FROSTBURG -- The Frostburg State Bobcats ran out of miracles yesterday.
The Presidents, behind an imposing offensive line and the premier defense in Division III, took a 14-0 lead, turned back a brief surge by the Bobcats, then pulled away to a 28-7 victory before 1,500 soaked spectators at Bobcat Stadium.
The victory makes Washington & Jefferson (11-0) the South Region champion for the second straight year and sends the Presidents to next week's national semifinals against Rowan (10-1), a 37-0 winner over William Paterson. In the other quarterfinals, Mount Union (Ohio) beat Albion (Mich.), 30-16, and St. John's (Minn.) beat Wisconsin-LaCrosse, 47-25.
The Bobcats finished their best season with a 10-2 record.
"I'm unbelievably proud of not just this great season, but of the way these guys pulled together like a family this year and played like a team," Frostburg State coach Mike McGlinchey said. "As the season went along, we kept growing together more. But today, they [Washington & Jefferson] outplayed us in their kind of weather."
Frostburg State's strategy was predictable and sensible -- use its speed to make the big plays that would negate the tremendous size advantage the Presidents enjoyed. Problem was, by game time, the field had been reduced to a swamp, creating unsure footing and a slower game.
The Presidents took full advantage of the conditions. Backed by an offensive line that averages 292 pounds -- 65 pounds more than Frostburg State's front five -- they pounded the Bobcats for 233 rushing yards out of 359 yards of total offense. And the Presidents, who are in their eighth postseason and are 11-0 for the first time in their 102-year history, showed the resourcefulness of a champion.
By the end of the first quarter, after Washington & Jefferson had taken a 6-0 lead, the Presidents had lost Jake Williams and Keith Miller, their top two tailbacks, to ankle and knee injuries. Later, they lost standout defensive tackle Matt Szczypinski to a knee injury.
None of that mattered. Vince Botti, a fullback who had carried the ball only 52 times before yesterday, moved to tailback and rushed 24 times for 129 yards to set up the passing game for sophomore quarterback Jason Baer.
The Presidents' defense, top-ranked in the NCAA against the run and third-ranked overall, barely missed a beat. It held Frostburg State to seven points, 213 yards and eight first downs, all season lows. The Bobcats managed 33 yards and two first downs in the second half. Washington & Jefferson has given up 69 points, including four touchdowns after halftime.
"We've only played on a dry field twice all year. Maybe we should make sure we have a hose around next week [in case it doesn't rain]," Presidents coach John Luckhardt said. "When you have guys lining up at 290, 295 and 305 pounds, it tends to give you an advantage. The best thing you can do in this kind of weather is throw the ball."
Baer was up to the challenge. Although he attempted only 13 passes, three of his six connections went for scores, and he averaged 21 yards per completion. His 36-yard touchdown pass to Chris Begley on the final play of the third quarter gave the Presidents a 28-7 lead.
Frostburg State quarterback Gilbert Telleria had a different kind of day. Constantly flushed from the pocket by a fierce pass rush that netted four sacks, Telleria completed seven of 14 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted three times.
The Presidents scored on their first possession, an 81-yard drive that took six plays. Williams, who rushed for 82 yards in the first period, broke tackles for gains of 24 and 29 yards on two of those plays, giving the Presidents a first-and-goal. On the next play, Baer connected with his favorite target, tight end J. J. Jarosinski, for a 9-yard touchdown to give Washington & Jefferson a 6-0 lead three minutes into the game.
After each team punted twice, the Presidents forced the game's first turnover. Telleria's pass was batted in the air at the line of scrimmage, and Szczypinski came down with the interception.
That sparked the Presidents on an eight-play, 23-yard drive that featured two fourth-down conversions. On the final play, Baer faked out the Bobcats with a naked bootleg on fourth down and ran three yards untouched into the end zone. Baer passed to Jarosinski for the two-point conversion that gave the Presidents a 14-0 lead with 13:59 left in the half.
The Bobcats awakened by racing 74 yards in three plays. Telleria ran for seven yards, Andre Parker gained 21 on a halfback reverse, and Telleria hit wide-open E. J. Fuller in stride on a post pattern for a 46-yard touchdown pass. Troy Sibila's extra point pulled the Bobcats to within 14-7 with 12:28 to go.
The Bobcats then forced a punt and drove 23 yards to the Presidents' 27. On fourth down, Telleria scrambled to his right and watched cornerback Taj Lewis break up his pass attempt to