ROCKFORD, Ill. - The Rockford University football team played extremely well on Saturday in a close 20-17 loss to the Benedictine University Eagles. The Regent defense had the Eagles flustered all day long forcing four turnovers and holding Benedictine to just 4-of-12 on third down conversions. Additionally Rockford scored all 17 of its points off Eagle turnovers.
After the Eagles scored a touchdown on their first drive of the afternoon to take a 7-0 lead, Rockford would answer early in the second quarter with a score of its own to tie the game. Freshman defensive back Malik Johnson (Chicago, Ill.) sparked the RU offense by intercepting a pass and returning it 22 yards to set up the Regents with a first and ten at the Benedictine 21-yard line. It would take Rockford just two plays to find the end zone when Delayno Mack (Loves Park, Ill.) connected with Mar Sean Vercher (Chicago, Ill.) on a 20-yard touchdown pass to knot the game at seven.
The game would remained tied until late in the second quarter when the Regents took their first lead of the day. The score was again set up by the defense as Lamear Downes (Detroit, Mich.) intercepted a Ryan Sample pass and returned it 66 yards to the Eagle 19-yard line. Rockford was able to move the ball all the way down to the BenU 6-yard line, but ultimately had to settle for a 24-yard Alexis Guteirrez (Amboy, Ill.) field goal to put the Regents out in front 10-7. Unfortunately the lead did not last long as the Eagles responded with a 9-play, 70-yard touchdown drive to take a 14-10 lead heading into halftime.
The Regents seemed to have the momentum early on in the second half as Rockford stopped the Eagles on their opening three possessions. Following a punt to start the half, Rockford forced a turnover on downs and then intercepted its third pass of the afternoon. On both occasions it was sophomore Dylan Peterson (Reynolds, Ill.) who came up with the big play. With the Eagles facing a fourth-and-one on the Rockford 20-yard line, Peterson stormed into the Eagle backfield and tackled the Benedictine running back for a two-yard loss, giving the ball back to the RU offense. Following a quick RU three-and-out, it was again Peterson who came through with another huge play when he intercepted his first pass of the season. Unfortunately, momentum quickly swung back to the Eagles as they promptly forced their only turnover of the game on the very next play and then one play later, connected on a 45-yard touchdown pass to take their largest lead of the day at 20-10.
The game was far from over though as Rockford put together two stellar drives on their final two possessions of the game. The first of which covered 71 yards on 18 plays and took 7 minutes and 25 seconds off the clock. Freshman quarterback Eric Mackey (Marengo, Ill.) accounted for a combined 62 yards rushing and passing on the drive as the Regents would get as close as the Benedictine 17-yard line. However a sack and a fumble would stall the drive, pushing the Regents out of field goal range and causing Rockford to turn the ball over on downs. Fortunately the RU defense was up to the task once again forcing its fourth turnover of the day. Just when it seemed the Eagles would put the game out of reach with a first and goal from the three-yard line, freshman Jallen Bashford (Fairbury, Ill.) stripped the ball and Dylan Peterson was Johnny-on-the-spot, recovering the fumble in the end zone for a touchback to give the ball back to RU offense. It would take the Regents just six plays find the end zone for the second time and pull back within three. The biggest play of the drive came when Eric Mackey found Kalan Miller (Cordova, Tenn.) for 61 yards to get inside the red zone for the second time in as many drives. Four plays later, Mackey connected on a two-yard touchdown pass to Adam Ambrogio (Rockford, Ill.) to make it 20-17 with 4:45 remaining in the game. Unfortunately Rockford would never get the ball back as Benedictine ran out the clock to seal a hard-fought 20-17 victory.
The Rockford defense stole the show on Saturday forcing four turnovers and frustrating a very talented Benedictine offense. Dylan Peterson had a monster game for the Regents recording 9 tackles, intercepting a pass and recovering a fumble. Malik Johnson also played well tallying 9 tackles and intercepting a pass. Freshman Jallen Bashford was all over the field recording a game-high 11 tackles and forcing a fumble. Zachary Bothem (Roscoe, Ill.), Chase Ferree (Crown Point, Ind.) and Jacob Cremeens (Roscoe, Ill.) all finished with 8 tackles.
Offensively Rockford was led by Eric Mackey, Chance Manning (Durand, Ill.), Kalan Miller, and Mar Sean Vercher. Mackey completed 9-of-18 passes for 118 yards and 1 touchdown. He also added 50 yards rushing on 17 carries. Manning was the team's leading rusher carrying the ball 18 times for 80 yards. Rockford's leading receivers Kalan Miller and Mar Sean Vercher caught 2 passes for 71 yards and 3 passes for 33 yards and one touchdown respectively.
The Regents return to action next Saturday, October 14 at Wisconsin Lutheran College. Kickoff is set for 1:00 PM.