No. 10 Keiser escaped with a 39-32 homecoming win Saturday to improve to 8-0

WEST PALM BEACH — No. 10 Keiser football endured an unexpected scare to its undefeated record, but pulled through against visiting St. Thomas University on Saturday, winning 39-32.


Running back Asunfo Elam — taking the reins of the Seahawks’ ground assault with Marques Burgess exiting with an ankle injury — was an absolute force, rushing for 268 yards on 36 carries. Those 268 yards were a school record for the second-year NAIA program.


Elam also scored the game-winning touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.


“I’m feeling good,” Elam said. “The O-linemen, they stuck their blocks and I got in the holes and I had to make the next guy miss in the second level.”


Despite Elam’s big night, the visiting Bobcats (3-6) gave everything Keiser (8-0) could handle, taking a 24-12 lead into the locker room. Keiser never led during the first half.


It was not until the third quarter that Elam and the Seahawks really found their footing on offense. Even then, the momentum began on special teams. Davion Cross recovered a blocked punt to cut the deficit to 24-19, filling the stadium with renewed energy.


Then tight end Jaylen Arnold gave Keiser its first lead of the evening. Cutting across the goal-line on a short corner route, the big target reeled in a contested catch for the go-ahead score.


“I was telling my defense when we were coming back from the half, I said, ‘You guys just give us the ball back, and we’re going to put it in for you,’” Arnold said. “And we were driving, we kept pushing, and that touchdown just boosted us up and got us going.”


That’s when Elam went to work.


The junior back broke off touchdown of 36 yards and 52 yards in the second half. It was a statement game for Elam, who normally serves as a change-of-pace back.


That 52-yard scamper with 7:32 remaining in the game was the game-winning score, breaking a 32-all tie.


Elam’s breakout performance could not have come at a more important time, as his two key touchdowns helped offset a four-turnover night from the Seahawks.


Coach Doug Socha acknowledged that there were plenty of mistakes and lessons to be learned from the contest, but focused on the perseverance throughout.


“It was a really good job on our team just battling through,” Socha said. “We certainly didn’t help ourselves turning the football over multiple times. I’ve got to give some credit to St. Thomas. Those guys were ready to play and they did some really good things. But I’m proud of the way they played till the end and they finished and they found a way. I’m happy with the win.”


Keiser will host Ave Maria University next week in the season finale as the Seahawks hope to close out the regular season undefeated.