WATERVILLE (NEWS CENTER)- Despite a huge day from Colby College first-year quarterback Justin Ciero (Chappaqua, N.Y.), Wesleyan University stayed unbeaten on the season after scoring 10 points in the final 2:31 of the contest to pull out a 31-28 victory in New England Small College Athletic Conference football Saturday at Seaverns Field at Harold Alfond Stadium.
Wesleyan moves to 3-0 and will journey back up to Maine for a 1 p.m. game next Saturday at Bates College. Colby drops to 0-3 overall and will play at Amherst College next Saturday at 1 p.m.
Sebastian Aguirre (Denville, N.J.) booted a 20-yard field goal with just 34 seconds remaining for the deciding points and then the Cardinals had to hold off a wild final drive by Colby.
LaDarius Drew (Mesquite, Texas) had 112 yards rushing and two touchdowns for Wesleyan, while tight end Kevin Hughes (Boxboro, Mass.) finished with five catches for 115 yards. Cardinal quarterback Jesse Warren (Chicopee, Mass.) threw for 233 yards and one touchdown.
For the Mules, first-year quarterback Justin Ciero (Chappaqua, N.Y.) had his best game of his young career with 283 yards passing, three passing touchdowns, 102 yards rushing, one rushing touchdown and no interceptions. Senior Derrick Beasley, who plays defensive back for the Mules, made his collegiate offensive debut and did it style with two touchdown catches on three grabs for 46 yards.
Ciero gave the Mules a 28-21 lead on a 5-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter. Ciero had a 17-yard completion to Michael Lahiff (Melrose, Mass.) and added runs himself of 8 and 13 yards on the drive.
The start of Wesleyan's comeback happened on a bad snap from center with the Mules punting from their own 43-yard line. Wesleyan recovered the ball at Colby's 38-yard line and suddenly had good field position with about five minutes to play.
Warren had five completions on the drive and Drew rushed for 12 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown run with just 2:31 to play to tie it at 28-28.
The Mules went three-and-out on their drive and a 28-yard punt into the wind gave the Cardinals the ball on their own 43-yard line. Drew had the big play of the drive, a 31-yard run to get the ball to the Colby 4-yard line. Three plays later, Aguirre kicked his field goal.
With just 34 seconds and no timeouts, Ciero hit Beasley on a huge 30-yard completion to the Wesleyan 40-yard line. With just seven seconds remaining, Ciero found Indigo Dow (Cambridge, Mass.) for a first down at the Cardinal 22-yard line. Colby argued that time was still left on the clock and it should have been stopped after Dow had the first down, but the officials ruled that time had run out.
Colby held leads of 7-0, 14-7, 21-14, and 28-21 in the game. The Mules took the opening drive 75 yards in 11 plays and converted when Ciero hit Beasley on an 8-yard scoring pass.
Wesleyan had great field position on the Mules' 32-yard line to start a drive after a punt from the end zone. Warren hit Hughes on a 21-yard pass play to set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Kyle Gibson (Ridgewood, N.J.) with 14:33 to play in the second quarter.
Beasley caught his second 8-yard scoring pass from Ciero with 5:46 to play to intermission. Ciero ran for 40 yards on the drive.
Wesleyan nearly ran out the time in making it 14-14 at the break. The Cardinals drove 77 yards on 13 plays, capped off when Warren hit Dan D'Arcy (Concord, Mass.) on a 3-yard scoring pass. Warren threw for 55 yards on the drive and Drew had 20 yards on four rushes.
Jason Buco (Methuen, Mass.) did the job defensively and offensively to get Colby's Family Homecoming Weekend crowd fired up. He intercepted a pass at Colby's 2-yard line to keep Wesleyan from taking the lead. Buco stayed on the field and caught a 94-yard scoring strike from Ciero to put the Mules up 21-14.
Wesleyan quieted the crowd, though, in a hurry. Warren connected with Hughes on a 74-yard pass play to the Colby 1-yard line on the first play of the drive. Drew smashed in from 1 yard out to tie the game again at 21-21.
Donnie Cimino (Westwood, N.J.) made nine tackles for Wesleyan, while Henry Nelson (Reeding, Conn.) had 12 stops for Colby. Buco's interception was his NESCAC-leading fourth of the season.