Kutztown beat Penn State 31-21 Saturday in Kutztown, Pa. to advance to the DI-A playoffs as the Rugby East second seed. The atmosphere was that of a playoff game, as Luckenbill Ave. was entertaining the largest spectator crowd of the year. The KU-TV camera's were rolling, and the broadcast booth was live with color commentary.
The physicality of the match was immense and the speed of the game was of a very high caliber. At the set pieces, Penn State crashed bruising inside center Greg Voigt. And in multiple phase situations, the visitors launched their enormous forwards into the fray, sending them off the shoulder of veteran flyhalf Joe Baker. Their game pattern was evident, punish the smaller Kutztown defense into submission.
The smaller Golden Bears stood up to the onslaught. As a matter of fact, the Kutztown defense was firing off of the gain line and stealing the Lions’ momentum. Unrelenting pods of Kutztown tacklers met the Penn State runners with stiff resistance and their pressure defense caused numerous Penn State handling errors.
Both teams marched up and down the field to no avail. Penn State was unlucky, to have a ball held up in goal, and Kutztown knocked on the door more than once, only to be turned away by its own penalties or mistakes.
Then at the 30-minute mark, Kutztown spun the ball wide and near the Kutztown sideline, Robert Stortz cut back inside, found a crease and scampered 60 yards between several defenders to dot down between the posts. The ice had been broken and Tim Acker followed with the conversion.
Five minutes later, Kutztown workhorse and inside center Gareth Lourens side-stepped two would-be tacklers and sprinted into space at midfield. As he raced toward the last two Lion defenders, he off loaded to a trailing Stortz, who outraced Penn State defender and touched down. Tim Acker was successful with another conversion and Kutztown was on top 14-0.
Penn Sate stuck to their game plan, and after a Kutztown miscue on the re-start, pounded their way to the goal line and a pick-and-go try with no time left in the first half. Converted, the score made it 14-7 at halftime.
The first five minutes of the second stanza found the Kutztown forward pack relentlessly pounding on Penn State's goal line defense. All-American lock Mike Lawrenson sliced his way through two Penn State defenders into pay dirt, and Tim Acker drew the conversion wide left – 19-7.
Within the next 25 minutes the crowd was entertained with bone bruising rugby and exciting line breaks by both sides, only to have them thwarted by excellent tackling or the referee's whistle. The quick pace was bound to produce a score, and Kutztown wing Bruce Dolan broke the drought when he took a wide ball and raced down the side line to score in the corner. The conversion was missed, and Kutztown jumped to a 24-7 lead.
At this point, it looked like the game belonged to the Golden Bears. However, Penn State had other ideas and seemed to kick their attack into overdrive. The Nittany Lions increased the tempo and worked their way into the try zone when winger Chris Vakasisikakala found a gap and ran in untouched at the 72-minute mark. Joe Baker nailed the conversion, and the scoreboard read 24-14.
The lions never stopped, and within four minutes, Lock Christian Backus rambled in from 10 yards out. Baker converted to bring Penn State within three at 24-21. In the enuring minutes, Penn State knocked on about 30 yards in front of their goal line. A scrum was awarded to Kutztown, and No. 8 Wesley Hartman picked the ball up at the back of the scrum and raced down the weak side before off loading to scrumhalf Niku Kruger, who fed Dolan for his third score.
For the second week in a row, Dolan scored the clinching try to send the Bears into victory lane. Tim Acker made good on the conversion, and KU won back possession off the kickoff and cleared the ball to touch to end the game.
For their win, the Golden Bears will either draw Ohio State in a DI-A play-in game, or if Wisconsin wins the Big Ten Championship Saturday, advance straight to the quarterfinals and face the winner of Saturday’s contest between Arkansas State and Life.