COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. – Ursinus College junior wide receiver Nick Giarratano (Wapwallopen, Pa./Crestwood) caught two touchdown passes as the Bears (6-0, 5-0 Centennial) defeated Johns Hopkins (3-3, 3-2 Centennial) 26-17 on Saturday afternoon in a swirling wind at Patterson Field.
The win keeps Ursinus in a first-place tie with Muhlenberg who both sit atop the conference with equal 5-0 marks.
Giarratano caught touchdown passes of 25 and 28-yards in the win, moving him three away from tying the career mark in touchdown receptions at 19. He is also now just three yards away from 1,000 yards receiving in his career.
Freshman kicker Michael Bennett (Maple Glen, Pa./La Salle College High School) also booted two field goals from 35 and 38 yards in the win, despite the windy conditions. His 38 yarder with 7:31 left proved to be the game-winner for Ursinus.
Freshman running back Bryan Ellis (Owings Mills, Md./McDonogh School) ran the ball 39 times for 138 yards, as Ursinus put up 282 yards on 84 offensive plays and held the ball for 41:32, the second time this season the Bears have crossed the 40 minute mark in time of possession.
Defensively, the Bears allowed 17 points. However, seven came off an interception return for a touchdown, two were from a safety when the ball went out of the back of the end zone on a punt snap, and the final eight came following a fumble recovery that put Hopkins at the one yard line. The Bears held Hopkins to just 17 yards rushing, and seven first downs. The Blue Jays were also 1-for-12 on third downs.
Still, Hopkins struck first as the Blue Jays scored on a 45-yard interception return by junior defensive back Mike Milano as he picked off senior quarterback Justin Decristofaro (Jenkintown, Pa./Father Judge) for a 7-0 lead with 13:03 left in the first quarter.
The wind played a part in Ursinus' first score as Hopkins could only manage a 17-yard punt into the wind putting Ursinus at the Hopkins-27 yard line with 13:22 left in the second. A three-play, 27-yard drive that took up 49 seconds ended with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Decristofaro to Giarratano to tie the score at 7-all. Ursinus held the ball for over 41 minutes in the contest, After Hopkins' next drive stalled at their own 44, the Bears drove all the way down to the Hopkins 13 yard line. Bennett's 30-yard field goal went wide right on fourth-and-7 with 3:15 left in the second quarter. Bennett would make up for it with a 35-yard field goal with no time left on the clock to give Ursinus a 10-7 lead at intermission. A pass interference penalty in the end zone gave Bennett to chance to kick it on an untimed down.
Hopkins pulled to within one at 10-9 in the third quarter as on a fourth-and-9, the snap on an Ursinus punt went over sophomore punter Derek Giannetti (Dresher, Pa./Upper Dublin) and out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
Ursinus got the ball right back as on second-and-10, Blue Jay sophomore running back Jonathan Riguard was stripped of the ball by junior defensive back Joe Henry (Medford, N.J./Shawnee) at the Hopkins 47-yard line.
After a Bears' punt, Hopkins attempted to tie the score, but a 51-yard field goal by senior place kicker Alex Lachman went right into the line and Ursinus got the ball at their own 33 with 5:36 left.
Ursinus went up 17-9 in the fourth quarter as Giarratano caught a 28-yard pass from Decristofaro with 14:51 left.
The teams then traded turnovers as senior cornerback Shane Whalen (Landenberg, Pa./Avon Grove) recovered a fumble from sophomore wide receiver Scott Cremens at the Hopkins 46 yard line with 13:38 left. Hopkins would recover a fumble at their own 45 as sophomore linebacker Taylor Maciow raced it all the way down to the Bears' 1-yard line. Two plays later, junior running back Nick Fazio scored on a 1-yard run, followed by a two-point pass conversion from junior quarterback Hewitt Tomlin to senior wide receiver Tucker Michaels to tie the score at 17-all with 11:32 left.
Bennett's second field goal, at 7:31 from 38 yards out, gave Ursinus a 20-17 lead. On the next offensive possession, Henry intercepted a Tomlin pass at the Blue Jay 25 and returned it to the 17-yard line with 7:11 left.
Six plays later, Decristofaro rushed from one-yard out for the final score of the game. Hopkins got two more possessions, but, could not get further than their own 31-yard line.
Defensively, junior linebacker Ryan Piatek had a game-high 13 tackles for Johns Hopkins, with senior defensive tackle Dave Queroli (Narberth, Pa./Harriton) making five tackles and 1.5 sacks. Henry finished with five tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery.
Ursinus will host McDaniel next Saturday on Homecoming.