KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Lafayette came out of halftime seeking to regain momentum against Center on Friday night.
A fumble recovery by Taylor Bledsoe and touchdown by Daeton McGaughy allowed it to happen for a few moments, still trailing by seven points.
In the end, Center ran away, taking a 35-21 win over the Fighting Irish.
“We didn’t play our best game by any means,” Lafayette coach Eric McDowell said. “(We) probably weren’t physical enough... We learned a lot about ourselves.”
The Yellowjackets (2-0) pressured Lafayette quarterback Daeton McGaughy, junior Miles Henderson and senior Jericho Weston in the backfield, preventing much progress on the ground.
The Irish (1-1) were forced to rely mostly on the passing game, throwing for 206 yards.
“Hats off to them for stopping what we do,” McDowell said. “We also made a lot of mistakes that are very fixable and are going to lead hopefully to a better offensive performance in the future.”
Center kept the ball mostly on the ground rushing for 402 of its 403 offensive yards. Cris Ferer had over half of the yardage, carrying the ball 24 times for 278 yards and two touchdowns.
The offense exposed some weakness in Lafayette’s new defense, but it wasn’t just one specific thing.
“I think that we made some mistakes we need to make and we’re going to learn from them,” McDowell said. “It’s only going to make us better from tonight I believe.”
Lafayette had the momentum through much of the first quarter, holding Center’s offense to a turnover on downs early on.
The Irish capitalized, driving 70 yards down field. It ended with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Daeton McGaughy to Taylor Bledsoe.
Lafayette’s lead stuck for nearly two minutes. Then, the Yellowjackets’ offense started to push its way.
All of this happened as Center found ways to shut down McGaughy and company in the pocket.
After turning the ball over on downs once, Lafayette chose to punt the ball with the efforts of McGaughy. One punt started Center inside its own five yard line.
Center finished the first half with a 21-7 lead highlighted by two Brian Cubie touchdowns. The other was on a 70-yard dash down field by Ferer.
“We knew we could get back in the game,” McDowell said. “I don’t think anybody thought we were out of it until obviously it got so late in the game and to a certain point.”
On the third play of the second half, Bledsoe recovered a Yellowjacket fumble. It turned into a 6-yard touchdown run by McGaughy with 9:07 remaining in the third quarter.
Lafayette was outscored 14-7 from that point on. It’s last touchdown was through another pass from McGaughy to Bledsoe.
“I’ve played with Daeton since I was in the eighth grade,” Bledsoe said. “He knows when to find me and he knows where to find me. We got that brotherhood, you know.”
The loss marked the Irish’s fourth loss under McDowell. They head to the Southside next Friday to take on Benton in the opening game of Midland Empire Conference play.
“Come Monday we will be preparing for a rivalry game with Benton,” McDowell said. “If our boys can’t get up for that, which they will, you gotta find a heartbeat if you can’t get up to your crosstown rivalry.”