Union College had no remedy for Steven Webb.
Although the Dutchmen rallied from a 28-7 halftime deficit to make things interesting, Webb’s breakaway runs carried unbeaten Hobart to a 42-34 victory Saturday at Boswell Field that all but locked up the Liberty League championship
The sixth-ranked Statesmen (5-0, 8-0) need only one victory out of their last two games to clinch the title. Union, which entered the game as the only other league unbeaten, dropped to 4-1 and 4-4.
Webb finished with a career-high 199 yards and two touchdowns for the Statesmen, but it was his running in the first half that ended up being the difference in the game. He already had 125 yards by intermission and put the Statesmen in control.
“Steve not only runs hard, but he’s also very fast, and when he gets into the open field, you can say goodbye,” praised Hobart head coach Mike Cragg. “He is also very tough to bring down.”
Webb’s explosive touchdown in the first quarter set the tone for Hobart. On a second-and-six from the 41, he ran off tackle, bounced off two tacklers and headed toward the far sideline, where he shifted into another gear and outran several Union defenders into the end zone for a 59-yard TD run.
He also showed off his strength on a two-yard plunge with several Union tacklers draped around him later in the half to push the Hobart advantage to 28-7.
“I didn’t do anything special today. It was the offensive line that did all the work,” said Webb. “I was just trying to run more downhill than usual. In the first half, both Bobby Dougherty and I were running straight downhill. I’m usually more of a scat back, but we figured we’d have more success running right at them today.
“This is a very big win for us. This was a game that was going to make or break our season. We knew that if we won this game, we would need only one more win to clinch the title, but if we lost, Union would be in the driver’s seat, and we might not get another chance.”
Hobart doubled Union in total yardage in the first half, and the game looked like it would turn into a rout until the Dutchmen stormed back behind tailback Darnell Thomas.
He finished with 141 yards and two touchdowns to keep the Dutchmen in the game until Hobart pulled away again in the fourth quarter on a 10-yard TD pass from Nick Strang to tight end Mike Berkowitz.
“I thought we played a great half of football on both sides of the ball in the first half,” said Cragg. “We had to have that win, and we got it. I didn’t think we played very good defense in the second half, and we will address that, but I thought our offense saved the day for our
defense. Those last couple of drives really helped us win. Our offense was unbelievably tough today, especially our offensive line and our running backs.”
Down by three scores at intermission, Union sliced the deficit to 28-14 on a one-yard plunge by Thomas, and following an interception by Connor Beerworth, the Dutchmen trimmed their deficit even further, to 28-20, on a four-yard scoring run by quarterback Connor Eck.
Dougherty’s two-yard run as the third period ended pushed the Statesmen on top, 35-20, but Union clawed back once more on Thomas’ nine-yard scoring run that cut the margin to 35-27.
Berkowitz’s second TD reception of the day gave Hobart a 42-27 advantage midway through the final period, and Union closed out the scoring on an Eck 29-yard TD strike to Kyle Reynolds.
“I thought we moved the ball in the first half, but we didn’t convert on third and fourth down. We didn’t take advantage of our opportunities,” said Union head coach John Audino.
“We dug ourselves a hole at 21-7, but I thought we fought back and made some adjustments. We started to use more zone blocking, and we had some good runs after that. We thought that Darnell would have a good game against them, because he did pretty well against them last year,” Audino said.
“But Hobart is an outstanding team, and they are always tough on both sides of the ball. We put eight or nine guys in the box against them, and they were still able to run the ball against us.”
Eck completed 18 of 31 passes for 245 yards and two TDs, both to Reynolds.
Hobart finished with 355 yards rushing and featured a 100-yard rusher for the sixth straight week.
Union plays its final home game Saturday against the United States Merchant Marine Academy.
Union 0 7 13 14 — 34
Hobart 14 14 7 7 — 42
H – Webb 59 run (Hull kick).
H – Woodard 62 pass from Strang (Hull kick).
H – Berkowitz 8 pass from Strang (Hull kick).
U – Reynolds 31 pass from Eck (Pope kick).
H – Webb 2 run (Hull kick).
U – Thomas 1 run (Pope kick).
U – Eck 4 run (kick failed).
H – Dougherty 2 run (Hull kick).
U – Thomas 9 run (Pope kick).
H – Berkowitz 10 pass from Strang (Hull kck).
U – Reynolds 29 pas from Eck (Pope kick).
First downs 20 25
Rushes-yards 36-154 8-355
Passing yards 245 182
Att-Comp-Int 18-31-1 9-16-1
Return yards 8 3
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-1
Punts-avg 4-37.8 2-25.0
Penalties-yards 5-50 4-41