BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- Moravian College junior linebacker Ed Delia blocked a pair of punts in the first 5:15 of the game, and the Greyhounds turned both blocks into touchdowns as the Hounds raced to a 21-0 lead in a 35-32 victory over Gettysburg College in Centennial Conference action Saturday afternoon at Rocco Calvo Field.
Moravian has now won five straight games and is 7-1 overall for the first time since 2004, and the Greyhounds are in second place in the Centennial Conference at 6-1 this fall.
"The quick started paid off for us in the end, and I think today we won the special teams battle which really helped us," commented Head Coach Jeff Pukszyn. "Getting two blocked punts in a row and putting up points was really important since we stalled a little bit after that. It feels great to be 7-1 but tomorrow will be another day, and we'll have to learn from this success and see why we went from being up 21-0 to needing the score at the end of the game to seal the victory."
The Hounds finished the game with 408 yards of total offense and held possession of the ball for more than 30 minutes just the second time during the winning streak. Junior quarterback Mike Hayes completed 23-of-30 passes for 241 yards with three touchdowns. Hayes now has 3,227 career passing yards, just the eighth quarterback in school history to reach 3,000 career yards.
"It's surreal to be 7-1, seeing all of the hard work paying off and just come together from camp until now," stated Hayes. "It's great to see and I'm like a proud father right now. I have responsibility as the quarterback but just to see everyone working hard, and now having that all come together is awesome to see."
Junior wide receiver Jalen Snyder-Scipio caught six passes for 46 yards and a score as he moved into fifth in school history with 119 career receptions, tied for sixth in receiving touchdowns with 13 and 12th with 1,329 career yards. Sophomore wide receiver Justice Anderson pulled in five catches for 63 yards while junior wide receiver Liam Nolan had four catches for 57 yards and a touchdown and senior tight end Andrew Racobaldo grabbed three passes for 38 yards and a score. Sophomore wide receiver Aaron Hudson added three receptions for 18 yards and four kickoff returns for 67 yards.
Junior running back Chris Negron hit the 100-yard mark for the fifth straight game and the 12th time in his career as he picked up 139 yards and a touchdown on 37 carries. The 139 yards gave Negron his second career 1,000-yard season, now with 1,083 yards on 225 carries this fall. It is just the sixth 1,000 yard season in Moravian history with Chris Jacoubs '06 having three and Jim Joseph '86 having the other. Negron is also seven yards away from 3,000 in his career as he would join Jacoubs as the only backs to hit the milestone in school history. Negron hit 600 career rushing attempts, fourth all-time, 29 rushing touchdowns, third in school history, and 31 career touchdowns, third all-time. Negron added two receptions for 19 yards on Saturday.
"If you see Chris work during the offseason and during the week, it is paying off and you saw that today," stated Pukszyn. "We rode him at the end and put the weight of the world on the offensive line, and were basically able to run out the clock. I think the line did a great job today and Racobaldo had a phenomenal game as well. When you can keep pounding the ball, good things will happen like they did today for Chris."
Sophomore running back Eli Redmond added 45 yards and a touchdown on six carries to raise his career total to 1,136 yards, 21st in school history.
On the game's opening drive for the Bullets, Moravian's defense held Gettysburg to a three-and-out. On the punt, Delia came right through the middle and blocked the punt at the Gettysburg 27-yard line. Senior running back Luke Gotzon covered the ball at the nine-yard line to set up the offense.
Moravian needed four plays to get onto the scoreboard with Negron crashing into the end zone on a fourth-and-goal from the two. Senior kicker Jerome Wachter added the extra-point for a 7-0 lead just 2:46 into action.
The Hounds allowed Gettysburg one first down on its next possession before the Blue and Grey forced another punt. Once again, Delia came up the middle and blocked the kick to give the Greyhounds the ball at the Gettysburg 39-yard line. Delia is the first Moravian player to block two punts in a game since Matt Sheridan blocked three punts at King's College on September 17, 2005.
"Gettysburg runs a shield punt so they are spread, and you know that you can get an immediate rush on them," noted Pukszyn. "It was all about knocking the shield guys back into the punter to apply the pressure because it is to get around those big guys. Ed is a big, physical kid, and he showed a lot of determination today. A lot goes to him knowing that this one play can make a big difference and going out there and executing it not once but twice. The first one was a straight punt and the second was a rugby style so Ed did a great job following a ball and throwing his body in there."
Moravian needed just three plays to extend the lead to 14-0 as Hayes found Nolan down the left sideline for a 26-yard touchdown. Wachter split the uprights for his 30th extra-point of the season with 8:40 still to play in the opening quarter.
"I think Mike played well today," Pukszyn said. "There are things that we need to look at every week but I think he distributed the ball really well today and did what he needed to do. He pulled the ball a couple of times on the zone read and picked up some nice yardage. The three touchdown passes are crucial for us though because it makes us more than one dimensional and harder to defend. Mike has done a lot to make us a dual threat team."
