But Fall Short, 26-22, To End Season.
By Josh Singer (November 14, 2001)
The George Mason Mustangs’ football team ended their season on a low note with a heartbreaking game Saturday, losing to #1 ranked Strasburg 26-22. The Mustangs needed a victory in order to play this weekend in the first round of the regional tournament. Strasburg, now 10-0 will play Friday night at 7:30 against the Manassas Park Cougars.
In a game that many thought the Rams would run away with, the Mustangs proved to be a more-than-worthy adversary. On Strasburg’s first possession they drove the ball 51 yards down the field to the Mason 15-yard line only to be stopped in their tracks by the Mustangs’ ever-stingy defense. Following the turnover on downs, the Mustangs began their first drive from their own 15. On just the second play from scrimmage quarterback Matt Bond pitched the ball over a Strasburg defender to tailback Ben Griffin. Griffin then out ran everyone else for an 85-yard touchdown. However, the Mustangs glory was short lived as the play was called back due to holding.
On the very next play Bond dropped back to pass, only to have his ball deflected into the air at the line, and intercepted by a Strasburg linebacker. Two plays later the Rams punched it in for the score from the one-yard line. The extra point was blocked, making the score 6-0, Strasburg, with 5:38 left in the first quarter.
The Mustangs responded with a strong drive, yet were unable to capitalize on a fourth and 1, therefore turning the ball over on downs to the Rams. On the second play of the drive, the Rams quarterback dropped back for the pass and was picked off by Bond. Bond, who recorded his seventh interception of the year, tied Griffin as the team leader.
The remainder of the quarter, and most of the second for that matter, was controlled by both teams’ strong defenses. During this period Griffin, who at the time was behind Bond in interceptions, intercepted the Rams once again from inside the 10-yard line. Yet despite great playing by the defense they were unable to hold Strasburg out of the end zone. The Rams scored on a 12-yard pass with 2:48 left in the half. This time the Rams went for the two-point conversion, and once again were deterred, leaving the score at 12-0 Strasburg going into halftime.
Returning from a halftime—during which the Mustang senior football players and cheerleaders were recognized for their services--Mason went straight to work, scoring from 2 yards on a run from junior Dominic Clark. The drive that took 9 plays and 3:49 off the clock featured Clark on 8 runs. Griffin’s extra point, despite a false start penalty was good, narrowing the gap to 12-7. Mason then continued to play like there was no tomorrow by opting for the onside kick. Sophomore speed demon Reggie Whittaker recovered the ball, making it a Mustang possession at the Strasburg 42-yard line. Mason then marched the ball down to the Strasburg 1-yard line only to have a fourth down attempt stopped on a very controversial call by the referees.
The third quarter came to a close with the Rams ahead by 5 and Mason with the ball on the Ram 26-yard line. On the fourth play of the quarter on third and 4 from the 15, junior Eric Powell went on a run up the middle, only to fumble the ball. Powell then made an amazing adjustment flipping the ball back to a watching Bond who then scampered 15 yards into the end zone. The score, with 10:18 left in the game, was followed by a Bond to Griffin two-point conversion, making the score 15-12 Mason.
Yet Mason’s lead lasted only a short time, as the Rams responded quickly. The Strasburg score was on a fourth and 3 play from the Mustang 23-yard line. Mason charged the line, sending every defender at the Rams, only to have the quarterback throw a dump pass over the defense to the wide-open tight end. The extra point attempt was tipped, but found its way between the uprights bringing the score to 19-15 Strasburg.
Strasburg, with their back against the wall, turned to sophomore phenom quarterback Bauserman. Bauserman ran the ball once for 30 yards, and passed 5 times for 32 yards to bring the Rams to the Mason 3-yard line. Then on first and goal from the 3, they punched the ball in once again for the final score of the game. The extra point was good, making the score 26-22 Strasburg, and leaving Mason only 55 seconds to respond. Despite starting from the 50-yardline and an 8-yard gain on first down the Mustangs were unable to get a first down, leaving Strasburg with the ball and ten seconds to kneel it.
The Mustangs finished their season 6-4, 3-2 in the district. This team accomplished something no other Mason football team has ever done, defeating not only Madison for the first time, but Madison and Brentsville in the same year. As was said Saturday at the game the leaving senior class is the winningest class to leave the school in Mason football history.
As for the game, Bond threw 18 times, completing 6 for 142 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, and 34 yards rushing. Clark lead all Mason rushers with 19 carries for 87 yards, followed by Powell with 8 carries for 19 yards, and Griffin with 5 carries for 15 yards. Griffin also had 4 catches for 130 yards, and senior Neil Powell had 2 receptions for 12 yards.