CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Life went on for George Washington without Dustin Crouser on the field. Actually, it went on pretty well Friday night.
With Crouser in street clothes and out for the season, the Patriots turned back a playoff-desperate St. Francis DeSales team from Columbus, Ohio, 49-20. The game was closer than the score indicated, as the fifth-ranked Patriots didn't enjoy a two-score lead until midway through the fourth quarter.
Ryan Switzer performed his usual magic, getting involved in four touchdowns - a 4-yard option pass to Jordan Clay, a slick 15-yard delayed draw, a 45-yard Kennedy Award-caliber catch and run and a 26-yard romp in the final minute.
But it certainly wasn't all about Switzer on this night at Steve Edwards Sr. Field. Trevor Bell was cool behind center, overcoming five sacks to go 14 of 17 for 193 yards with two passing touchdowns and another on the ground. Jordan Clay was his go-to target, pulling down 10 passes for 129 yards and two scores.
The Patriots (7-2) had four sacks of their own and scooped up two critical fumbles, helping them overcome a band of Stallions who were trying to extend their streak of 18 straight playoff appearances.
"We had some guys step up who hadn't played," said GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. "We had four starters out this evening and we had some kids step in there - [Will] Graley and the [Trevor] Wooten kid stepped in [on the line], Trevor Bell came alive tonight. He did what we asked him to do, what he was going to have to do, take some pressure off those guys.
"We just kept trying to be patient and, man, they played really hard tonight."
Crouser, the star fullback/linebacker, tore his anterior cruciate ligament last week against Capital, and will visit the doctor again Tuesday. The Patriots also missed left tackle Jack Skidmore and left guard Alex Jones with shoulder injuries, and running back/wide receiver Jacob Jackson was out with a rib injury.
The Stallions (5-5) outgained the Patriots 333-293, but GW scored the first touchdown and led the rest of the way.
That wasn't a given, though. DeSales drove from its 17-yard line to the GW 30 and quarterback Alex Perrine scrambled to complete a deep ball on fourth-and-6, but he was flagged for throwing from beyond the line of scrimmage. With a loss-of-down penalty, GW was awarded possession.
And GW did well with it, driving 65 yards on seven plays. Switzer gained 23 yards on a third-and-14 draw for the Patriots' first first down of the game, and eventually Bell hit Clay for a 22-yard score.
DeSales fumbled at the GW 15 in the second quarter, but scored two plays later when Oliver Grimard intercepted a Bell pass and ran it 23 yards. Charlie Stack missed the extra point, leaving GW up 7-6.
Bell and Clay struck for 29 yards on a fake punt, giving GW a first down on the DeSales 23. Four plays later, Switzer took a pitch and tossed an easy pass to Clay for a 14-6 lead, which was the halftime margin.
DeSales held GW to a three-and-out to start the third quarter and drove 80 yards in 11 plays, finishing with Tyler West's 12-yard run. But Zack Malone sacked Perrine on the 2-point conversion, keeping GW ahead 14-12.