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Foliage and Fireworks
The week's best game may have taken place in Division III as Trinity ended Williams's 23-game winning streak, the longest at any college in the country. John Walters reports:
Early last week Trinity coach Don Miller attempted to downplay the dramatic fashion in which his Bantams had lost to Williams the last two seasons. In 1989, the Ephmen recovered an onside kick and scored on a pass with 0:13 left to defeat Trinity 26-21. Last year, the Ephs intercepted Bantam quarterback James Lane five times to recover from a 14-point deficit and win 24-21. In that game, the winning pass was tipped by a Trinity defensive lineman and fell into the arms of an unintended Williams receiver with two minutes remaining. "I don't necessarily think that the last play of the game is the deciding factor," said Miller. "You can't prepare for that."
But last Saturday in Williamstown, Mass., Trinity used a play it" had installed four days earlier to defeat the Ephs 30-27 with 0:00 showing on the clock. "We put that play in this week just in case we needed something like, well, a touchdown with no time on the clock," said a jubilant Lane of his five-yard rollout pass to halfback John Mullaney. "This makes up for all that other stuff."
No one could have faulted Williams for entering the game with a superiority complex. During their winning streak, which began a week after they lost to Trinity in 1988, the Ephmen had eight shutouts and outscored their opponents 496 to 99. And besides, U.S. News& World Report had recently named Williams the No. 1 liberal arts college in the nation. "We do get kind of spoiled around here," said senior linebacker Brian Taptich.
On a day brilliant with the colors of New England autumn foliage, both teams spoiled those in attendance. The lead changed hands five times in the final 7:06. With 0:51 remaining, Bantam halfback Mike Wallace jumped, tipped the ball and tumbled with it into the end zone for a spectacular 39-yard catch to give Trinity a 23-20 lead, whereupon he was drowned in a sea of teammates and students.
But anyone named Mike Wallace should know the show lasts 60 minutes. Nine seconds after the extra-point conversion made the score 24-20, the Ephs struck back on a 46-yard bomb from quarterback Dan Dwyer to Andre Burrell.
But there was more. Trinity took the ensuing kickoff to its 48-yard line, and from there Lane completed three straight passes, the third of which put the Bantams at the five-yard line with no time left. Or was there?
"When Trinity motioned for a timeout and I looked up at the clock, it showed one second," said referee Kevin McGurk after the game. "Then it shifted to zero." Although McGurk left the clock as it was, he still allowed one final play.
That set the stage for "flanker bend-out double-slant," a play that Miller said he had not used in "two or three years." Afterward, Ephs coach Dick Farley was magnanimous. "We've had our luck for three years," he said. "It ran out today."