BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- The Moravian College football team hosts No. 21 Susquehanna University in a Centennial Conference game on Saturday, October 19 with kickoff slated for 1:00 p.m. at Rocco Calvo Field in Bethlehem as the Greyhounds return from the bye week and celebrate Homecoming.
THE COACHES: Jeff Pukszyn (Moravian '98) is entering his ninth season as Moravian's head coach after ten years as an assistant coach with the program. Pukszyn joined the Moravian staff as a part-time coach in 1997 after a three-year playing career that saw him named to the All-Middle Atlantic Conference First Team in 1994 and 1996. He was also a two-time captain. Pukszyn became part of the coaching staff full-time in 1999 as defensive coordinator and added the titles of assistant head coach in 2001 and special teams coordinator in 2007. In 2015, Pukszyn led the Greyhounds to an 8-3 record and a berth in the inaugural Centennial-MAC Bowl Series while being named both the Centennial Conference and American Football Coaches Association Division III Region 2 Coach of the Year. He has been a part of 261 games for Moravian since 1994 with a 125-135-1 record. During the bye week, Pukszyn was inducted into Moravian's Hall of Fame for his playing career.
Susquehanna coach Tom Perkovich (Canisius '03) is in his fifth season at Susquehanna with a 31-16 record.
THE SERIES: Saturday's meeting will be the 47th in the series with Moravian holding a 23-22-1 after a 21-18 victory in Selinsgrove last fall. The River Hawks posted a 28-21 win at Rocco Calvo Field in 2017 and a 35-34 final minute victory in Bethlehem in 2016 while the Greyhounds posted a 21-14 win in Selinsgrove in 2015.
GREYHOUNDS IN THE CENTENNIAL CONFERENCE: Moravian joined the Centennial Conference as an associate member in the sport of football in 2007. The Greyhounds were selected seventh in the 2019 Centennial Conference preseason coaches and sports information directors poll while Susquehanna was selected third.
BALANCED & EXPERIENCED 'HOUNDS: Of the 87 players on the Moravian roster, 23 are freshmen, 31 are sophomores and 18 are juniors. There are 15 seniors on this season's squad, and the Greyhounds return 59 letterwinners and 17 starters.
THE QUARTERBACKS: Sophomore Christopher Mills has completed 63-of-119 passes this season for 747 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions in his second season as a starter. Freshman David LePoidevin has completed 5-of-17 passes for 35 yards with two interceptions as he made his first career start at No. 21 Johns Hopkins University.
IN THE BACKFIELD: Senior Roberto Diez leads the running backs with 572 yards and four touchdowns on 119 carries while freshman running back Carrington Smith has carried the ball 19 times for 36 yards this season. Freshman quarterback Sherwin Stewart has rushed for 29 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries while sophomore quarterback Christopher Mills has 17 yards and a score on 16 attempts. Junior wide receiver Nick Petros has contributed seven yards on two carries and sophomore wide receiver/linebacker Romello Walters has one attempt for three yards.
THE WIDE RECEIVERS: The Greyhounds have had 10 different players catch a pass this season led by junior Nick Petros, who has 25 catches for 243 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Eddie Olsen has 14 receptions for 195 yards and a touchdown while senior Alex Pierce has nine receptions for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore Cory Little has caught six passes for 73 yards while senior wide receiver Andrew Lelie has four receptions for 45 yards and a touchdown and sophomore Romello Walters has four catches for 30 yards. Senior tight end Nick Cregar has caught three passes for 20 yards and a touchdown while senior running back Roberto Diez has one catch for 13 yards. Sophomore tight end Matt Nimas has one reception for 22 yards while senior fullback Sal Pagano has one catch this season.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Moravian has four returners on the offensive line with the fifth starter from 2018, junior PJ Weierbach, now on the defensive side of the ball. Seniors right tackle Jason Barish, center Brett Poling, left tackle Tyler Maxsim and left guard Zack Cregar all return to the front line with sophomore Frank Sallusti moved into the starting right guard position. The Greyhounds' front five has an average size of 6-2, 275.
DEFENSIVE FRONT: Junior Shane Mastro leads the defensive front with 28 tackles including two and a half sacks and three tackles for loss while junior Austin Heisler has added 25 tackles including four and a half sacks, five and a half tackles for loss, two pass break-ups, a forced fumble and a blocked punt at Gettysburg College. Junior PJ Weierbach has made 19 tackles with three and a half for loss and, one and a half a sacks and a blocked field goal at Gettys in his first season on the defensive side of the ball while junior Brady Hornbaker has contributed 17 stops with half a sack and three tackles for loss. Senior Mike O'Hagan has recorded seven tackles while junior Andrew Stein also has seven stops with one for loss and two pass break-ups. Junior Sean Agar has added four tackles while senior Christian Coia has two tackles.
