Written by Chris Pendleton
Trailing 14-0 with the ball on their own 19 yard-line and 9:23 remaining in the third period, the Knights showed tremendous resolve stringing together their longest scoring drive of the season and completely changing the game's momentum in the process. Southern Virginia traveled 81 yards on 15 plays over the next 7:27 capped by a 5-yard touchdown run from Jamal Coates (Conover, N.C.)—the sophomore's first score of the season. From that point on, Southern Virginia outscored Apprentice 20-0 on route to the comeback win.
After Southern Virginia's offense put together its longest scoring drive of the season during Friday's third quarter, the Knights' defense came through with a huge blocked punt on the Shipbuilders ensuing possession. Freshman linebacker Oran Kobobel (Glenwood Springs, Colo.) shot through the Shipbuilder's line and blocked the first punt of his career, which Southern Virginia recovered on the Apprentice 10-yard line. Two-plays later, junior quarterback Mitch Stevenson (Muskogee, Okla.) found Frank Taitano (Washington, D.C.) in the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown strike evening the score at 14-14 only four seconds into the fourth quarter. Prior to Kobobel's block, Southern Virginia had already blocked seven kicks on the season setting a new single-season program record.
The Knights had a 50 percent fourth-down conversion rate (2-for-4) against Apprentice—Southern Virginia's highest fourth-down efficiency rating of the season—with both conversions coming during their game-changing third-quarter drive. Meanwhile, Southern Virginia's defense stopped the Shipbuilders on fourth down twice in the final seven minutes of play as Apprentice went 1-for-3 on fourth-down attempts for the afternoon.
In addition to its key fourth-down stops during Friday's final period, Southern Virginia's defense allowed a season-low 181 yards of total offense against Apprentice, while holding the Shipbuilders to only one offensive touchdown—also a season-low for the Knights.
Robert Robbins (Glendale, Ariz.) earned USCAA Defensive Player of the Week honors for his performance against Apprentice as the sophomore linebacker finished with 12 total tackles—6 solo and 6 assists—including 1.5 tackles for loss. Junior linebacker Dakoda Winsor (Richland, Wash.) also finished with 12 total tackles against the Shipbuilders—2 solo and 10 assists.
Stevenson had another solid outing for the Knights at the quarterback position completing 15 of his 28 attempts for 139 passing yards to go along with a touchdown and an interception. Stevenson's favorite targets against Apprentice were senior receivers Dewayne Beamon (Eastern Wayne, N.C.) and Cameron Williams (Sacramento, N.C.), who caught 5 passes apiece for 48 and 41 yards respectively. Taitano was Southern Virginia's leading rusher with 42 yards on 17 attempts, while Tod Workman (Springerville, Ariz.) had 34 yards on only two carries, including a 25-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter that proved to be the game-winning score for the Knights.
Steven Andreasen (Bruley, Idaho) played a key role in Friday's field position game fielding all three punts sent his way while tallying 26 total return yards on Salem Stadium's bouncy field turf. Taitano also had a solid day return day for the Knights bringing back three kickoffs for 77 yards.
Head Coach DeLane Fitzgerald
"We came out of the locker room slow to start the game, something we've done all year that we're trying to correct this week—getting off to a faster start offensively. Our defense played extremely well and kept us in the game and our offense did enough in the second half to get us the win."
On second-half adjustments:
"The difference in Friday's game was that our coaching staff got together at halftime and made adjustments. We knew what was working and what wasn't working and we fixed the things that weren't working and emphasized what was working. Then at the end of halftime, our leaders got together and decided we were going to win the football game."
Quarterback Mitch Stevenson
On second-half comeback:
"We knew we had a lot of time left, so we put everything behind us and got ourselves going. We know we can score a lot of points quickly and that's what we did by taking advantage of the momentum created by our special teams. Our long drive in the third quarter really sparked us as well. That was our best drive of the year, by far."
On his individual performance:
"A lot of credit to our offensive line. The offensive line played great and our receivers made a lot of plays for me."
Linebacker Robert Robbins
"The difference this week was that everyone on defense was playing their assignments. When we stick with our assignments we always do well as a defensive unit. Our coaches emphasized that this week and we all read our keys like we were supposed to. That's what separates good linebackers from great ones."
On beating Apprentice:
"It was a really good feeling to beat Apprentice. We've struggled against Apprentice in the past and I feel like Friday's win could be a key turning point in our season and program as a whole."
On returning from his mission and playing for the Knights:
"It's been wonderful. The atmosphere, the players, the coaches...it's been one of the greatest experiences that I could hope for and it's something I'm grateful for every day."
Linebacker Oran Kobobel
On his first career blocked punt:
"We've had success blocking kicks all season and the coaches kept motivating me to get in there and block one. Finally I saw an opportunity—they had a new formation and I had a new guy blocking me. I figured I could shoot the gap and get the block. As soon as I broke free, I knew it was going down."
Running back Tod Workman
On his 25-yard game-winning touchdown run:
"We'll honestly, I didn't have to do much. I just had to run. It was the five guys in front of me that got the job done. There was a huge hole and I just ran through it and kept running."
Punt Returner Steven Andreasen
On his punt-return mentality:
"My mentality comes from what Coach Hiatt tells me every time I go to field a punt, "Be aggressive." I try to see the ball come off the punter's foot and read it like a centerfielder would in baseball and I try to catch everything I can without letting the ball touch the ground."
On special team successes this season:
"Some people don't realize that special teams are one-third of a football game. We know that if we win two of the three phases of a game, then we'll probably get a victory. So we take special teams very seriously and our coaches emphasize special teams play every day so we can have an extra advantage on the field. We always want to control the field-position battle."