GETTYSBURG, Pa. - For the second week in a row Gettysburg posted a thrilling comeback, this time erasing a 50-27 deficit while scoring the game's final 34 points in just over 18 minutes to beat Susquehanna University 61-50 in a Centennial Conference football game in front of large Family Weekend crowd Saturday afternoon at Shirk Field at Musselman Stadium.
The Bullets (5-3, 4-3) have now won four games in a row for the first time since 1994 while recording their second straight comeback of 17 points or more. In last week's 28-24 win over Dickinson, Gettysburg trailed 17-0 and 24-7.
The 111 combined points was a Centennial Conference record, as the two teams racked up a total of 1,162 yards. The Bullets outgained the Crusaders 644-518.
The two teams were meeting for the first time since 1922.
After holding Dickinson to 48 yards and two first downs in the second half last week, Gettysburg's defense also came up big late against Susquehanna. On the Crusaders final six possessions, the Bullets forced four straight punts before ending drives on a forced fumble and an interception.
"A theme of ours has been in times of crisis, don't panic – focus," said Gettysburg head coach Barry Streeter. "[At halftime] I said to them, 'We've got a shot at this, and if we do, we have to go one play at a time and believe that we're going to win the game.'
"We didn't really make any adjustments," continued Streeter. "We just tried to refocus the kids."
Junior quarterback Kyle Whitmoyer threw for a season-high 374 yards and five touchdowns on 20-of-28 passing for the Bullets while rushing for an additional 70 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries.
"I couldn't do it without the help of the defense stepping up the whole second half, the line stepping up the in second half, the wings and receivers making plays, the running backs playing tough the whole game," said Whitmoyer, on leading his team to another comeback.
Senior wing Charles Curcio caught a career-high 10 passes – the most by a Bullet since Shawn Hollingsworth had 12 in 2005 – for a career-best 121 yards and one touchdown – and he also rushed for a season-high 70 yards and a pair of TDs, including a go-ahead 4-yard run with 1:40 left. Senior receiver Brian Betley added five catches for a career-high 140 yards while tying the school record with three touchdown receptions, which went for 32, 40, and 43 yards.
Curcio is now second in school history with 119 career receptions. Curcio and Betley moved up to third and fourth on the school's career receiving yards list with 1,575 and 1,493 yards, respectively.
"I felt great out there," said Curcio. "I've been struggling a little bit and I've been a little banged up, but today I was 100 percent. Coach always emphasizes not to think about how you feel, that you have to focus on your job at hand.
"It was the biggest comeback I've ever been a part of, and it was the most exciting game I've ever been a part of, no question about it," added Curcio.
Senior tailback Anthony DeSalva added 84 yards rushing and one touchdown on 19 carries for Gettysburg while returning seven kickoffs for 202 yards, averaging 28.9 yards per return. Susquehanna started at its own 20-yard line on its final four possessions as senior kicker Mike Barrett, using a strong tailwind, drilled the ball into the end zone for a touchback on each of his last four kickoffs.
"In all honesty, we can't afford to be that far behind all the time and think it's just automatically going to happen," said Streeter. "But I know one thing – our kids aren't backing off, and that's impressive to me."
Rich Palazzi passed for 286 yards and four touchdowns for Susquehanna (1-8, 1-8 CC) while Mike Ritter caught seven passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Greg Tellish rushed for 134 yards and a TD for the Crusaders while Connor McGrath added 101 yards rushing and one touchdown on 14 carries.
Susquehanna led 40-20 at halftime and it was 50-27 with 3:10 left in the third quarter before the Bullets caught fire. Whitmoyer threw three consecutive touchdown passes, including a spectacular 78-yard bomb to sophomore receiver Kyle Davis with 6:06 left that made it 50-47. On a third-and-12, Whitmoyer launched a deep pass down the middle to Davis, who was tripped before regaining his balance and outrunning a defender for the team's longest play from scrimmage this season.
"We came in at halftime and everybody was upset, but we told each other 'Keep your confidence, keep focused, and believe in each other,'" said Whitmoyer. "We came back last week too, so we had confidence."
After Gettysburg forced Susquehanna to punt for the fourth straight time, Curcio sparked the Bullets with a season-long 22-yard punt return. Curcio's final TD run made it 54-50, capping an eight-play, 51-yard drive. The biggest play of the march was a 23-yard completion over the middle to sophomore tight end Matt Brophy (Mt. Kisco, N.Y./Horace Greeley), who took a vicious hit but held onto the ball, giving his team a first-and-goal at the Susquehanna-3.
On the ensuing possession, sophomore linebacker Mark Covington forced a fumble on a sack, and sophomore defensive tackle Joe Ventresca fell on the loose ball at the Susquehanna-23. Whitmoyer then broke off a 19-yard run before icing the game with a 4-yard TD scamper with 43 seconds left.
The Bullets never led before Curcio's game-winning TD run. Susquehanna jumped to a 19-7 first-quarter lead and scored the final 14 points of the half after the Bullets had closed to within 26-20. A fourth-down sack by Mitch Phillips at the Susquehanna-40 set up the Crusader's final score of the half –a 39-yard touchdown reception from McGrath with 54 seconds left.
Sophomore linebacker Larry DelViscio led the Bullets defensively with 13 tackles, including 3.0 for loss and one sack. Junior linebacker Peter Hak, playing for the first time in three games due to an injury, tied a career-high with 12 tackles while sophomore linebacker Wes Taylor made a season-high eight stops. Freshman cornerback Hugo Nolasco tied a season-high with seven tackles and returned an interception 58 yards on the game's final play.