THE LINEBACKER CORPS: Sophomore Noah Breidinger tops the linebackers and the Moravian defense with 40 tackles including one for loss, two pass break-ups and a fumble recovery while junior Tanner Barr has contributed 36 tackles with one and a half for loss. Senior Tim Valentine is playing a hybrid linebacker/defensive back and has 12 tackles with an interception while sophomore Romello Walters has 14 tackles to go with two passes defended and an interception returned 79 yards for a touchdown versus Ursinus College, his first game on defense. Junior Kyle Kooker has seven tackles with one and a half for loss while sophomore Nicholas Azpeitia has made seven tackles. Freshman Jack Gawlik has three stops with one for loss and a blocked kick while freshman Wes Asche has made two tackles.
THE DEFENSIVE BACKFIELD: Junior Renard Nicholson leads the defensive backs with 36 tackles to go with one sack, three tackles for loss and two pass break-ups while junior Jackson Buskirk has 30 stops with four tackles for loss and three pass break-ups. Junior Justin McRae has added 15 tackles with two pass break-ups while sophomore Connor Lyon has 12 tackles and a pass break-up. Junior Jalen Richardson has contributed seven stops with one tackle for loss.
KICKING GAME: Sophomore transfer Jack Coary is 3-for-4 on extra-points this season, 1-for-1 on field goals with a long of 21 yards and has kicked off three times for an average of 57.0 yards with one touchback while freshman Trevor Yacuboski has kicked off 15 times for an average of 57.4 yards with two touchbacks. Junior Brendan Morgans is 7-for-9 on extra-points, and he has punted three times for an average of 53.7 yards with a long of 58 yards, one touchback, one inside the 20-yard line and one blocked. Junior wide receiver Nick Petros has punted 20 times for an average of 39.0 yards, a long of 65 yards, two touchbacks and five inside the 20-yard line while sophomore wide receiver Tadd Barr has punted four times for an average of 33.8 yards with one touchback and one inside the 20-yard line. Sophomore quarterback Christopher Mills has punted once this year for 12 yards.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Sophomore wide receiver Cory Little has nine kickoff returns for 336 yards with a long of 87 yards while freshman wide receiver Ethen Aquino has returned two kickoffs for 55 yards with a long of 32 yards. Junior wide receiver Nick Petros has returned two kickoffs for 53 yards with a long of 37 yards while freshman quarterback Sherwin Stewart has returned two kickoffs for 49 yards with a long of 27 yards. Sophomore wide receiver/linebacker Romello Walters has one kickoff return for 21 yards while junior defensive back Jalen Richardson has returned one kickoff for 19 yards and junior defensive back Justin McRae has one kickoff return for 18 yards. Junior defensive back Jackson Buskirk has returned four punts for 21 yards while senior running back Nick Princiotta has made three tackles on special teams.
MILESTONE WATCH: The Greyhounds have three players closing in on milestones in their careers. Senior running back Roberto Diez became the 25th Greyhound to reach 1,000 career rushing yards versus Ursinus College, and he has 1,276 yards (19th in the record book) on 295 carries with 10 touchdowns in his career. Junior wide receiver Nick Petros sits in 11th place in school history with 1,446 receiving yards, and he needs 86 yards to reach the top 10. Petros also needs six receptions to reach 100 for his career, and he is fourth with 15 career touchdown receptions, just four shy of setting the school record. He is seventh with a 35.7 career punting average on 116 punts (eighth all-time) for 4,143 yards (eighth in school history). Sophomore quarterback Christopher Mills enters the week needing 930 yards to to become the eighth Greyhound to throw for 3,000 yards.
