BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- Junior running back Chris Negron ran for 154 yards and two touchdowns while junior quarterback Mike Hayes added a career-high 134 yards on the ground and 107 yards and two touchdowns through the air to lead the Moravian College football team to a 31-3 Centennial Conference victory over Ursinus College at Rocco Calvo Field on a cold and damp Saturday.
The Greyhounds head to their bye week at 4-1 for the first time since the 2008 season, and the victory on Saturday snapped a four-game losing streak to the Bears. Moravian's defense also limited Ursinus to just five yards on 17 rushing attempts, the first time the Hounds had kept an opponent under 25 yards rushing since 2011 against Juniata College.
"This was a huge win for the program, and I think the guys did a great job in their approach this week," commented Head Coach Jeff Pukszyn. "We talk all the time about learning from a loss, but you also need to learn from a win and I think we showed that today because on defense we won at the point of attack and tackled a lot better. Those are two things that we really concentrated on in practice going out of last week's win at Dickinson. I was happy with the way the defense responded in practice and showed up today.
"Ursinus is a very physical defensive team, and I felt we ran the ball consistently today, and that helps tremendously," continued Pukszyn. "The offensive line did a great job, and overall on defense we did a phenomenal job."
Negron, who carried the ball a career-high 42 times, also caught three passes for 28 yards, and he moved in the fifth in school history with 518 rushing attempts, third with 27 rushing touchdowns and a tie for third with 29 career touchdowns as he increased his career rushing total to 2,594 yards, third in the Moravian record books.
Hayes rushed 16 times and was not stopped behind the line of scrimmage as the Greyhounds had two players rush for over 100 yards in the same game for the first time in two seasons, which was also the last time a Moravian quarterback hit 100 yards rushing. Hayes also completed 9-of-20 passes with a pair of touchdown receptions to junior wide receiver Jalen Snyder-Scipio. Hayes became the 11th quarterback in school history to reach 2,500 yards passing, now at 2,514 while Snyder-Scipio moved into a tie for seventh with 107 career receptions.
"Ursinus was going to try and take Chris and Eli as much as they could on the zone read stuff so Mike did a great job of reading the end man on the line of scrimmage and pulling balls and protecting himself as much as he could when he did pull it," explained Pukszyn. "Chris works so hard in practice so sometimes you can't teach those running backs what they have, it is just god given, and his vision is and he does a tremendous job with it. I know both Mike and Chris would say the offensive line paved the way but both played very well on the zone read stuff that we did today."
Moravian racked up a total of 408 yards of offense on 87 plays including 67 rushing attempts while controlling the ball for 33:57 of the contest. Defensively, the Greyhounds forced four turnovers while allowing just 253 yards on 66 plays and keeping the Bears to 4-of-16 on third down and 0-of-2 on fourth down.
The Hounds deferred the opening kickoff to go on defense right away. On the third play of the game, junior defensive lineman John Snyder sacked the Ursinus quarterback and forced a fumble that was jumped on by freshman linebacker Owen Perih at the Ursinus 27 yard line. Snyder had a pair of sacks and four tackles for loss in the contest.
"Our coaches put in some new stunts this week and it really helped us to get some penetration," stated Snyder. "We all did well with those and it helped out a lot. It was definitely awesome to hold them to five yard rushing. Last week at Dickinson we gave up some big runs, and that put kind of a chip on our shoulder. We knew we were capable of an effort like that but it is nice to finally do it on the field in front of everybody."
The Moravian offense needed just five plays to convert the turnover into points with Hayes finding Snyder-Scipio with a fade pass to the right corner of the end zone as he tapped his feet inside the pylon for the score. Senior Jerome Wachter connected on the extra-point for a 7-0 lead for the Blue & Grey just 3:25 into action.
The defense would get the ball right back on the first play of the ensuing Ursinus drive as senior defensive lineman Ryan Pysher dropped in covered and made his first career interception at the Bears' 40-yard line. However, the Hounds were unable to convert the turnover into points, punting after three plays.
Moravian's defense would surrender a first down before forcing the first Ursinus punt of the game. The Greyhounds used the rushing attack to move the ball into the red zone but after a pair of incompletions, Wachter came on to attempt a 30-yard field goal that was blocked.
