Life University defeated St. Mary’s 16-14 to capture the 2013 DI-A National Championship in an exciting final Saturday night in Greensboro, NC.
Led by Fullback Joe Cowley, the Running Eagles overcame an 11-point halftime deficit to win the program’s first ever national title.
The game began under perfect weather conditions, allowing St. Mary’s to establish its dynamic offense. However, a failure to release penalty awarded Life University an opportunity to take the lead.
Cowley slotted the kick giving Life University the early advantage. Despite falling behind initially, St. Mary’s began imposing its will on the Running Eagles. Dominating possession for nearly the entire first half, the Gaels used their athletic backs and strong scrum to continue to gain territory.
Their efforts did not go unrewarded as the referee gave a penalty to St. Mary’s just outside the Life 22-meter line. Unfortunately for St. Mary’s, flyhalf Garrett Brewer hooked the kick to the right of the posts keeping the score 3-0 in favor of Life. The failed kick did not faze the Gaels as they continued to press forward against a stringent Life defense.
St. Mary’s' ball retention paid dividends as Life committed a series of penalties inside its own 22. Electing to scrum off the penalties, St. Mary’s made several unforced errors that ultimately kept them out of the try zone. Eventually, St. Mary’s was able to crack the rigid Life defense with a number of well-executed passes down the left flank. Fullback Tim Maupin used a side step move to beat the last Life defender and place the ball under the posts.
After a successfully converted kick, the Gaels led 7-3 and quickly looked to add to their lead. A well-executed kick to touch after a Life penalty gave St. Mary’s a great opportunity. The Gaels used several long passes to find Mike Haley streaking through the center of the field. A couple of uncharacteristic missed tackles resulted in another successfully converted try for St. Mary’s.
Although St. Mary’s maintained a majority of the possession in the first half, Life had a tremendous opportunity to cut the lead late in the half. Nevertheless, valiant defense by St. Mary’s kept Life out of its try zone despite nearly a 10-minute spell inside their own 22. The Gaels went into halftime with a 14-3 lead and, seemingly, control of the game.
The second half began ominously for Life as they received the opening kickoff and proceeded to kick the ball off the field inside their own 22. However, the Life defense kept St. Mary’s out of the try zone and eventually began driving their way into the St. Mary’s half. A great offload to Cowley resulted in a St. Mary’s penalty right in front of the post. Life elected to kick for points, and Cowley converted the penalty making the game 14-6 in favor of St. Mary’s.
The score remained the same until Cowley caught a pass at pace and ran 70 meters beating several St. Mary’s defenders for a try in the corner. At first, it was not clear whether Cowley’s right leg entered touch but the controversial call went in favor of the Running Eagles, cutting the lead to 14-11.
By the 50th minute rain began to fall, severely hampering St. Mary’s ability to pass the ball through the hands. Life university took advantage of the weather conditions by using their pack to retain possession and ultimately score the game winning try with 23 minutes remaining in the second half. Prop Drew Ohmann barely pushed the ball over the line for what would become the game-winning score.
Things began unraveling for St. Mary’s as Nick Wallace received a yellow card for a dangerous tackle and senior prop Jordan Bouey left the game with an apparent shoulder injury. Ultimately, St. Mary’s had no answer for Life’s ability to maintain possession in the second half and were held well below their season average per-game score. Meanwhile, Life's coaching staff clearly made some smart halftime adjustments.
The game proved to be a tale of two halves. The high-powered St. Mary’s offense controlled the pace of the first half. However, the second half illustrated Life’s regimented system of play and the individual brilliance of the MVP, Joe Cowley, pushing the game in favor of Life University.
Life University 16
Tries: Cowley, Ohmann
St. Mary’s College 14
Tries: Maupin, Haley