THE CENTENNIAL CONFERENCE STATISTICAL RANKINGS: The Greyhounds are ninth in the Centennial Conference in total offense at 279.0 yards per game, and the squad is seventh in rushing offense with an average of 122.6 yards per contest and eighth in passing offense at 156.4 yards per outing. The Hounds are ninth in the conference in scoring offense at 18.2 points per game, and Moravian is tied for sixth in points allowed at 25.6. Moravian's defense ranks eighth in the Centennial Conference at 406.0 yards allowed per game, and the squad is seventh in rushing defense at 165.0 yards per contest and ninth in passing defense at 241.0 yards allowed. Individually, junior wide receiver/punter Nick Petros is tied for fourth in the conference in receptions per game at 5.0, tenth in receiving yards per game at 48.6 and tied for first in punting with an average of 39.0 yards per punt and while sophomore wide receiver Eddie Olsen is ninth in receiving yards per contest at 48.8. Senior running back Roberto Diez leads in the Centennial Conference at 113.4 rushing yards per contest, and he is third in all-purpose yardage at 116.0 yards per game and tied for tenth in scoring at 5.4 points per game. Sophomore quarterback Christopher Mills is sixth in the conference in passing yards per game at 186.8, and his eighth in pass efficiency with a 113.9 rating. Junior defensive back Jackson Buskirk is tied for eighth with four punt returns while sophomore wide receiver Cory Little is seventh with nine kickoff returns and first in kickoff return average at 37.3. Sophomore linebacker Noah Breidinger is tied for seventh at 8.0 tackles per game while junior defensive back Renard Nicholson and junior linebacker Tanner Barr are both tied for 12th at 7.2 tackles per contest. Junior defensive end Austin Heisler is tied for third with four and a half sacks and tied for seventh with five and a half tackles for loss while junior Shane Mastro is tied for 11th with two and a half sacks.
OVERTIME 'HOUNDS: Moravian has played a total of 10 overtime games since the NCAA instituted the rule for the 1996 season and is 7-3 all-time in the extra-session. Five of those ten overtime games have been against Juniata College with the Greyhounds going 4-1 in those games. Moravian's contest in Huntingdon in 2008 marked the first time in the Greyhounds' have needed more than one overtime session in a game. The 2008 season also marked the third year that Moravian has played at least two overtimes games in one season, the other years were 1999 when the Greyhounds played three overtime games and 1997 when Moravian played two overtime contests.
SCOUTING SUSQUEHANNA UNIVERSITY: The River Hawks enter the game at 4-1 overall and 3-1 in Centennial Conference action after a 24-17 win over Dickinson College before the bye week. Sophomore quarterback Michael Ruisch leads Susquehanna on the field having completed 99-of-163 passes for 1,349 yards with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions this fall, and he also has 56 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries. Senior wide receiver Mikah Cristian has 18 catches for 410 yards and six touchdowns while sophomore wide receiver Kyle Good has caught 18 passes for 199 yards. Junior wide receiver Frank DePaola has grabbed 15 aerials for 171 yards and a touchdown while senior wide receiver Mitch Carsley has 14 receptions for 154 yards and a score and senior tight end Anthony McCoy has nine catches for 126 yards and four touchdowns. Junior running back Da'Avian Ellington leads the River Hawks' ground attack with 488 yards and four touchdowns on 74 carries while sophomore running back Xavier Briggs-De Vore has 181 yards and two touchdowns on 44 attempts. Christian has returned seven kickoffs for 146 yards while sophomore wide receiver Samuel Darrell has four kickoff returns for 87 yards. Carsley has run back 10 punts for 58 yards while Good has four returns for 28 yards. Sophomore kicker Elijah Hoffman is 18-for-20 on extra-points and 3-for-5 on field goal attempts with a long of 35 yards, and he is averaging 54.8 yards on 12 kickoffs with two touchbacks. Sophomore Josh Wagner has punted 12 times for an average of 34.8 yards with a long of 52 yards, six fair caught and one inside the 20-yard line while sophomore Clay Olley has eight punts for an average of 30.1 yards with two fair caught. Senior linebacker Cole Dixon leads the Susquehanna defense with 44 tackles to go with five tackles for loss, three pass break-ups and one fumble recovery while senior linebacker Craig Roumes has added 34 tackles with six for loss, two sacks, an interception returned 44 yards for a touchdowns, two passes defended, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Senior linebacker David Simpson has recorded 25 tackles with one for loss and two pass break-ups while sophomore defensive back L'Trell Bradley has 22 tackles with one and a half for loss, two interceptions and five passes defended. Sophomore linebacker Brendan Krumenacker has added 21 tackles with two and a half for loss and a half a sack while junior defensive back Nick Sottile has 18 stops with a forced fumble. Senior defensive lineman Salvatore Gurnari had 16 tackles with four and a half for loss and a team-high two and a half sacks while senior defensive lineman Kashief Hyatt leads the River Hawks with five and a half tackles for loss among his 15 stops to go with two sacks and a pass break-up.