BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- The Moravian College football team scored with just over four minutes to play to take a one-point lead, 17-16, over visiting Franklin & Marshall College at Rocco Calvo Field Saturday and then survived a last second field goal attempt to earn the victory in Centennial Conference action.
"It was a great team win today," stated Head Coach Jeff Pukszyn. "I thought we battled for 60 minutes. There were ups and downs but I thought the guys rallied around each other. We were a little banged up going into this game and we saw a bunch of players step up whether it be on special teams or offense and defense. From top to bottom, a great team win."
The Greyhounds, who have now won three of their last four games, had 254 yards off of offense on 51 plays led by sophomore quarterback Christopher Mills, who was 18-for-28 for 177 yards with a pair of touchdown passes. Junior wide receiver Nick Petros caught five passes for 43 yards and a touchdown while senior wide receiver Alex Pierce had four receptions for 74 yards. Senior wideout Andrew Lelie also had four catches for 36 yards while senior running back Roberto Diez had four receptions for 19 yards to go with 46 rushing yards on 12 attempts. Sophomore wide receiver Cory Little had one catch for a five-yard touchdown, his first career score, to go along with one kickoff return of 47 yards that setup Moravian's first touchdown of the day. Freshman running back Sherwin Stewart added 39 rushing yards on seven carries.
Freshman kicker Trevor Yacuboski made a career-long 42-yard field goal, two extra-points and kicked off three times while Petros was called on four times to punt and averaged 39.8 yards with a long of 51 yards.
Junior defensive back Jackson Buskirk led the Greyhounds with 10 tackles including two for loss while junior defensive end Austin Heisler added seven stops with a half a sack that he combined on with senior defensive lineman Christian Coia, who had five tackles. Freshman linebacker Wes Asche and senior defensive lineman Mike O'Hagan each had six stops with Asche adding a half a tackle for loss while junior linebacker Tanner Barr made five tackles with one and a half for loss and blocked an extra-point that ended up being the difference in the game. Senior defensive back Tim Valentine, junior defensive end Brady Hornbaker and sophomore linebacker Nicholas Azpeitia all had four stops with Hornbaker making one tackle for loss and breaking up one pass.
The teams played a quick first quarter with each team having the ball twice but neither team scoring. The Diplomats would get onto the scoreboard on the third play of the second quarter when Jack Rodenberger connected on a 22-yard field goal attempt.
Little took the ensuing kickoff past midfield to set up Moravian's offense. After a 19-yard pass from Mills to Pierce and a 17-yard run by Stewart, the Greyhounds were in the red zone. Mills finished off the drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Petros, who dove inside the right pylon for the score. Yacuboski split the uprights to put the Hounds up 7-3 with 10:23 left in the first half.
Moravian's defense forced F&M to turn the ball over on downs on the next drive with a pair of incomplete passes outside the red zone.
The Hounds took over and put together a 13-play, 43-yard drive that took over five minutes off of the clock. Facing a fourth-and-goal from the 25-yard line due to penalty, Yacuboski came on and hit his 42-yard field goal to push the lead to 10-3 with 43 seconds before the intermission.
However, the seven-point edge didn't last long as the Diplomats scored on a 65-yard touchdown pass from Garrett Perschy to Mack Focht on the first play for F&M to send the teams to the locker room knotted at 10-10.
The Diplomats had the ball first in the second half and put together a seven-play, 65-yard drive to take the lead on an 11-yard touchdown run by Keshon Farmer. On the extra-point attempt by Rodenberger, Barr came through the middle and blocked the kick to keep it a 16-10 lead for F&M with 10:40 still to go in the third quarter.
"Those things like a blocked extra point we talk about all the time that you should expect to come free," noted Pukszyn. "Tanner listened to Assistant Coach Jim Newhard, who runs the block team, and expected to come free and did. That ended up being the difference in the game for us."
The next four drives ended in punts before Moravian took over on its own 22-yard line with 9:17 to play. Diez started the possession with a 10-yard run, and then he caught a nine-yard pass from Mills for another first down. After a pair of Stewart runs moved the ball past midfield, Mills hit Lelie with a 19-yard pass to get the Blue and Grey into the red zone. Petros pulled in a 15-yard pass to set up first and goal, and one the next play, Mills found Little wide open in the end zone. Yacuboski split the uprights again to put the Greyhounds ahead 17-16 with 4:04 on the clock.
F&M had a second-and-25 on the next drive before Perschy found Tim Walter with a 46-yard pass play. The Diplomats eventually moved inside the 10-yard line and called a timeout with three seconds left to set up a 26-yard field goal attempt by Rodenberger. However, the kick sailed wide right as the horn sounded to give Moravian its first home victory of 2019 after losing once at home in the final 15 second and another time by seven points.
Moravian is slated to return to action on Saturday, November 9 when the Greyhounds host Dickinson College in a Centennial Conference game kicking off at 12:00 p.m. at Rocco Calvo Field.