Kutztown University followed up their shock win over Davenport with a very, very tense 27-26 victory over Penn State Saturday in Rugby East conference play.
On what was an emotional day, KU was led by Bruce Dolan, who scored the team's final ten points with a try, conversion, and penalty goal, a mere five days after his brother, Nicholas Heim, died suddenly on Monday.
"We weren't sure if Bruce would play and he missed most of practice this week," said Kutztown University Head Coach Gregg Jones. "But he came and said he would play."
Penn State opened the scoring with a penalty goal from scrumhalf Max Klotz. But KU replied with a try from Gareth Lourens and two from Bobby Storz for a 17-6 halftime lead.
"We struggled with adjusting to the referee in the first half," said Penn State Head Coach Don Ferrell. "We gave up six or seven penalties in the rucks and that really hurt us. Kutztown are a good team and they really force you to spread your defense. We were caught being a little compressed in our defensive line and they got around us."
Penn State were without arguably their most dangerous player, Blaze Feury, who injured himself in training this week. While freshman and USA age-grader Joe Kelly stepped in and played well, the team took a while to adjust to Feury's absence.
But adjust they did, as a Dan Metcalf try looked to spark a Penn State comeback. That made it 17-13 for Kutztown, but the Bears replied with a converted try from Dolan, and a penalty, a third Klotz penalty goal for Penn State.
The score stood then at 27-16, and that's when the Lions really roared, scoring two tries out wide to make it 27-26.
"They really came up hard on us on defense and started to cause us problems," said Jones. "And while I kept telling the players they couldn't think of this as an automatic win - that this would be a tough game, a close game, as it always is, I think they kind of thought they had it in the bag."
In the end, though, scoring near the corner made the conversions difficult for Penn State, and they were still behind by a point.
After the last try, Kutztown kicked off and retained the ball. They worked to wind down the clock with a series of pick-and-jams, but turned the ball over, giving Penn State one last shot.
"We had the ball in their 22 and wanted to get in for a try, or a penalty, or a drop goal, but we couldn't quite get there," said Ferrell. "We were about 15 meters short."
KU's defense held, and the game ended 27-26.
Kutztown improves to 2-0 in Rugby East and Penn State falls to 0-1. It has been a difficult fall for Penn State as they played one game, then had their game against Delaware called off due to Delaware's suspension. This was Penn State's first game in some weeks.
"Now we get to play some rugby," said Ferrell. "It's been tough the way it's all worked out, but we hope we can get to playing and make improvements."