BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- Senior wide receiver Jalen Snyder-Scipio became the eighth player in Moravian College history to reach 100 career receptions as he caught 10 passes for 92 yards, and the Greyhounds scored on three second half runs but it wasn't enough as the Hounds fell to No. 11 Johns Hopkins University, 45-23, in Centennial Conference action at Moravian's Rocco Calvo Field Saturday as the Greyhounds played their first home game of the season.
"We didn't play the first 30 minutes like we wanted to, but we learned a lot about our team in the last 30 minutes," commented Head Coach Jeff Pukszyn. "What we learned is that we have high character kids that have a lot of fight in them, and that had discipline to execute. After the first half and not playing well, not to take anything away from Johns Hopkins, but we didn't play our best 30 minutes of football, and when you play a team like Hopkins, you have to.
"We put ourselves in a hole, and we could have come out in the second half not having any enthusiasm, not having fight, not having any discipline to execute our plays offensively and defensively but we did and that shows a lot about our guys and I told them that after the game," continued Pukszyn. "I'm very proud of the way we came out in the second half and played the last 30 minutes of the game."
Moravian's offense picked up 370 yards on 73 plays including 174 on the ground. Junior running back Chris Negron ran for 78 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown while sophomore running back Eli Redmond added 56 yards and a score on 12 attempts. Freshman running back Josh Dixon picked up 28 yards including his first collegiate touchdown on two carries while senior running back Luke Gotzon had 16 yards on six attempts. Negron moved into seventh in school history in yardage at 2,219 yards, eighth in rushing attempts with 437 and tied for seventh in rushing touchdowns with 19 after Saturday's action.
Junior quarterback Mike Hayes completed 17-of-26 passes for 191 yards in the game including the 10 passes to Snyder-Scipio, who entered the game needing nine passes to hit the century mark, and three to sophomore wide receiver Justice Anderson. Snyder-Scipio moved into a tie for seventh with 101 career receptions, and he is now 15th in receiving yardage with 1,163 yards in his career.
"I think Mike played a really good game," noted Pukszyn. "I did a really good job, his head was on his shoulders and he played up today as we say. Jalen pays a lot of attention to detail, and I think especially this year, he has a lot of focus. He is catching balls consistently. Mike is throwing him open and Jalen is doing a great job grabbing the ball and getting some yards after the catch. He is a tireless worker and a complete wide receiver so the catches just come. Jalen is more worried about am I blocking well and running the right routes. When you do all that to be the best wide receiver you can be then the stats will come and they did today."
Moravian received the opening kickoff for the third straight week and quickly moved down the field, reaching the red zone in six plays. After an incomplete pass, the game was delayed for nearly 15 minutes due to an injury on the field. When play resumed, the Greyhounds were unable to move the ball so senior kicker Jerome Wachter lined up for a 35-yard field goal attempt. The kick, Moravian's first field goal attempt since November 16, 2013, had plenty of distance but hit the right upright about halfway up and dropped just in front of the crossbar to keep the game scoreless.
The Blue Jays needed just three plays to take an early lead with Brandon Cherry scoring the first of four touchdowns in the game on a 73-yard run with 10:27 left in the first quarter.
The Greyhounds picked up a first down on their next drive but would eventually punt. Johns Hopkins took the ball 63 yards in 11 plays to extend the lead to 14-0 with 3:34 to go in the opening 15 minutes of action.
The next Moravian drive resulted in the same with one first down before the punt. The Hounds defense would get the ball back for the offense in just two plays. Senior linebacker Brendan Downey batted a pass up into the air, and senior cornerback Jimmy McCarthy came down with the ball for his first interception of the season and the sixth of his career.
However, the Greyhounds were forced to punt after picking up one first down.
Johns Hopkins pushed the lead to 21-0 with 10:53 left in the second quarter, and after another Moravian punt, the Blue Jays added a fourth touchdown to make the lead 28-0 with 4:32 until the intermission.
A quick three-and-out from the Hounds gave Johns Hopkins one more chance before halftime, and the Blue Jays scored to head to the locker room with a 35-0 lead.
Johns Hopkins opened the second half with the ball, and Moravian's defense forced a three-and-out and the first punt of the afternoon by the Blue Jays.
Moravian also had a quick three-and-out on its first drive of the second half, which led to another score by the Blue Jays to make it 42-0 with 9:20 to go in the third quarter.
The Greyhounds offense would come alive on the next drive with Negron carrying the ball on six of the first eight plays before Redmond finished off the drive with runs of six and seven yards, the latter into the end zone for his fourth rushing touchdown of the season. Wachter's extra-point set the score at 42-7 with 5:20 in the third.
The Blue Jays drove down the field but the Moravian defense would force Johns Hopkins into a field goal with 1:34 left in the third quarter for its final points of the game as the score became 45-7. The Blue Jays finished the game with 479 yards on 69 plays with Cherry running for 118 yards and three scores on nine attempts while Stuart Walters added 59 yards on 12 attempts. Ryan Cary had one rushing touchdown and 28 yards on five carries while Jonathan Germano had 28 yards on six carries to go with 15-of-20 on pass attempts for 193 yards and two touchdowns. Cherry caught three passes for 47 yards and a score while Bradley Munday added three catches for 42 yards.
Moravian's next drive saw the Greyhounds move down the field on the ground once again with a pair of rushing first downs by Negron before Hayes hit Anderson with a 31-yard pass. After a quick breather with Redmond running the ball, Negron came back on the field to finish the drive with a three-yard touchdown scamper, the 21st touchdown of his career to move him into fifth in career touchdowns and eighth in career points with 126. Wachter booted the extra-point as the score was 45-14 with 12:24 left to play.
"I think Justice has taken some really big steps this year after having very few snaps a year ago, and I think out two tight ends that are quality players in senior Andrew Racobaldo and sophomore Nick Nejad played a big role today," stated Pukszyn.
Each team punted on their next possession with McCarthy, who averaged 35.4 yards per punt on seven kicks during the game, pinning the Blue Jays at their own seven-yard line. On the second play of the drive, Johns Hopkins was called for intentional grounding in the end zone to give the Greyhounds a safety, their first since the 2012 season.
Moravian received the free kick and moved down the field on the ground once again. After six runs by Gotzon and one by freshman quarterback Anthony Messenger, who completed his first career pass on the drive to sophomore wide receiver Kyle Ferryman, his first career catch, Dixon took over with runs of nine and 19 yards, the second one found the end zone off the right side for the final touchdown of the game. Wachter split the uprights again to set the final score at 45-23.
Freshman Steve Ewald led the Greyhounds' defense with nine tackles including a half a tackle for loss while Downey made seven stops and added two pass break-ups. Freshman linebacker Tre' Smith, senior defensive lineman Dan Bracken, freshman linebacker Nick Tone and sophomore defensive lineman Jordan Stout each had six tackles with Stout making one and a half stops behind the line of scrimmage.
"Defensively, I don't think we played as well as I thought or with the tempo that we wanted but we rotated a lot of guys," Pukszyn said. "Overall on defense, I don't think anyone stood out but the fight that they had was really good."
Keonte Henson led the Blue Jays with nine tackles including one for loss and half a sack while Addison Quinones and Keith Corliss both had six tackles for Johns Hopkins.
Moravian will head back on the road next Saturday with another Centennial Conference game at Dickinson College. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. on September 26 in Carlisle.