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: In Selinsgrove last fall, quarterback Christopher Mills hit wide receiver Alex Pierce with a seven-yard scoring strike with just 17 seconds to play as Moravian rallied for a 21-18 victory over host Susquehanna University in Centennial Conference action at Amos Alonzo Stagg Field. Mills, making just the second start of his career, completed 21-of-33 passes for 205 yards with a touchdown and an interception as Moravian racked up 345 yards of offense on 74 plays, and the Greyhounds held the ball for 23:11 of the second half and a total of 35:18 minutes on the afternoon. Wide receiver Nick Petros had his third straight 100-yard receiving game with 138 yards on a career-high 12 receptions, tying for the second most by a Moravian receiver in a contest in school history. Petros also punted six times for an average of 33.0 yards per punt. Wide receiver Cory Little caught four passes for 28 yards while Pierce added three receptions for 23 yards with his touchdown and wide receiver Eddie Olsen had one catch for 15 yards. Running back Roberto Diez led the Moravian rushing attack with 84 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, and he caught one pass for a yard while Mills ran right times for 27 yards and was not sacked in the game. Running back Gerald Grube added 23 yards on seven carries while running back Eli Redmond had six yards on four attempts. The Greyhounds' defense limited the River Hawks to 272 yards on 63 plays and just 97 yards on the ground while the unit forced three turnovers and scored for the second straight week. Defensive back Jalen Richardson led Moravian with eight tackles to go with a pass break-up while linebacker Nick Zambelli had seven stops with one and a half tackles for loss and a forced fumble in the third quarter that stopped a Susquehanna drive in the red zone. Defensive back Jackson Buskirk, defensive lineman Shane Mastro and defensive back Jacob Kober each made six tackles with Buskirk breaking up three passes and Mastro adding a sack and a forced fumble. Linebacker Noah Breidinger contributed five tackles with a half a tackle for loss while defensive lineman Nick Tone and linebacker Dallas Owen each made four tackles with Tone adding one and a half tackles for loss and a sack and Owen adding a tackle for loss. Linebacker Brady Hornbaker recovered a fumble and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown to go with three tackles while defensive back Justin McRae also had a fumble recovery and three tackles. Defensive back Renard Nicholson added an interception on the final play of the afternoon. The River Hawks received the opening kickoff, and on the fifth play of the drive, quarterback Michael Ruisch lost control of the ball and Hornbaker scooped up the loose ball and raced 28 yards into the end zone for the Greyhounds' second fumble return for a touchdown in two weeks. Jon Miller split the uprights to give Moravian a 7-0 lead with 12:36 left in the first quarter. Susquehanna would get on the scoreboard on a 34-yard field goal by Elijah Hoffman with 3:50 left in the opening quarter. The River Hawks looked to pull within a point early in the second quarter, but Hoffman's 37-yard field goal attempt was wide right. Susquehanna eventually took a 9-7 lead with 5:29 left before the intermission on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Ruisch to Mitch Carsley. Hoffman's extra-point attempt was wide. Moravian answered on its next possession when Diez capped off an 8-play,75-yard drive with a five-yard run with 2:24 remaining in the second quarter. Miller split the uprights again to put the Blue and Grey up 14-9. The River Hawks had one more drive before halftime and Hoffman delivered on a 26-yard field goal with just one tick on the clock as the teams would head to the locker room with the Hounds leading 14-12. The Greyhounds had the ball to start the second half and ran off 12 plays before bringing Miller to attempt a career-long field goal attempt of 42 yards, but the kick came up just short, hitting the cross bar and bouncing to the ground. Susquehanna used a fake punt to keep its next drive alive and move into Moravian territory. However, on a 24-yard run by Aaron Speight to inside the 10-yard line, Zambelli stripped the ball and McRae recovered to give Moravian the ball back. The Blue and Grey put together a 15-play drive and moved back into the red zone where Miller came on to attempt a 31-yard field goal. The kick was blocked and returned 75 yards for a touchdown by Danial Shelton as Susquehanna took an 18-14 lead. The River Hawks went for a two-point conversion but Buskirk knocked the pass away to keep the score 18-14 with 13:02 remaining. The teams traded punts before Mills was intercepted for the first time in his career at the Moravian 46-yard line with 6:01 remaining. Moravian's defense forced a quick three-and-out by Susquehanna as the offense got the ball back with 4:21 remaining and 81 yards to the end zone. Mills hit Petros and Olsen with first down passes to get the ball out to the 36-yard line. On a fourth down play, the River Hawks were flagged for pass interference to keep the drive alive. Mills hit Petros with two more passes for first downs and another to Little as the Greyhounds moved into the red zone at the 12-yard line. Mills found Little with a five-yard pass before finding Pierce wide open in the middle of the end zone. Miller's PAT gave the Hounds a 21-18 advantage with 17 seconds left. Susquehanna had one final shot but Nicholson intercepted Ruisch's hail mary pass to end the game.