Gonzaga 30, Dunbar 26
Gonzaga Coach Kenny Lucas said he could not breathe a sigh of relief until the final seconds ticked off the clock in the visiting Eagles' 30-26 victory yesterday over No. 16 Dunbar in a nonconference game. But Lucas is certainly grateful to defensive back Todd Stup for corralling an interception that ended the Crimson Tide's final drive and secured the win.
In a topsy-turvy game, during which the lead changed four times, the Eagles (2-0) finally got the defensive stop that had previously eluded them. Gonzaga took over the ball at its own 25-yard line and ran out the clock.
"We knew that they were going to try and get deep on us," Stup said. "I saw [the receiver] drifting behind me, and he [Dunbar quarterback Nathan Bussey] looked like he under threw it."
Dunbar (1-2) managed to hold the Eagles' standout senior running back, Joe Taylor, to 11 yards in the first half as the Crimson Tide took a 20-15 lead. But in the second half, Gonzaga combined the power of Taylor with the speed of junior running back Isiejah Allen to rally.
The Eagles took a 23-20 lead after senior quarterback Kevin Murray capped a 66-yard drive with a 38-yard pass to junior wide receiver Tyler Fisher with 7 minutes 22 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
On its next possession, Taylor and Allen proved a powerful duo in lifting Gonzaga to a 30-20 lead with 3:23 left in the quarter. Taylor finally broke free for a 20-yard run up the middle, and four plays later Allen scored on a 12-yard run.
"They're so aggressive on defense," said Allen, who performed superbly on special teams and defense. "So we tried to counter it with both speed and power that allowed the passing game to open up."
Still, Lucas and the Eagles did not feel they had a sizable enough cushion. "Dunbar is a good team that can put up points in a hurry," Lucas said.
The Crimson Tide responded on its second possession in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter when it recovered an Allen fumble. For a moment, it appeared that Dunbar might pull off the victory despite losing starting running back Yaqoob Thurston in the first half to a high ankle sprain.
Dunbar took over at the Eagles 38-yard line, and Bussey connected with senior James McDonald on a touchdown strike on the first play to cut the deficit to 30-26 with 7:52 remaining in the game. The Crimson Tide then managed to force Gonzaga's offense off the field in three plays. But Stup secured the Eagles' victory with his interception.