WASHINGTON, D.C. - Catholic University got a reprieve. It was unable to get the victory.
Kenyon College spoiled the Cardinals' season-opener with a 32-31 win in double overtime Saturday. The Lords (1-0) won it with a two-point conversion on a sun-splashed day at Cardinal Stadium.
Catholic went ahead 31-24 on a 21-yard pass from Brady Berger to Pedro Garcia between defenders. Kenyon pulled to within one on a 1-yard run by Jimmy Andrews. Its decision to go for the win paid off when Justin Bosch caught Thomas Merkle's pass at the 1 and fell into the end zone.
Third-year head coach Mike Gutelius '92 was pleased with how hard his team fought. Particularly when it lost an 11-point lead in the third quarter.
"I like how our guys kept coming back and coming back," Gutelius said. "We hung in there. We just made too many mental errors to overcome it. Even the fight that we had is not enough if we don't execute better. So, that's on me as the head coach. But I do like that we never stopped. Our guys kept playing. They never got down. Even right up unto the end, they expected us to win. I like that."
Gutelius credited Kenyon head coach James Rosenbury, who was making his head coaching debut, for rolling the dice and either leaving the nation's capital with a one-point loss or one-point victory.
"It's standard to go for two on the road," he said. "They went for it and they got it. It was good coaching and good execution on their part."
The Lords, who ended a 26-game losing streak, had a chance to win it in regulation. But when Ryan Cooper's 24-yard field goal attempt went wide right, the Cards found new life.
"We brought a lot of pressure, and I think it rattled him a little bit," Gutelius said. "We thought we had a chance to block it because we had gotten one [by Jake Ballard] earlier. It was great to get that and go to overtime. It gave us a chance to win it."
Kenyon got the ball on the Catholic 25 in the first overtime and took a 24-17 lead on a 12-yard Andrews run. The junior finished with 120 yards on 27 carries and scored two touchdowns.
The Cardinals tied it on Berger's third TD pass, a 5-yarder to MeKhail White. Berger ended the day 19 of 28 for 135 yards and was only sacked once.
"Brady made good decisions, and we gave him some good time today," Gutelius said. "We've just got to catch the ball a little better, run our routes a little crisper, and get a little better at the running game. We'll get there."
Catholic looked good in the first half and went into the break leading 17-6. White and Berger hooked up from 4 yards as the Cards struck first. After the Lords tied it in the second quarter, Catholic went up on a 29-yard field goal by Fabrizio Reilly. Melara set it up with a 39-yard run down the right boundary.
Melara, who ran for 106 yards before leaving with a leg injury, scored from 29 yards to give the Cards a 17-6 lead with six seconds to go before halftime.
Merkle began the Lords' second-half rally by leading his team to scores on its first two possessions. After Ryan Cooper's 21-yard field goal, Merkle guided Kenyon on an eight-play, 84-yard scoring drive. He punctuated it with a 36-yard pass to Andris Balodis and then ran in the two-point conversion.
Merkle completed 28 of 44 passes for 322 yards and two TDs. Matt Joliffe totaled eight catches for 155 yards and a score.
Catholic was outgained 466 yards to 289 and allowed Kenyon to succeed on 10 of 17 third-down conversions. The Cardinals, coming off a 1-9 season, were 4 of 14.
"We're on our way back rebuilding, but we'll get there," Gutelius said. "I thought we were a little further along than we are. Today showed that we're not quite where I thought we were. So, I've got to dig down deeper and get back after it."
Catholic's Andrew Funaki posted seven tackles and two interceptions. The junior safety collected his second with an over-the-shoulder catch along the left sideline midway through a scoreless fourth quarter. Junior linebacker Jake Ballard led the Cards with 12 stops (four solo).
Senior linebacker Gavin Hurlbut intercepted Andris Balodis on a flea flicker.
Catholic travels to Northwest Washington to renew its rivalry with Georgetown next Saturday, Sept. 14 at noon.