The Bullets had another three-and-out on their next drive and Moravian would take seven plays to go 69 yards after the punt by Gettysburg. Redmond capped off the drive with a 26-yard burst up the middle for his seventh rushing touchdown of the fall. Wachter would add another PAT to give the Hounds a 21-0 lead with 4:41 left in the first quarter.
Gettysburg punted on its next two possessions while the Greyhounds would punt once. Early in the second quarter, Moravian had the ball near midfield when Snyder-Scipio had the ball knocked loose while fighting for extra yards after a reception. The Bullets couldn't capitalize and pinned the Hounds deep with a punt. Moravian turned the ball right back over when Hayes was intercepted on the first play of the ensuing drive.
The Bullets did capitalize on this turnover with a two-play, six-yard drive to cut t Moravian's lead to 21-7 with 12:16 before the intermission.
Moravian came back with an 11-play, 74-yard drive. Hayes would cap off the drive as he found Snyder-Scipio heading to the back-right pylon on a fade route for a seven-yard touchdown strike. Wachter made the extra-point to put the Greyhounds' lead at 28-7 with 8:29 in the second quarter. The PAT was the 32nd of the season for Wachter, breaking Chad Kurtz' record of 31 set back in 1993.
"I think it shows how far we've come offensively here at Moravian that Jerome has that many extra points in eight games,: stated Pukszyn. "I couldn't be more proud of Jerome for sticking with us. He's done a phenomenal job, and his concentration is great. We used our backup holder freshman Anthony Messenger today, and those two work together a lot in practice so we didn't skip a beat. That's a good thing to see when people can step up.
Gettysburg would answer right back with an eight-play, 68-yard touchdown drive to cut the Moravian lead to 28-14 with 6:22 still to play in the first half.
The Bullets would get the ball right back when Hayes fumbled on a sack to set Gettysburg up at the Moravian 18-yard line. The Hounds defense held to force a field goal attempt. The Bullets tried to run a fake but the Greyhounds stopped the play short to get the ball back on downs.
However, Moravian was unable to get past its own 29-yard line on the drive and was forced to punt. The Bullets would turn that punt into three more points before halftime with a 28-yard field goal with just two seconds left on the clock as the teams headed to the locker room with Moravian leading 28-17.
The Hounds had the ball to start the second half, but their first two drives ended in punts while Gettysburg punted once. The Bullets scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion on their second drive of the half to pull within 28-25 with 6:21 to go in the third quarter.
After each team punted once, Moravian took over on its own 45-yard line late in the third quarter after a 21-yard punt return by junior defensive back Noah Miller. Two plays into the fourth quarter, Hayes connected with Racobaldo on a 20-yard pass up the middle for another touchdown. Wachter's extra-point pushed Moravian's advantage to 10 points, 35-25 with 14:47 to play.
"Coach Tim McGorry had some really good play calls at the right time on all the touchdown passes," Hayes explained. "The wide receivers did a great job getting open, and I saw the window on each play and was able to drop the ball into each of the guys. The offensive line also did a tremendous job today. When we needed to move the ball and score late in the game, everyone did a great job."
Each team would be forced to punt again on a three-and-out before the Bullets took over at their own 20-yard line. Gettysburg took 14 plays to cover the 80 yards to the end zone. The score pulled the Bullets within three points again, 35-32, with 7:45 remaining.
Moravian needed to put a sustained drive together and they would rely on Negron. After a penalty to start the drive, Negron ran for seven yards. Hayes followed with a pass to Snyder-Scipio for 11 yards and a first down, and then Negron would run the ball on 14 straight plays. While the Hounds turned the ball over on downs at the Gettysburg 11-yard line, Moravian left the Bullets with just 49 seconds on the clock.
Gettysburg picked up one first down but back-to-back sacks by senior defensive linemen Dan Bracken and Tim McCabe would give the ball back to the Hounds with four seconds on the clock. Hayes would kneel down to seal the victory.
Senior linebacker Brendan Downey led the Moravian defense with 13 tackles including one for loss while Bracken had 10 tackles with three and a half for loss including his sack. Freshman linebacker Steve Ewald had nine stops while McCabe, senior defensive back Anthony Orlando and senior defensive lineman Ryan Pysher all had eight tackles. McCabe also had three tackles for loss and two sacks while Pysher made one stop behind the line of scrimmage. Miller had seven tackles with a pair of pass break-ups to go with four punt returns for 41 yards while junior defensive lineman John Snyder had seven tackles with two for loss.
"I think Downey and McCabe really stood out for the defense today," noted Pukszyn. "I also think that Snyder, Pysher and sophomore Jordan Stout (Berwick, Pa./Berwick HS) inside did a phenomenal job taking away what Gettysburg does best which is running the ball between the tackles. McCabe and Bracken also did a great job on the perimeter."
Gettysburg finished the game with 368 yards on 85 plays including 128 yards on the ground.
Moravian will finish off a three-game home stand on Saturday, November 7 when the squad hosts Juniata College in a Centennial Conference game starting at 12:00 p.m. It will be Senior Day for the Greyhounds, and Moravian will also honor its 2015 Hall of Fame class at halftime of the contest.