ROCKFORD, Ill. - The Rockford University football team used a dominant rushing attack on a rain soaked Saturday to earn a hard-fought 29-14 victory over Concordia University Chicago. The Regents racked up a season-high 343 rushing yards on 55 attempts for an impressive 6.2 yards per carry. It was the first time since the 2015 season that Rockford eclipsed 300 yards on the ground. With the win on Saturday, the Regents have now defeated the Cougars in two of their last three meetings.
The game got off to an excellent start as the Regents came roaring out of the gates scoring on two of their first three possessions, the first of which was set up by the RU defense. Freshman linebacker Austin Carlson (Hanover Park, Ill.) came up with the big play, intercepting a Shane Virnala pass and returning it five yards to the CUC 17-yard line. On the very next play, junior running back Chance Manning (Durand, Ill.) scampered 14 yards down to the CUC 3-yard line to give his team a first and goal. Two plays later, LaVar Johnson Jr. (Memphis, Tenn.) ran it in from 3 yards out to put Rockford in front 6-0. Dylan Peterson (Reynolds, Ill.) then gave the ball right back to the Rockford offense as he recovered the ensuing pooch kick at the Concordia Chicago 36-yard line. Rockford would methodically work its way down the field until it had a third and goal from the CUC 11-yard line. Freshman quarterback Eric Mackey (Marengo, Ill.) took it from there, tossing his first of two touchdowns on the afternoon, this one an 11-yard strike to tight end Adam Ambrogio (Rockford, Ill.). The Regents then made it 14-0 when Mackey connected with Kalan Miller (Cordova, Tenn.) on the two-point conversion attempt.
Rockford's final score of the half was again set up by its defense. This time it was Paul Barmore Jr. (Rockford, Ill.) ending a Cougar drive with an interception at the RU 38-yard line. The Regents then relied heavily on their ground attack, running the ball on eight consecutive plays to find their way into the red zone for the third time in the half. Just like on the previous scoring drive it was once again Eric Mackey who came up with the big play on fourth down, finding Adam Ambrogio in the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown pass. Mackey then connected with Ambrogio on the two-point conversion as the Regents extended their lead to 22-0.
The score remained 22-0 until the Cougars finally got on the board with their first possession of the second half. Concordia Chicago went 91 yards on 8 plays capping of the drive with a 33-yard touchdown pass to cut the RU lead to 22-6. Following three consecutive punts, CUC cut further into the RU lead with their second touchdown of the half. The Cougar score came early in the fourth quarter on a 24-yard touchdown pass to pull within eight at 22-14.
With all the momentum seemingly on Concordia Chicago's side, the RU offense put together perhaps its most crucial drive so far this season. The Regents marched 65 yards on 6 plays for its first touchdown of the second half. LaVar Johnson Jr. found the end zone for the second time in the game, as he barreled his way in from 4 yards out to make it a 29-14 Regent lead.
Concordia Chicago had one final chance to make it a one-possession game late in the fourth quarter. However, the RU defense was again up to the challenge forcing its third turnover of the game. With the Cougars facing a fourth and ten at the RU 17-yard line, junior Jared Johnson (Miami, Fla.) intercepted a Cougar pass to end the threat and give the ball back to Rockford offense. LaVar Johnson Jr. and the RU offensive line would take it from there, running the ball five straight times for 62 yards to move the ball into the red zone yet again. Rockford would then line up in victory formation, taking three knees and securing its first NACC win of the season.
Rockford relied heavily on its offensive line and ground game to secure the win. The RU offensive line dominated the Cougars all game long as the Regents nearly had three 100-yard rushers. Chance Manning led the RU attack with 133 yards rushing on 20 carries. LaVar Johnson Jr. recorded his first 100-yard rushing game of his collegiate career on Saturday. Johnson tallied exactly 100 yards on just 12 carries and scored 2 touchdowns. Eric Mackey had a season-high 91 yards rushing on 10 attempts, while also tossing a pair of touchdowns. Adam Ambrogio finished as Rockford's leading receiver with 3 catches for 35 yards and 2 scores.
Defensively the Regents shut down a talented Cougar offense. Zachary Bothem (Roscoe, Ill.) and Dylan Peterson led the Regents with 10 and 9 tackles respectively. Jared Johnson was all over the field on Saturday recording 7 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for loss and intercepting a pass. Austin Carlson and Paul Barmore Jr. each made 6 tackles and intercepted a pass as well.
The RU football team will look to win its second straight NACC game next Saturday, October 21 on the road against Aurora University. Kickoff is set for 1:00 PM.