Although it had been a while since Shane Barrett dashed his way through a defense, he knew he still had the skills.
Saturday, he put them on display.
Barrett, a junior who starts at safety for the Quincy University football team, turned in two big punt returns, the second of which set up a touchdown in the Hawks' 31-17 homecoming victory over Robert Morris at QU Stadium.
"In high school, I played a lot of quarterback so I had the ball in my hands most of the time," said Barrett, who played at Fort Zumwalt East in St. Peters, Mo. "It felt good getting the ball back in my hands."
He had been waiting for such an opportunity.
"I've been telling them for three years to get me the ball," he said with a chuckle.
In the second quarter, after the QU defense stonewalled Robert Morris at the 31-yard line, Barrett returned a punt 54 yards to the Eagles' 35-yard line. QU wasn't able to turn it into points despite getting to the 2-yard line. An unsportsmanlike penalty pushed the Hawks back, and after quarterback Andrew Rund was sacked on third and goal from the 17-yard line, freshman kicker Michael Klotz missed a xx-yard field goal attempt.
In the third quarter, the defense again stonewalled the Eagles, although it was deep in their own territory. A short, low punt was returnable and Barrett took it back 41 yards to the Robert Morris 14-yard line. QU senior running back Chris Harris scored on the next play for a 17-3 lead.
"It feels good," Barrett said. "Our defense can collect themselves and take a deep breath instead of being uptight."
Barrett did more than return punts. He had three tackles and intercepted his first pass of the season, snagging a Kenyatte Allen pass at the goal line for a touchback.
Colley intercepts first pass
A methodical, five-minute scoring drive gave the Hawks the lead with just 1 minute, 39 seconds remaining in regulation, but they knew better than to count the Eagles out. Although Robert Morris came in with a 1-4 record, two of the losses were by two points after scoring late touchdowns and failing both times on the two-point conversion.
The Hawks never let the Eagles get that close.
After a seven-yard scramble by Robert Morris quarterback Kenyatte Allen on first down, QU redshirt freshman cornerback Chrys Colley blanketed wide receiver Mike Moss and intercepted the first pass of his career.
"I just have to play hard, stay focused and trust my abilities," Colley said.
The Eagles came into the game averaging 273 yards passing with just two interceptions in 168 attempts. The Hawks intercepted Allen three times -- Barrett and senior cornerback Adehkeem Brown also picked off passes -- and limited him to 13-of-27 passing for just 160 yards.
"It's up to the defense to go out there and make a play," Colley said. "We continue to play focused and play hard."
Daniels, Hawks apply pressure
Junior linebacker T.J. Daniels continues to be a matchup nightmare lining up as a hybrid defensive end.
Daniels constantly harrassed Allen, getting credited with 1.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. He also recovered a fumble forced by defensive end Jeffrey Hinkle and finished with 11 total tackles.
"In order to give our DBs enough time to make plays on the ball, we had to get some pressure," Daniels said. "It was about us executing and doing what we had to do."
Daniels was at the forefront of that.
"T.J. was all over the field," QU interim head coach Gary Bass said. "He's playing so well and he's such an added element to what we're trying to do in stopping the running game and getting pressure on the passer. I'm sure he's making life a living hell for offensive coordinators trying to figure out what exactly he's going to do."
It's opening up avenues for the other defensive linemen to make plays. Junior defensive end Jacob Lounsberry had three tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss, while Hinkle and senior defensive tackle Dominique Gatewood applied consistent pressure as well.
"If they get pressure on the quarterback, he's just going to let it go," Colley said. "It helps out the defensive backs a lot."
How many flags can you throw?
On the kickoff following Chris Harris' 14-yard touchdown that put the Hawks ahead 17-3 late in the third quarter, six flags were thrown resulting in four penalties being called. It took the officials nearly four minutes to sort it out, eventually calling a block in the back against Robert Morris during the return, two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties against Quincy and an unneccesary roughness penalty against the Hawks.
Overall, Robert Morris was flagged nine times for 98 yards, while Quincy was called for six penalties for 40 yards.