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Golden Bears Comeback Win Over California PA

Matt Heffelfinger, Sports Information Director



KUTZTOWN, Pa. -- Kutztown University took over in the fourth quarter behind touchdowns from Darryl Davis-McNeil (Roslyn, Pa./Abington) and Jerome Kapp (Barto, Pa./Boyertown), and inspired play by the defense to knock off 17th-ranked California (Pa.), 24-19, before more than 3,100 spectators in the 2022 home opener at Andre Reed Stadium Saturday afternoon.
The Golden Bears and Vulcans traded touchdowns in the opening 10 minutes, but it wasn't a sign of things to come. Points were hard to come by during the second and third quarters with Cal (1-1) scoring the only points on 36-yard and 25-yard field goals by returning All-American Anthony Beitko to lead 13-7.
Pinned back at its own 3-yard line with 1:22 left in the third, Kutztown (1-1) put together a clutch 11-play, 97-yard drive that ate up 5:41 and ended with a 9-yard Davis-McNeil touchdown run. Nick Coppolino's (Saginaw, Mich./Heritage) extra point put the Maroon and Gold back in front, 14-13.
Davis-McNeil ran five times for 46 yards on the drive, Jordan Davis (Franklin, N.J./Saint Joseph Metuchen) added 30 yards on the ground and Jake Novak (Manheim, Pa./Manheim Central) and Brandon Smith (North Plainfield, N.J./North Plainfield) each had big catches.
Eric Fargo's defense answered the bell by forcing a three-and-out on Cal's next possession, before the Bears' offense went hunting for more points.
Using a few Davis runs and a pass interference penalty against the Vulcans, Kutztown worked into Cal territory. Quarterback Donny Blaine (Jefferson Township, Pa./North Pocono) attempted to take a shot at the end zone on second down, but the ball was just out of the reach of Kurtis Ravenel Jr. (Carlisle, Pa./Carlisle) While the play didn't connect, it set up the very next one, which did.
Blaine went right back at Vulcan corner Micah Tillman down the left sideline. Kapp got a step on the defender, separated and took the pass in stride at the seven before taking it the rest of the way for a 42-yard touchdown that boosted the Maroon and Gold's lead to 21-13.
A holding penalty on the ensuing kick backed Cal up to its own 10, bad news against a KU side with all the momentum. The Vulcans got absolutely nothing going, as quarterback Noah Mitchell fumbled and lost five yards on first down before misfiring on a pair of passes for Cal's second three-and-out in as many fourth-quarter possessions.
Kutztown had been successful on the ground all afternoon and saw no reason to deviate from that plan needing any kind of points to put the game away. Davis-McNeil moved the chains with 16 yards sandwiched around a penalty and went over 1,000 career yards rushing with a nine-yard burst.
Facing 3rd-and-8 from the Cal 49, Blaine hit Ravenel Jr. for 30 yards to put the Bears in the red zone. Cal burned up its timeouts before Coppolino connected on a 29-yard field goal for a 24-13 lead with 1:07 to go.
Cal was held off the scoreboard in the fourth quarter until the final play of the game when Mitchell found Cam Tarrant on a slant from four yards out, but the result was no longer in question at that point.
Davis-McNeil became the first Golden Bear to eclipse 1,000 career rushing yards (1,011) since Abdul-Hassan Neblett in 2019 with another busy afternoon. The Roslyn, Pa., native set a career-high in totes for the second straight week, this time carrying the rock 23 times for 99 yards and a score. Davis added 15 carries for 62 yards and KU finished the day with 42 rushes for 171 yards, averaging 4.1 yards per carry.
Eight different receivers caught a pass from Blaine, who was 10-of-19 for 153 yards and two TDs. Tyreek Husser (Woodstown, N.J./Woodstown), who had two for 21 yards, registered his first career touchdown on a 14-yarder that opened the scoring at 10:18 of the first quarter. Kapp's lone catch was the 42-yard TD, but it was enough to lead the team in receiving yards. Alex MacKenzie(Sinking Spring, Pa./Conrad Weiser) and Jaden Helton (Ardmore, Pa./Lower Merion) recorded their first career catches.
It was a balanced afternoon for the defense, where Kam Wolfe (Reading, Pa./Governor Mifflin) led five players with five tackles or more by posting a team-high eight. Amani Justice (Salem, N.J./Salem) had seven, Cody Scherer (Lehighton, Pa./Lehighton) and CJ Brown (Coatesville, Pa./Coatesville) six, and Nigel Wilson (Bound Brook, N.J./Bound Brook) five. Tom Pellegrino (Hackettstown, N.J./West Morris Central) collected a sack, Devon Jones (Claymont, Del./Mount Pleasant) intercepted Mitchell in the second quarter and Tyler Whary (Hereford, Pa./Upper Perkiomen) was credited with two quarterback hurries. Brown, Antaun Lloyd (Ambler, Pa./Wissahickon) and Sapp broke up passes.
Mitchell completed 22-of-38 passes for 235 yards, two TDs and one interception. His favorite target was JaQuae Jackson, who pulled in seven passes for 110 yards and a score. Running back Eric McKan III picked up 71 yards on the ground for the Vulcans, who dropped their third straight game in the series with KU and fell to 3-10-1 all-time against the Bears in the process.
It marked another character victory for Kutztown, which was blanked 3-0 in its season opener by Assumption last week. The Golden Bears now sit at 1-1 with their seventh win over an American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Top 25 nationally ranked team during Jim Clements' tenure and all of their goals in front of them.
Kutztown travels to Erie next Saturday to face Mercyhurst at noon.