SELINSGROVE, Pa. --- Junior quarterback Mike Hayes ran for a fourth quarter touchdown and threw for another score as the Moravian College football team remained undefeated on the road with 21-14 Centennial Conference victory at Susquehanna University Saturday afternoon.
The Greyhounds are 5-1 overall and 4-0 on the road this fall, just the third time in school history that Moravian is 4-0 after four road games joining the 1988 (5-0 in the regular season on the road) and 2004 teams, and the squad will now play its final four games in the Lehigh Valley with three straight at Rocco Calvo Field before a final road game at rival Muhlenberg College.
"Getting a win up here at Susquehanna is always tough and coming off the bye week, you never know how it is going to be. It probably wasn't the prettiest game but a win is a win," commented Head Coach Jeff Pukszyn. "We're excited about the victory but we'll get back to work tomorrow afternoon to start preparing for next Saturday.
"This was a huge win for the program," continued Pukszyn. "I think a real big positive from today was the way the coaching staff on both sides of the ball was able to make adjustments and the players executing those adjustments to put us in a position to get the win. Susquehanna had some new wrinkles on offense that caught us off guard but we were able to adjust defensively and do a good job shutting them down, especially in the second half. I thought the tight ends and wide receivers did a good job on sealing their blocks on the outside on the zone runs, and they also did a good job of catching the ball today."
Hayes completed 12-of-17 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown, and he also ran for 28 yards and a score on 13 carries as Moravian's offense racked up 348 yards on 64 plays. Junior running back Chris Negron picked up his third straight and 11th career 100-yard game with 101 yards on 29 carries while sophomore running back Eli Redmond had 46 yards and a touchdown as he moved within 12 yards of 1,000 for his career.
Susquehanna received the opening kickoff after the Hounds deferred the coin toss. The Crusaders jumped out to a 7-0 lead just 1:12 into action on reverse into a wide receiver pass for a 48-yard touchdown.
Moravian answered on its opening drive of the game as the Blue and Grey drove 76 yards in 10 plays. Hayes found senior tight end Andrew Racobaldo with a six-yard touchdown pass in the left slot, and senior Jerome Wachter added the extra-point to knot the score at 7-7 with 10:17 left in the opening quarter.
"It was huge to come right back down and score after that trick play," noted Pukszyn. "It was a big momentum swing for them and we were in the negative. Coming back and scoring to basically make it zero-zero again was something that we needed to do, and the offense responded so that was tremendous."
Hayes hit junior wide receiver Liam Nolan with passes of 10 and 25 yards on the drive, and Nolan caught a total of four passes for 63 yards on the afternoon while Racobaldo finished with three catches for 29 yards.
"All week in practice, we were going over their coverage so there were a few plays that we called that I knew if I beat my man, I'd be open for the pass from Mike," Nolan said. "We're looking to keep winning as we continue the season and get to play some home games now. It is a team effort and we have everyone on board with the same goal in mind."
Susquehanna moved down the field on its next possession and was near the red zone before the Greyhounds' defense stepped up and forced a pair of incomplete passes on third and fourth down to get the ball back for the Moravian offense.
The teams traded on the next three possessions before Susquehanna took over on its own 23-yard line late in the first quarter. The Crusaders put together a 17-play, 77-yard drive to move back in front, 14-7 with 8:48 before the intermission.
After a punt by the Greyhounds, Susquehanna looked to score again but missed a 42-yard field goal with four minutes until halftime. Moravian turned the missed field goal into points at the other end of the field. The Greyhounds moved 75 yards down the field and tied the game when Redmond took a handoff off the right side, bounced to the sideline and scampered 27 yards for a touchdown. Wachter tied the game again at 14-14 with 1:54 until the intermission.
Moravian received the second half kickoff but the Hounds' drive stalled after one first down before punting. The next four drives finished with punts, two for each team. On the last drive, senior defensive back/punter Jimmy McCarthy got off a punt the hit the turf and rolled 68 yards into the end zone, the longest punt in school history. McCarthy punted eight times in the game for an average of 40.9 yards per punt.
After the touchback, Susquehanna moved the ball down to the Moravian 34-yard line but on a fourth down play, junior defensive lineman Chuka Onukwugha hit the quarterback and forced a fumble as the Greyhounds took over on downs.
Moravian's offense used the defensive stop as a spark and went on an eight-play, 64-yard drive to take the Hounds' first lead of the game. With a first down near midfield, Hayes found junior wide receiver Jalen Snyder-Scipio down the seam, and Snyder-Scipio bounced off of a tackle and ended up with a 32-yard reception to put the Blue and Grey in the red zone. Negron rushed three times to put the ball at the four-yard line, and Hayes pulled the ball on the zone read and ran into the end zone with 8:57 to play. Wachter's PAT gave Moravian a 21-14 advantage.
"Mike did a really good job distributing the ball again today," stated Pukszyn. "Chris and Eli both ran the ball well today and they're both a little different in their style and in what they do that always helps us."
Susquehanna had a long kickoff return to set up its next possession but senior defensive lineman Ryan Pysher would end the drive when he knocked down a pass on fourth down.
Hayes completed a pass to Racobaldo for a first down but the drive ended with a punt. After forcing Susquehanna to punt, Moravian had the ball at its own 38-yard line with 3:31 to play. Facing a third-and-seven, Hayes found a sliding Snyder-Scipio at the first down marker to keep the drive alive. Negron would carry on six straight plays to reach the century mark and run out the clock for the Greyhounds.
The Greyhounds' defense limited Susquehanna to 331 yards on 75 plays with freshman linebacker Steve Ewald leading Moravian with 13 tackles including 12 solo stops and a pair of pass break ups.
"Our coaches had some great scouting reports when we come in on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday about the pass coverage and routes that they run," Ewald said. "The defensive line did a good job holding up their line so I was free to make tackles and we were working as a unit out there. We need to keep looking at each team one at a time and play as hard as we did like it was out last game and give 100 percent effort all the time."
Junior defensive back Noah Miller and senior linebacker Brendan Downey each had eight tackles for the Hounds. McCarthy added seven tackles with one pass break-up while freshman defensive back Nick Zambelli added five tackles. Senior defensive lineman Tim McCabe contributed four tackles with two for loss and one sack while Onukwugha made both of his tackles behind the line of scrimmage including his forced fumble on his sack.
"Steve was one of a number of guys that played well defensively today," Pukszyn said. "As the game went on, the defensive line as a whole got better and better. They were able to bat some balls at the line and that was important for us as the game wound down."
The Greyhounds will start a three-game homestand with their annual Homecoming game on Saturday, October 24 when the squad hosts Franklin & Marshall College at Rocco Calvo Field. Kickoff is slated for 1:05 p.m. with the contest being televised live by TV-2 Sports.