DETROIT, MICH. – Despite controlling the game for most of the first 50 minutes, the Lake Erie College football team could not hold off a furious fourth-quarter rally against Wayne State University as the 19-th-ranked Warriors scored three times in the final 10 minutes to thwart the upset bid with a 35-31 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) victory Saturday afternoon (Sept. 15) at Adams Field in Detroit.
Behind a huge game from freshman running back Anthony Bilal (Painesville, Ohio/Riverside) and a strong defensive performance, the Storm (0-3, 0-2 GLIAC) led 31-13 after Bilal plunged in from a yard out with 13 minutes to go.
But the Warriors responded and drove to the Lake Erie 20, where on third-and-11, Toney Davis caught a swing pass along the sideline, broke free of several defenders and scampered in for the score to make it a 10-point game.
Senior quarterback Patrick Nicely (Willoughby, Ohio/South/Akron) was sacked and lost the ball on the Storm's next possession, setting the Warriors up at the 10-yard line. Davis took the handoff and went up the middle on the first play to cut the margin to three.
Lake Erie's next drive stalled at midfield and the Warriors went 93 yards on nine plays with Mickey Mohner completing an 18-yard pass to Dominique Maybanks with 46 seconds to go and give the Warriors their first lead of the game. The Storm was unable to convert a first down on its final possession, allowing the defending national runners-up to escape with a win in their home opener.
But the story of the first three-plus quarters was Bilal and the Storm defense. The first-year back ran for a game-high 187 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns, picking up 115 yards in the opening half. His six-yard run late in the second quarter gave Lake Erie a 24-7 lead at halftime.
The LEC defense, meanwhile, held the Warriors to just 178 yards in the first half, and got a big play on special teams as senior Jordan Forbes (Columbus, Ohio/Licking Heights/Tiffin) blocked a punt that set up the Storm's first TD.
In the second half, the Storm defenders continued the pressure as they twice came up with huge stops inside their own five yard line, limiting Wayne State to a pair of field goals in the third quarter.
Sophomore Stacy Woodford (Dublin, Ohio/Dublin Coffman) picked off a pass – his third in the last two games – that led to Bilal's second touchdown run.
But the Storm offense was unable to sustain anything in the third quarter, picking up just 27 total yards, and a rested Wayne State unit picked up 178 yards in the fourth quarter alone as they completed the comeback by outscoring the Storm 22-7 in the final frame.
The Warriors held a 411-285 edge in total offense, though the Storm rushed for 219 yards. Nicely completed 6-of-16 passes for 66 yards and a five-yard touchdown pass to redshirt freshman Anthony Kukwa (Perry, Ohio/Perry/Ball State). He also rushed for a score.
Mohner completed 17-of-32 passes for 240 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Davis ran 19 times for 110 yards and had three total touchdowns while Maybanks finished with eight catches for 125 yards and the game-winning score.
Sophomore linebacker Kyle Herth (Harrison, Ohio/LaSalle) finished with eight tackles, seven solo, to lead the Storm.
Nick Thomas had seven tackles, including a sack, to lead the Warriors defense.
Lake Erie will look to break into the win column next Saturday night, Sept. 22, when it hosts Saginaw Valley State University on "Youth Football night" at 7 p.m.