Casey did, too, since it has now lost five straight games. The Rebels had plenty of chances but the combination of Lincoln's defense, their own miscues and untimely penalties combined to keep Casey from winning even though it had 304 total yards to Lincoln's 259 thanks to 130 yards passing by Kyle Long and 136 yards rushing by Ricky Marrapodi.
"We had plenty of opportunities," Stephens said. "It seemed like every time we got in position to score, we got a penalty. I felt like we dominated the second half and that's what makes losing so hard to take."
Casey twice had chance to cut into Lincoln's 14-6 halftime lead in period three. The first drive reached the 15 before two major penalties stopped it. The next drive was stopped when Marrapodi fumbled trying to hand off to receiver Brandon Raney on a fourth-down reverse at the Lincoln 10-yard line.
The Rebels finally scored after a 36-yard pass from Kyle Long to Brandon Raney got the ball to the 25. Five plays later Josh Swango scored on a 2-yard run with 11 minutes, 5 seconds to play. After a 5-yard penalty, Long's extra point pass was broken up by Hagan Folger to leave Lincoln ahead 14-12.
The Patriots had just 66 yards, all rushing, in the second half and 31 came on a run out of punt formation by Folger, who gained 119 yards on 33 carries, after Casey's score. The Patriots got to the 10-yard line but quarterback Jared Long fumbled on fourth down to end the threat with 7:11 to play.
Casey appeared to get out of trouble
Casey appeared to get out of trouble when pass interference was called on a third down play. The penalty would have given Casey a first down at the 31-yard line. Instead, the flag was waved off. Stephens got a penalty for protesting and Swango's punt hit one of his own linemen to give Lincoln possession at the 5-yard line. Folger scored on a 1-yard run on fourth down.
"That was a huge call. I felt like we were moving the ball and would have scored," Stephens said.
Casey drove to the Lincoln 30 on its last possession before Kyle Long's fourth-down pass fell incomplete after he was hit by Cole Lanigan as he tried to throw.
Big plays had set up four scoring chances for Casey in the first half, but the Rebels capitalized only once.
Casey wasted a short pass that Swango turned into a 43-yard gain to the Lincoln 27-yard line in the first quarter. An 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Raney, who made several nifty moves to avoid tacklers along the sideline, was nullified by a penalty. Raney proved that run was no fluke when he fielded the kickoff on the next play, found a seam and went 75 yards to the Lincoln 15 before a touchdown-saving tackle by Cody Reed.
Lincoln's defense held on downs after Swango's catch and Mark Davis made the first of two second-quarter interceptions for the Patriots to stop Casey after Raney's return.
The Patriots depended on the run to wear down Casey's defense. Folger was the workhorse, but two big plays by Braxton Miller, who had 96 yards on seven carries, turned the game in Lincoln's favor. Miller, a sophomore, went 33 yards for a touchdown on his first carry early in period two. His 56-yard run three plays after Davis' first interception was followed by a juggling catch by Trevor Merriman at the Casey two-yard line. Two plays later Folger scored for a 14-6 halftime lead.
"Our secondary let down a few plays and our linebackers didn't always play well," French said. "Our biggest problem is that we are young and not very physical. That still worries me. But the big positive is that we won, something they hadn't done here in a long time and something we really needed to do this week."