After another Bears' punt, Moravian started from its own seven-yard line early in the second quarter. The third play of the drive found Hayes hitting junior wide receiver Liam Nolan with a 47-yard catch and run down the left sideline to flip the field. Hayes would eventually finish the drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Snyder-Scipio in the right corner of the end zone again. It was Snyder-Scipio's 12th career touchdown reception to move into a tie for seventh in the record books. Wachter split the uprights for a 14-0 Moravian lead with 11:14 left in the second quarter.
The Greyhounds forced Ursinus to punt after three plays but Moravian was unable to move the ball and would punt as well. However, senior defensive back/punter Jimmy McCarthy's punt was muffed near midfield and freshman wide receiver Arren Porter was there to cover the loose ball at the Ursinus 45-yard line. The Hounds used the miscue to get into the red zone before the drive stalled. Wachter came back onto the field for a 34-yard field goal into the wind. He put the ball through the uprights for his first career field goal, and the first field goal made by the Greyhounds in nearly two seasons after not attempting a field goal at all during the 2014 season. Wachter's three points pushed the Moravian advantage to 17-0 with 5:20 left in the first half.
"Jerome is getting better and doing a really good job in just his second year as a football kicker after playing soccer, and it really helps us to be able to put some points on the board," stated Pukszyn. "He's gaining confidence in himself, and we have confidence in him. That kick was into the wind so it was a huge boost to get those three points at that point in time."
The teams would trade punts before Ursinus was able to move the ball down to the Moravian 20-yard line. Ursinus kicker Eric Boyer came into attempt a 37-yard field goal with the wind at his back with just 26 seconds before the intermission but the kick sailed wide left as Moravian headed to the locker room with a 17-0 lead.
The Greyhounds received the opening kickoff and Hayes ran for 30 yards on the first play of the drive. Moravian looked to be driving for more points before Ursinus' Bill Ghaul stepped in front of a Hayes pass for an interception at the Urinsus 22-yard line. The Bears would use the turnover for some momentum and move down to the 19-yard line where Boyer connected on a 36-yard field goal to cut the Hounds' lead to 17-3 with 8:57 to go in the third quarter.
Moravian was driving again when Negron was stripped by Steve Ambs but the Bears were unable to capitalize, punting after three plays. After a punt by the Greyhounds, Ursinus moved into the red zone again before its drive stalled. Boyer was called on again to attempt a 34-yard field goal with the wind at his back but he pushed the kick wide right as Moravian kept its two-touchdown lead.
The Greyhounds were unable to use the miss for an advantage as Ambs forced another fumble, this time knocking the ball away from sophomore Eli Redmond on the third play of the drive.
Ursinus took the ball into the red zone after the turnover but threw three incomplete passes to turn the ball over on downs. The teams would then trade punts on the next two possessions.
Moravian took possession on its own 17-yard line with 12:34 left to play. The Hounds would march the 83 yards to the end zone on 11 plays coupled with a pair of personal foul penalties on Ursinus. Negron finished off the drive with a two-yard run for his 10th rushing touchdown of the season. Wachter connected on the PAT as the Hounds lead 24-3 with 8:39 to go.
After punts by both squads, McCarthy would get another turnover for the Blue & Grey with an interception at the Ursinus 21-yard line that he returned down to the 16. Six plays later, Negron rushed in from a yard out and Wachter split the uprights to give the Hounds a 31-3 advantage with just 1:43 left to play.
Senior linebacker Brendan Downey led the Moravian defense with eight tackles while senior defensive back Anthony Orlando and freshman linebacker Steve Ewald each made six tackles with Orlando breaking up one pass and Ewald making a tackle for loss. Snyder had four stops, all behind the line of scrimmage with two sacks and a forced fumble, and he was one of five Hounds with four tackles. McCarthy, Perih, sophomore defensive back Geronimo Santana and sophomore linebacker Dominic Rossetti all had four tackles with McCarthy adding two passes defended, his interception and six punts for 194 yards. Perih had a fumble recovery while Santana and Rossetti each had pass breakups.
"John Snyder up front was tremendous today, and he has a lot of strength as a physical, weight room kid and that was displayed today against the run and in space bringing guys down in the backfield," noted Pukszyn. "Brendan has been dinged up the last couple of week, and it showed. Now that he is healthy, he came out of his shell today and played very well and showed a lot of leadership out there."
After its bye week, Moravian is scheduled to return to action on Saturday, October 17 in the squad's final game outside of the Lehigh Valley in a Centennial Conference game at Susquehanna University kicking off at 1:00 p.m.