BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- The Moravian College football team rallied from a 14-6 deficit in the second quarter behind freshman quarterback Christopher Mills to post a 31-14 victory over Juniata College in Centennial Conference action for Homecoming on Rocco Calvo Field Saturday.
"I think in the first half, the dagger was the two turnovers with Juniata scoring off of one, and it really hurt because I thought we were moving the ball effectively and doing some good things but we shot ourselves in the foot," stated Head Coach Jeff Pukszyn. "We battled through that and talked at halftime about playing our style of football and our tempo, and the reverse would happen in the second half. We were able to hold onto the ball and also get a couple of takeaways to get the offense the ball more. All in all I thought the team really battled through some adversity and showed a lot of character today."
Mills, who moved to 3-0 as the Greyhounds' starting quarterback, completed 22-of-29 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns, and he added 17 yards on nine carries as the Blue and Grey racked up 432 yards on 71 plays while controlling the clock for 34:26. Sophomore wide receiver Nick Petros had his fourth consecutive 100-yard game with eight catches for 170 yards including touchdown receptions of 35 and 67 yards to move into a tie for eighth in school history with 12 career touchdown catches. Petros, who is one TD reception shy of tying the single season school record, has four scoring catches of more than 60 yards this fall and eight of his nine TDs are more than 30-yard receptions. Petros also punted twice for 78 yards with a long of 50 yards.
"I think Nick is an explosive wide receiver, and he does a lot for us with punting, returning kickoffs and holding for Jon," commented Pukszyn. "It's nice that Chris and Nick have the timing that they do with the work they do during the week and are showcasing on Saturday. I'm real proud of what they are doing."
Freshman wide receiver Cory Little caught six passes for 62 yards and returned a pair of kickoffs for 31 yards while junior wide receiver Alex Pierce had three receptions for 35 yards. Junior wide receiver Andrew Lelie also caught three passes for 25 yards while junior tight end Nick Cregar had his first two receptions of the season for 10 yards.
The Greyhounds picked up 130 yards on 42 carries with junior Roberto Diez carrying 16 times or 61 yards and a touchdown. Senior running back Eli Redmond added 52 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries as he became the 11th player in school history to reach 2,000 career yards, now with 2,031 yards on 416 carries with 13 rushing touchdowns. Freshman running back Gerald Grube had six yards on three attempts while sophomore quarterback Doug Erney added two yards on a carry that was fumbled at the goal line and recovered by Diez for a score.
Senior kicker Jon Miller connected on a 20-yard field goal to send Moravian to the locker room with a 17-14 lead, and he added a pair of extra points for five points as he moved into tie for seventh in school history with 42 PATs and into ninth all-time with 62 career points.
Senior linebacker Dallas Owen led the Greyhounds' defense with 11 tackles while senior defensive lineman Nick Tone had eight tackles with three and a half for loss and three of the Hounds' five saves in the game, and Tone also forced a fumble. Sophomore linebacker Brady Hornbaker had seven tackles with one save while sophomore defensive back Jalen Richardson had four tackle with a pair of pass break-ups. Freshman defensive lineman Tijir Bleam added Moravian's other sack among his two tackles.
Senior linebackers Nick Zambelli and Tanner Stokes each had five tackles with Stokes adding a tackle for loss while sophomore defensive lineman Shane Mastro and junior defensive lineman Mike O'Hagan each collected four tackles with Mastro breaking up a pass and O'Hagan adding a half a tackle for loss. Sophomore defensive back Justin McRae contributed three tackles and a forced fumble while sophomore linebacker Austin Heisler had three stops and sophomore defensive back Jackson Buskirk added two tackles, a fumble recovery, a pass break-up and a punt return for three yards.
"I thought we had the advantage a little be going into the game with our defensive depth so it was great to see our guys have the confidence to do some things," noted Pukszyn. "A bunch of guys on the defensive front did a phenomenal job of winning some one-on-one battles. You see those one-on-ones a lot on the receivers but the ones in the front alleviate some pressure on the guys in the back."
Moravian received the opening kickoff and punted on its first drive as did Juniata. The Greyhounds' second drive would end when Petros fumbled on a tackle after a reception gained eight yards. The Hounds' defense forced a three-and-out but the punt would be downed at the one-yard line.
Facing 99 yards to the end zone, Mills would lead the Greyhounds on a 14-play drive for the first score of the game. The drive began with back-to-back runs by Diez before Mills hit Pierce and Petros with back-to-back first down passes to move the ball to midfield. Redmond would go for nine yards on the next play to break the 2,000-yard milestone. Redmond finished off the drive nine plays later with back to back runs, the latter going for three yards and a touchdown. A bad snap on the extra-point attempt forced an incomplete pass from Petros to give the Hounds a 6-0 lead with 2:18 left in the first quarter.
Juniata would march down the field an answer with an 11-play drive to take a 7-6 lead with 12:46 left in the second quarter.
Diez was stripped of the ball on the second play of Moravian's next possession, and the Eagles turned the miscue into another touchdown as they extended their lead to 14-6 with 10:55 left in the first half.
Juniata attempted an onside kick that the Greyhounds recovered at midfield. Mills found Pierce for 15 yards on the first play of the drive and then Petros caught a crossing route and raced 35 yards into the end zone. Mills would connect with Redmond on a two-point conversion as the Hounds knotted the score at 14-14 with 10:23 before the intermission.
Moravian's defense would force a stop on fourth-and-in at midfield to get the ball back to the offense. The Blue and Grey moved into the red zone on a 20-yard pass from Mills to Little and the Greyhounds would have six plays from inside the six-yard line due to a penalty but couldn't crack the goal line before bringing Miller one for his 20-yard field goal and a 17-14 lead with 1:32 left until halftime.
Juniata opened the second half with the ball and put together a 12-play drive for a fourth down stop gave Moravian the ball at its own 31-yard line. After a short pass from Mills to Petros and a run by Diez, Miller found Petros behind the Eagles' defense for a 67-yard touchdown pass. Miller's extra-point push the Greyhounds' advantage to 24-14 with 7:46 to go in the third quarter.
Juniata punted after three plays and the Greyhounds would go on another long drive that covered 96 yards on 17 plays and ended with the final points of the game. Facing another play inside the two-yard line, Erney came into the game and attempted to jump over the pile into the end zone. As he stretched the ball out, it was knocked loose and rolled around in the end zone until Diez fell on it for the touchdown. Miller split the uprights with his 20th PAT of the season for a 31-14 lead with 12:24 remaining in the contest.
The Greyhounds offense would get the ball right back as McRae forced a fumble recovered by Buskirk, but the Blue and Grey were unable to capitalize.
Moravian is slate to return to action on Saturday, October 27 in a Centennial Conference game at Franklin & Marshall College kicking off at 4:00 p.m. in Lancaster.