Falcons.
The Storm was outgained by the Falcons 432-414, but was aided by a plus-three in the turnover column and held the ball for over seven minutes longer than did the hosts. Those takeaways helped negate Notre Dame's third-down success, as the Falcons converted 13-of-17 third down tries.
After two straight road games, the Storm returns home to host GLIAC newcomer Malone University on Saturday, Oct. 13. It is Homecoming/Alumni Weekend at Lake Erie with a 1 p.m. kickoff.