It may have taken a little over 22 hours from start to finish, but Stetson's first victory in the modern era is officially in the books.
Quarterback Ryan Tentler threw for 169 yards and two touchdowns and kicker James LaGamma converted a fake field goal into a touchdown as Stetson defeated visiting Warner 31-3 Sunday afternoon at Spec Martin Stadium.
“I am obviously overwhelmed and extremely excited,” Hatters head coach Roger Hughes said. “As a coach, I see a lot of the mistakes that we made. We had too many penalties, too many turnovers, too many missed assignments early; but it was nice to be a part of the longest first half of the history of the NCAA.”
Stetson piled up 345 yards of total offense and 16 first downs. Tentler, who was 17-for-24 passing the ball, was also the Hatters' leading rusher with 62 yards on seven carries.
“Ryan is like a second coach on the field,” Hughes said. “You know he checks plays, he gets them to the right side, and he has really fast feet like you saw earlier in the game last night.”
Tentler said the suspension of the game from Saturday to Sunday took a little of the emotion out, but that is was still an exciting first game.
“It was easy for us to pick back up from the night before because we have practiced this situation,” Tentler said. “We have been trained for these situations. Coming out today wasn't as exciting for us, but it was still great to have that first game and for it to be a win for us.”
The contest was suspended Saturday night with the Hatters holding a 10-3 advantage. When play resumed Sunday, Stetson wasted no time extending its lead.
On the first play from scrimmage, Warner's snap sailed over the quarterback's head and rolled into the end zone where redshirt freshmen Donald Payne won a scramble to the ball for the defensive touchdown. LaGamma converted the extra point to give Stetson a 17-3 lead.
Coupled with Rob Coggin's seven-yard touchdown reception Saturday night, the two scores spanned just 14 seconds on the game clock but over 19 hours of actual time.
“The time and the place last night was unmatched and I had no idea that we could create that,” Hughes said. “The nice thing is the first play, when we got it over the head and we restored the energy that we had last night here. I have to thank the fans because a lot of people would not have come back, but those stands were still pretty filled.”
Late in the second quarter, the Hatters drove down to Warner's eight-yard line and lined up for a field goal on a 4th-and-goal situation. Holder Nick LaSala took the snap and pitched the ball back to LaGamma who surged through the Royals defense before plunging into the end zone for the special teams score.
Stetson held Warner to zero total yards in the second quarter and carried a 24-3 into halftime.
Midway through the third quarter, Tentler and Coggin teamed up for their second touchdown toss, this time a 32-yard completion into the front right corner of the end zone. That connection was the only points of the second half as Stetson emphatically finished off its first win in the modern era.
Hughes was given a celebratory ice shower as the clock clicked down to 0:00.
“This win is great for the program and great for the kids," Hughes said immediately after the game. "They have been working so hard for more than 350 days to get this done and I am just so proud of them."
The Hatters held the Royals to just 193 yards of offense for the game.
For their efforts, Payne and LaGamma earned Defensive Player of the Week and co-Special Teams Player of the Week in the Pioneer Football League.
With the delay in the game, the Hatters will now face a short week of preparation for their first road game. Stetson will travel south to Melbourne on Saturday for a showdown with the Panthers of Florida Tech. The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start.