Kutztown won the college game that most observers were keeping their eye on Saturday, utilizing a massive second half to down Davenport 45-15.
The Golden Bears took a 17-15 lead into halftime, and it was their final try of the opening stanza that had a lasting impact.
Up 15-12 with a few minutes left in the first half, Davenport had an attacking scrum about 10 meters from the try line. The ball squirted out of the scrum, and Kutztown immediately took it the other direction for try. That score, and potential 12-point swing, gave KU the momentum going into intermission and sucked the wind from the Panthers’ sails.
“We made basic errors, and they scored on those errors, which I think broke our back. We knew coming in we can’t make these mistakes against these teams or they’re going to score points on you,” said Davenport coach Kruger Van Biljon.
“I think the guys went back into a hole and didn’t get out of that hole, and Kutztown just started building phases and we started missing tackles. They offloaded well and they scored some good tries. We just didn’t fix the things we needed to fix in the second half.”
Kutztown was able to impose its game plan on Davenport after halftime. The Golden Bears used a very strong, experienced pack to break the gainline, and the heady play of inside center Gareth Lourens ro take big chunks of yardage via kicking and running.
“Our forwards dominated most of the game as far as go-forward and the physicality part, but their defense played exceptionally well the first half,” said Kutztown coach Gregg Jones. “And then the second half we did what we hoped to do – pound them with the forwards and then spin it wide, and we beat them wide.”
KU was helped tremendously by the maturity and leadership of veteran players like lock Mike Lawrenson, who dominated the lineouts on the day, and scrumhalf Niku Kruger, who is one of the best game managers in the country.
“The leadership that [Lawrenson and Kruger] exhibited is really what took us forward in the second half,” said Jones. “I would give those kids a lot of credit for that.”
Davenport will now turn its attention to 7s for a week, as they take a team to Notre Dame’s invitational. Kutztown, meanwhile, is away at Penn State in the Nittany Lions’ league opener.